Car Industry

Where are the Sonic and Impala in Chevy's updated 2019 car lineup?

Despite reports to the contrary, Chevrolet says it's committed to these cars.

Chevrolet

Chevrolet showed us the face of several new cars this week, including the Cruze, Malibu and Spark. But after watching the company's presentations during its dealer meetings in Las Vegas, and reading the associated press materials for the car lineup, we're left wondering: What about the Impala? What about the Sonic?

A Wall Street Journal report hit the internet earlier this week, suggesting many passenger cars are at the risk of being discontinued. The writing seems to be on the wall: Both Impala and Sonic US retail sales are struggling, and have been for a couple of years. Through March of this year, Chevy sold 5,983 Sonics in the US, compared to 7,620 during the same period in 2017 and 12,600 in 2016, according to GoodCarBadCar.net data. Similarly, Impala sales are at 14,067 through March of this year, compared to 22,022 in 2017 and 30,554 in 2016.

On the other hand, maybe the future of the Impala and Sonic isn't so bleak. Steve Majoros, Chevy's marketing director for cars and crossovers, is optimistic about the future of these products.

"There's clearly a commitment to Sonic," Majoros said. "We have Sonic today, we will continue to have Sonic tomorrow." As for Impala, Majoros told Roadshow the large sedan "is part of our future."

Another Chevrolet representative echoed Majoros' remarks about the Impala. "It's still there, we're still selling them, I can't really tell you anything other than that," he said. "We feel pretty good about where Impala stands."

Majoros said the Sonic and Impala weren't included in this week's onslaught because they weren't part of the original "5 in 15" product launch that included new versions of the Cruze, Camaro, Malibu, Spark and Volt in 2015. In addition to the three cars unveiled this week, a Camaro update is forthcoming, and the Volt is still a crucial part of Chevy's car portfolio, not to mention its electric vehicle strategy.

"In the case of the Impala, we don't see an immediate demise," Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst for IHS Markit, wrote in an email to Roadshow. "The Sonic may make way for more utility vehicle products sooner."

Brinley points out that, should these two nameplates go away, they'll likely be replaced by models that are better aligned with market demands. "The issue is not the quality or execution of the Impala or Sonic, but the fact that in both subcompact and full-size segments, people are gravitating toward more practical utilities. If they go, they will be the victims of shifts in consumer demand and not a failure of development or execution."

Passenger car market share has definitely declined in recent years. Chevrolet's own data shows the car market has decreased from 46 percent of overall industry mix in 2014 to 34 percent in 2017. On the other hand, crossovers have grown from a 38 percent market share in 2014 to 46 percent in 2017.

"Automakers are going to continue to adjust their product portfolios to meet market demand, and re-considering the passenger car lineups at this time is part of the process, given the preference for utility vehicles in the market today," Brinley wrote. "Passenger cars are not going the way of the dodo bird, but are not the same powerhouse of the market as before."