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Sneak Peak: Chevrolet Spark

Here's the latest attempt at igniting sales in the mini segment.

by on Feb.27, 2009

Small is growing in market share as buyers shift down a class.

Small is growing in European market share as buyers shift down a class or two.

Small is the trend in Europe. Last year in my own country, The Netherlands, there was a clear shift towards smaller, more fuel-efficient and consequently cleaner cars. The market share of the A-segment grew to 11%, more than double the 5% of 2007. The B segment, Ford’s Fiesta or VW’s Polo are representative, increased to 35 % from 17%.

So timing is good for Chevrolet to debut its new Spark at Geneva this year. Spark enters the A-segment, or mini-car, as the successor of the Matiz. More than one million Matiz models were sold by the end of 2007.

Chevrolet has not officially confirmed that the Spark will be available in North America, but sources within GM Europe say that there is a chance of, oh, 80%. American GM insiders are somewhat more skeptical, since fuel prices in the U.S. have dropped again to about $2 a gallon and the Obama administration is proposing a fuel tax increase of only 10 cents.

While your local fuel prices may vary, the latest brand strategy at Chevrolet finally means that Spark will be a Spark wherever it is ultimately sold.

The design of the Spark was clearly inspired by the Chevy Beat concept, which has toured auto shows since 2007. Beat attracted 1.9 million internet votes from people saying it was the car they wanted produced.

According to Chevy, the new mini car should be big on fuel economy, refinement and value, but prices have not been announced yet. With a length of 143 inches, and a wheelbase of 94 inches, the car offers enough cabin space in the front and rear for four smallish adults. It will get 1.0-liter and 1.2-liter 4-cylinder, double overhead camshaft engines. Depending on the market, safety equipment includes driver and passenger front airbags, front side airbags, roof rail head curtain airbags, ABS and ESP. Also pre-tensioners for front seat belts and three-point belts in the rear will be standard. So small won’texactly be inexpensive.

The Spark has been designed in Seoul and developed by the R&D centers of GM in North America and South Korea. It will be built in Punjong, S-Korea.

It will be Chevrolet’s next volume model, but production numbers have not been released either. We may expect though, that the 1 million mark will be reached much quicker than the Matiz did, if North America is added to the international markets.

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