The New Chevy Aveo Sonic, Take 2

By Charles Krome

Our head savant did a nice job detailing the General’s name game with the Chevrolet Aveo, but I wanted to get my pair of pennies in, too. (Also, I had already written this over the weekend, before I saw his article.)

My starting point is Chris’ comment about how the current Aveo is “not a horrible car”—because that certainly applies to where it sits in the sales standings.

Let’s do a bit of a blind test on some key players in the subcompact segment, shall we? First, here are the year-to-date numbers from three mainstream entries:

Car A—36,654 sales, down 37.4 percent
Car B—44,586 sales, up 26.8 percent
Car C—49,494 sales, down 28.8 percent

One of these vehicles (Car C) is the award-winning, much-lauded Honda Fit, which was just named to Car and Driver’s 10Best list for the fifth consecutive time since it first went on sale. Another, the Toyota Yaris—Car A—is from an automaker that cut its corporate teeth in the U.S. specifically by attracting buyers to its high-volume small cars. Car B is the 2010 Chevrolet Aveo.

Or let’s compare the Aveo to the Ford Fiesta, one of the most-hyped vehicles to hit the market in decades. Taking a look at monthly sales starting in July, the first full month of Fiesta sales, we get the following results:

Car A—3,349; 3,315; 3,050; 3,846; 3,473; total June-November sales = 17,033
Car B—4,238; 4,019; 6,552; 6,038; 3,262; total July-November sales = 24,109

Needless to say, the Aveo is Car B here, too.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the Aveo never quite lived up to expectations. I worked for GM when it first came to market, and Chevrolet was pushing the car in much the same way Ford is now pushing the Fiesta. That is, the Aveo was supposed to be the vehicle that proved an American company—or at least its South Korean subsidiary—could build a high-quality small car that was able to compete against the world’s best. It was a big part of Chevy’s whole American Revolution business, and GM even got Michael Bay to direct the first Aveo commercials.

Unfortunately, the car actually wasn’t all that fuel efficient, considering its segment, and quality was pretty much what you’d expect from an old-school South Korean OEM like Daewoo. Opportunities for improvement were rare as well. When the Aveo launched, GM (and buyers) were still enjoying high SUV and truck sales, and any remaining resources for boosting the Aveo were eaten up in those segments. It also didn’t help that the Aveo was the occasion for another round of typical “old GM” intradivisional bickering, as Pontiac lobbied hard for, and eventually got, its own badge-engineered version known as the Pontiac G3. And all that stuff was before the crippling effects of the global economic meltdown.
To me, this says the current Chevy subcompact is doing pretty well nowadays, especially when you remember all the bad press it has gotten in the past and how close to the end of its life cycle it is. (Of course, the situation might also show the power of GM incentives, but that’s another story.)

So I fall in with Chris on this specific name change being a suspect use of GM’s cash, and I’ll add another interesting(?) point about modifying motor-vehicle monikers in general: For all the negative press Hyundai and Kia got regarding their previous-gen vehicles, the companies felt the need to change just one for their new lineups, as the Kia Spectra became the Kia Forte.
Maybe they’re on to something.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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  1. I have a family member who recently sold his new Aveo after owning it for a couple of years, and, after riding in it several times, I must say I don’t understand the venom directed at it when pundits fall all over themselves to kiss the ring of Toyota for what is a largely similar car in the Yaris. We’re talking basic transportation here, folks. I also don’t understand why the Fit is listed as anyone’s Ten Best, when its main calimto fame is that it is a roomy box and nothing more.

    As far as the Fiesta is concerned, no matter what sales figures it has at this time, remember, before its arrival, Ford wasn’t realizing any sales in the B market in this country, so for them, any Fiesta sales is gravy.

  2. I bought a 2005 Aveo and drove it foe 5 years with no problems. That was good. But the car got very disappointing gas mileage, and was not a great car in any way. Highway mileage was nearer 25 mpg than the posted 34. I would sum it up as reliable but barely adequate. GM now sells more cars in China than the U.S. and had better step up its small car game or it will eventually be facing a bankruptcy in China as well. And there will be no coming back from that one.

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