Chevrolet's all-new 2012 Sonic has entered production. That's the latest out of the Orion Township, Michigan plant where Chevrolet manufactures the all-new subcompact, currently the only vehicle in its class built in the United States.
With more than 1,700 employees at the suburban Detroit factory - including around 1,600 hourly workers primarily responsible for manufacturing the Sonic - Chevrolet has a lot staked in the small hatchback's success. Offered as a five-door hatch or a four-door sedan, the Sonic will square off against rivals like the newly-released Ford Fiesta, the stylish Fiat 500 and several Japanese and Korean contenders like the Honda Fit, Kia Rio and Soul, and Hyundai Accent.
The Sonic replaces the slow-selling Chevrolet Aveo, sourced from General Motors' Korean subsidiary GM Daewoo. While the Aveo didn't sell in high volumes, the Sonic is expected to help Chevrolet become a major player among subcompact cars - a segment that is quickly gaining momentum as gas prices remain steadily high. According to industry analytics firm Autodata, around 196,000 subcompact cars were sold in the first half of 2011, up from just 140,000 during the first six months of last year.
With a base price of just $14,495 for the four-door sedan and $15,395 for the five-door hatchback, the Sonic is certainly positioned to be a major player in the subcompact segment. Sold as a base-level LS, mid-level LT or upscale LTZ model, the Sonic will derive power from a 135-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder base engine, or an optional 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
Already on sale in more than 30 countries worldwide thanks to a second factory in South Korea, the American Sonic will be the only subcompact car sold in the United States that's also manufactured here. Many rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500, are manufactured in Mexico, while Japanese and Korean rivals are typically manufactured in Asia to reduce production costs.