Our man Tim passed judgment on the diminutive Spark earlier this year after a stint behind the wheel of a rental, dragging it by the scruff of its neck around the American southwest. It appears he did so just in time because the subcompact bowtie hatchback ceases production this August.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this development, of course, given Detroit’s seemingly instantiable appetite for SUVs and crossover-like vehicles. Sedans and true hatchbacks have been vanishing like ice in the Arizona desert; this news marks simply the latest casualty, and one can argue it is another nail in the coffin of Detroit affordability. The wee Spark had a starting price of $14,595 in America, making it one of the least-expensive vehicles on the market right now.
Sales reps in Chevy showrooms will surely try converting customers to either the Traxxxxxxxx or TrailBlazer, both of which have a sticker in excess of twenty grand. Shoppers looking for a new car whose price tag starts with a ‘1’ will now have to point themselves towards stores with Nissan or Mitsubishi signage.
This brings up the age-old argument in which it is said the real competition for cars like the Spark et al is actually a good second-hand vehicle. If someone has $14,595 to spend on wheels, do they select a fresh Spark with a full warranty and new-car smell? Or do they seek out a vehicle that is a couple of model years old and has already gone through the wringer of depreciation? In pre-pandemic times, lightly-used small sedans could be found for around that price, brimming with air conditioning and other features potentially not found on these El Cheapo new cars. Of course, in today’s market, those valuations are out the window.
Here’s a terrifying stat: The average price of a new car, as reported by KBB earlier this year, rose to a stunning $47,077 by the end of 2021. The loss of small cars like the Spark has surely contributed to this superheated figure, along with the usual scapegoats of supply chain problems and chip shortages. Even with a microscopic slice of the market, these affordable cars helped temper – even if ever so slightly – prices commanded by SUVs and other tall wagons.
Powering the Chevy Spark was an all-aluminum 1.4-liter four-banger making about 100 horsepower, hooked to a manual transmission or a CVT, depending on trim level. The Spark is GM’s only model to currently use this engine in its non-turbocharged form, so don’t expect it to hang around after the car disappears at the end of this summer.
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