Will the Spark EV Succeed in the U.S. Market?

Chevrolet Spark minicar concept

With sales of both the Leaf and Volt down considerably, Chevrolet is introducing the 2012 Spark minicar to the U.S. The gas-powered version with a 1.2-liter engine and 128 hp (other sources state 83 hp) arrives next year; the plug-in EV will debut in 2013.

It’s designed for congested cities where people have short, low-speed commutes. The EV will first appear in selected worldwide markets, including California. Not much more info is available, except that GM says it will be competitive in range with the Leaf (73 estimated miles per charge), and the Focus EV (100 miles estimated).

Now, really, who among hip city dwellers is going to buy this thing? Fiat and Scion are also planning to produce EVs, and they cannot possibly be as ugly as the Spark. Smart is still in the game, and the Leaf will have gained a considerable foothold by 2013. Most major automakers, and a few startups, will be offering EVs like this.

They’re doing it not to save the world from global warming but to comply with the increasingly stringent CAFE standards, requiring an average 54.5 mpg across all company cars by 2025.

If gas prices rise, however, it will be a new ballgame, and cars like the Spark will have a real shot at urban acceptance.

The car derives from a Daewoo design and has been sold for some years in Europe as the Beat, a three-door hatch. The U.S. will get a four-door version.

Chevrolet SparkI see the Spark in Mexico, where it has been somewhat popular, because the gasoline-powered version is really cheap. Prices begin at $114,100 MXN, which translates to $8,533 U.S. at present exchange rates.

If GM is smart, which some would dispute, it will do a quick redesign of the car’s pig-snout front end and push the gas-powered version hard in all cities. If you can buy a base Spark for $9-10,000, it will sell like $79 Kindles.

The car reportedly handles very well, has lots of interior room, and goes pretty well with just 83 hp since it weighs less than 2,000 pounds. Still, GM should offer an engine upgrade.

If the gas-powered Spark can gain a foothold in the minicar market, then the EV will have a much better shot in two years.

You live in one of our larger cities and commute to work. Would you be interested in a $10,000 Spark?

—jgoods

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2 Comments

  1. Oh gawd, Chevy, you make my day. IT’S ANOTHER MALIBU LOOK-ALIKE!!! How many is that now, 12? Why is GM paying anyone at Design Staff if they simply glue a Malibu grille on everything they make and shove it out the door?

    An all-electric micro is a perfect place to exercise some interesting or even creative styling, but no, just the same design over and over. I think I smell a Lutz.

    As for pure electrics, I could actually be a customer living here in the ‘burbs. As a retiree, the vast majority of my trips (I’d say 95%) are ten miles or less, and longer ones only occaionally go over 45 miles round trip. At ten grand, I’d sure be interested, but since I still have a shred of self respect, it sure won’t be a Malibu copy. I seriously doubt Ford can put one out for lest than twice that so we’ll have to watch the competition.

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