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Question mark on Holden Barina

What next: Holden’s Barina is closely related to the Chevrolet Sonic which The Wall Street Journal says will be given the chop as early as this year.

GM reportedly to axe Chevrolet Sonic, placing Holden Barina future up in the air

Holden logo5 Apr 2018

GENERAL Motors reportedly has decided to kill off the Chevrolet Sonic light car, raising questions about the future of the closely related Holden Barina in Australia.

While the two cars are made in different plants – Barina in South Korea and Sonic in North America, Thailand and elsewhere – they share a common design, including GM’s Gamma II platform.

The Barina is already under a cloud from financial troubles besetting GM Korea.

The parent company in Detroit is negotiating with unions, the Bank of Korea and the South Korean government in an effort to save the loss-making operation from bankruptcy.

So far, one of three GM Korea vehicle assembly factories has been given the chop, and the others are under threat pending the outcome of cost-cutting talks between the parties.

These plants not only export Barina to Australia but also the Spark, Astra sedan (a rebadged Cruze), Trax and – for the moment – Captiva.

The Wall Street Journal is quoting an unnamed GM source as saying the slow-selling Sonic will be killed as early as this year, followed by the North American-specific Chevrolet Impala large car as GM reacts to slowing sales of passenger cars as customers switch to SUVs.

There was no specific reference to the Barina or the related Asian Aveo in the report.

Holden communications director Anna Betts told GoAuto that the company did not comment on future product or speculative news about GM, but added: "It is business as usual for Holden."Axing of the Barina would leave Holden without a contender in Australia’s light-car segment dominated by the Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Suzuki Swift and Honda Jazz.

With 926 sales in the first quarter of this year, the Barina is now ranked eighth in the segment, well behind the Accent (4430 sales YTD), but it has improved over the same period last year when it achieved just 674 sales in the first three months.

Losing the Barina would be another blow to Holden at a time when it can least afford it, having lost the Australian-made Commodore last year.

Holden sales this year are down 22.8 per cent, with Commodore down 53.7 per cent in a market up 4.4 per cent.

Since the Barina nameplate was launched by Holden on a Suzuki-built light hatch in 1985, it has become one of Holden’s best-known model names.

Subsequent generations have been sourced from Opel (Corsa), Daewoo and – now – GM Korea.

The current, sixth-generation Barina – which was designed by Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz on assignment to GM Design Korea – has been on the market for more than six years, although it was given a facelift in 2016.

After it hit the market in 2011, the TM Barina achieved 12,357 sales in its first full year in 2012. Sales have fallen every year since, down to 3697 in 2017.

The three-door hatch and four-door sedan variants have been dropped, leaving the current model as a five-door hatch.

In the past, Holden might have looked to Opel for a rebadged Corsa to be shipped to Australia under Barina badges, but with Opel and Vauxhall being sold to PSA Group last year, that option might be closed.

If the Barina is not replaced, it leaves Holden with the Spark in the micro segment and Astra in the small-car market.

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