Chevrolet’s New Sonic

Chevrolet Sonic

General Motors Co. is kicking off celebrations commemorating the Chevrolet brand’s 100th year in business with a sonic boom.

Just hours after GM’s halo vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, won Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show, the automaker introduced the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, a vehicle GM says will not only compete — but win hands down — in the compact car market.

“It’s a statement of what’s to be expected of this foundational brand for years to come,” said GM North America President Mark Reuss during a press event Monday evening. “It blends the practicality of a small car with the passion for driving.”

The new Sonic is smaller than the Chevrolet Cruze, the compact car produced at GM’s Lordstown Complex. Production of the Sonic is slated to begin at GM’s Orion Assembly Center in Michigan, which received $545 million in upgrades and retooling, and will restore about 1,000 jobs in the Detroit region.

Reuss said he’s proud that the Sonic will be a small car produced in the United States, noting that competitors Ford, Toyota and Honda manufacture their entry-level compacts “somewhere else.”

“This car is tuned for the U.S. market, ” Reuss said, noting the vehicle contains some amenities rarely found in the small-car segment, including heated seats, OnStar navigation and USB and Bluetooth capability.

Moreover, the vehicle’s design and engineering is geared to obtaining optimum gas mileage of 40 miles per gallon, Reuss said. “The Chevrolet Sonic is designed to turn heads,” he exclaimed.

The vehicle possesses a Cruze-based powertrain and a sleek exterior that is tailored to the performance market, Reuss said. “It’s a way to reach performance-oriented buyers.”

Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, said the Sonic is the logical follow-up to the popular Cruze, which he said is earning rave reviews in the United States and around the world. The Cruze Eco, slated for launch during the first quarter, is expected to reach 42 miles per gallon on the highway and “is the leading, most fuel-efficient car on the market,” even receiving better results than some of the hybrids.

“The all-new Chevrolet Sonic blends the practicality of a small car with the passion for driving that Chevrolet vehicles like the Corvette are known for,” Perry said. “Its combination of great design, fun driving experience and the latest connectivity features create a serious competitor with a fun spirit.”

GM introduced its all-new 2012 Buick Verano, the brand’s first compact luxury vehicle, during a press event Monday morning. The Verano is expected to go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Perry said innovative vehicles such as the Volt underscore the importance of how Chevrolet is changing the culture of the domestic auto industry. GM, he continued, has pledged to invest more than $40 million in technology to reduce carbon emissions and make the automaker a leader in environmental conservation.

But it’s the Chevrolet appeal that’s driving buyers to the brand, Perry stressed.

“In 2010, Chevrolet sales were up 16%,” with 1.6 million vehicles sold in the U.S. market alone, Perry reported.

GM’s chairman and CEO, Dan Akerson, said Chevrolet’s 100th year marks the continued success of one of the most iconic names in the automotive industry. “Many people around the world have personal connection with Chevrolet,” he said.

Last year, Akerson noted, more than 4.2 million Chevrolets were sold in 130 countries around the world. “That’s one Chevrolet sold every seven-and-a-half seconds somewhere across the globe.” The Chevrolet brand constitutes 53% of GM’s business, he said.

The brand is also well positioned to land more buyers in emerging markets such as South America and India, Akerson said, noting 60% of Chevy sales are with foreign customers.

“GM is better positioned than any other auto company to take advantage of today’s industry and global growth,” Akerson said. “We’re looking to define where the industry is headed and to break new ground.”