Going Sparkless? Korea Thinking of Discontinuing America’s Smallest GM Car

Last week it was the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic and a report that the little four- or five-door could bite the dust by the end of this year. Now we hear the Spark — General Motors’ smallest U.S. offering — could also be on its way to the nameplate graveyard.

Oddly, the Reuters report, which cites a GM Korea spokesman, comes just a few days after the unveiling of the refreshed 2019 Spark. Like other Gamma II platform small vehicles, the Spark comes to us by way of Korea. As you know, that embattled division is currently struggling for survival, and it doesn’t much like the look of America’s falling Spark sales.

So, what would replace the Spark and give GM Korea’s threatened factories a safer product bet? You already know the answer to this. A crossover.

We detailed the Spark’s sales history after looking at the changes coming for 2019. Sales of the little city car fell consistently in the U.S. after 2014, with 2018 volume down 2.7 percent at the end of March. At the same time, Canadian buyers are taking to the model in ever greater numbers, though not enough to offset the American loss.

An unspecified crossover, surely built on the automaker’s small car architecture, could offer the division a reprieve. GM Korea needs to present the country’s government with a business plan before the end of April in order to secure Seoul’s support. That means first crafting a product plan, freeing up operating funds, and reaching a deal with its militant labor union. Already, GM Korea has threatened bankruptcy in the hopes of strong-arming concessions. Unionized workers responded by trashing executive offices.

If GM Korea pulls itself out of this mess, the Spark won’t disappear overnight. The spokesman said production of the Spark-replacing crossover wouldn’t begin until 2022. In the meantime, Opel owner PSA Group plans to bring production of the Opel Karl (a rebadged Spark) to Europe by 2020, further decreasing output at GM’s Korean factories.

America’s still hot-selling subcompact Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore crossovers ride atop the same Gamma II architecture as the Spark and Sonic, which means any new vehicle would have to avoid stepping on those models’ toes. Is American interested in a sub-subcompact Chevy utility vehicle?

Interestingly, the Spark already available in soft-roader Activ configuration. This mighty beast boasts 0.4 inches of additional ground clearance and a modest dose of body cladding, but its scarcity on dealer lots and roadways shows that buyers demand a little more capability to go with their off-road pretentions.

this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com