JAMES B. TREECE

Chevy can plan all it wants for the Sonic and Spark, but the market will decide

James B. Treece is industry editor for Automotive News.James B. Treece is industry editor for Automotive News.
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Chevrolet marketers believe the Sonic and Spark small cars will appeal to different consumers.

We'll see.

Chris Perry, Chevrolet's vice president of global marketing and strategy, told reporters last week that the U.S.-built 2012 Sonic is targeted at millennials, while the imported and slightly smaller Spark, due in the middle of next year as a 2013, will be targeted at a more urban audience: city folks and students on college campuses.

Remember the launch of Toyota's Scion brand? The average age of Toyota's buyers at the time was roughly equal to that of Buick's, so the Japanese automaker aimed its new brand at younger buyers. And it got them. But it also got more.

Older buyers soon realized that Scion offered some solidly built cars at astoundingly low prices. (The profit in Scions came from selling add-ons to customize the cars.) Soon enough, Scion drew not only the hip crowd but the artificial-hip AARP crowd as well.

If the Spark is as good as Chevy hopes, consumers, not GM marketers, will decide the eventual demographics of the Sonic owner base.

Not that Chevy will complain, as long as the car is selling.

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com.

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