GM, serious about small cars again, brings out big guns for Sonic

DETROIT – General Motors Co. brought out the big guns to unveil its smallest car today at the Detroit auto show.

If there was any question how serious GM is about becoming a major player in the small-car segment, Dan Akerson answered it by capping the first day of his first auto show as GM CEO by personally unveiling the Sonic subcompact.

“Our goal is to make Chevrolet one of the industry's fuel efficiency leaders,” Akerson told an overflow crowd at the Chevy exhibit tonight.

It's a bold statement for a brand long synonymous with gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. But Chevy's nascent success with the compact Cruze, launched in September, and Sonic's planned debut this fall underscore GM's commitment to small cars. GM didn't leave the crowd guessing about who they're targeting with the Sonic. A dozen 20-somethings danced onto the stage, synthesizing an electronic dance jam with their I-Pads and I-Pod Touches.

It was a nod to how GM now views its small-car offerings: They're no longer loss leaders built simply engineered to meet federal corporate fuel-economy standards. By adding touches like heated seats and BlueTooth connectivity, Chevy is joining Ford, Honda and other automakers in making small cars that people actually want to drive.

“The Chevorlet Sonic is designed to turn heads when it arrives with the more-established nameplates this fall,” GM North America Chief Mark Reuss said.