Chevy, Buick small car debuts show brand distinctions

DETROIT -- The Chevrolet and Buick press conferences yesterday were strikingly different in their emphases. Those differences say a lot about the core characteristics of the distinct brands.

Chevy introduced its subcompact Sonic. And while the presenters talked some about styling, cargo space and OnStar, the main emphasis came down to two points:

1) The Sonic will be built in America. "Ford, Honda and Toyota all build their small cars somewhere else" and import them, said Mark Reuss, GM's North American boss.

2) Powertrains and performance. The base Sonic engine puts out an estimated 138 hp, "20 more than the Honda Fit," yet is rated at 40 mpg on the highway.

Oh, and by the way, the suspension was tuned for the U.S. market by Corvette suspension engineers.

Buick was unveiling its Verano, the smallest car in its lineup in about 20 years. Buick mentioned horsepower briefly, and spent the largest chunk of its time talking about the numerous measures it took to muffle, deaden, or eliminate interior noise.

The Verano, vowed Jim Federico, chief engineer, would be quieter on the inside than even larger rival luxury sedans.

Chevy = American flag and performance.

Buick = taking on luxury brands.

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