CC Global: Chevrolet Onix and Prisma – Unique To South America


Just a short post to get you in touch with some cars you might not be familiar with. GM in Brazil has had a very unique history, as analyzed here many times. And its unique ways haven’t stopped. Unlike, for instance, the blue oval’s “One Ford” strategy, Chevrolet in Sao Paulo still comes with its own designs, for production there and in Argentina, which are the main countries (alongside smaller Paraguay and Uruguay) that form the Mercosur trading bloc.


And what you are seeing here are two recent examples, the Onix and Prisma, the latter being the saloon/sedan version of the former. They take the place once occupied by the Corsa and Celta (a booted variation of which was the first Prisma), at the bottom of the Chevrolet lineup in Brazil and Argentina. They were originally launched there in 2012 and 2013 (Prisma), but the ones pictured and coming to Chile are the facelifted versions (in the front; tail remains the same). Because of their recent launch in Chile (my country) that I could take these pictures and share some info with you.


In Chile they will be well equipped and not-so-cheap, leaving the bottom of the range to both the current facelifted Sail and the older model, still on sale as Sail Classic (both made in China). These brasileiros come with a 1.4 engine (and 97 HP), with just 8 valves, which is the most telling part of how outdated some of their components are. Still, probably more important for their target audience, these cars come with the MyLink infotainment system standard, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.


Nothing spectacular, and most of you would probably not like them very much, but they look good (I think) and will probably be enough for the youngest drivers (Onix) and their families (Prisma). And by the way, I just recently noticed how the Prisma keeps alive one of the long traditions of the General: Recycling old model names, this time with a translation in between: Remember the Geo/Chevrolet Prizm?


What the Onix looked like when launched in 2012. Photo by Matti Blume on Wikipedia


How do these come to be? Why does Brazil keep on coming up with these oddities? Mercosur imposes heavy tariffs to imported cars, artificially propping up a domestic industry, spread between Brazil and Argentina. That is why they’ve remain able to come up with their own products, although there is international cooperation on their development, from other branches of GM. Onix and Prisma are developed from the GSV global platform which I think was mostly created by GM Korea. So an international platform with carryover engines and unique styling, that is what you see here.


… and the original Prisma.


I’m from Chile, which has an open economy that has near-to zero tariffs for most imports. Therefore, we get a wide range of cars from all over the world, and GM isn’t in any way forced to source its cars from other South American countries. Chevrolet here can choose to bring their models from Korea, the U.S., Mexico, China, Brazil, Argentina or elsewhere, depending on their marketing strategy and currency exchange. We even receive the Opel lineup separately.


And so for the last few years Chevrolets sold in Chile have mostly come from Korea and China. Spark (not the EV), Orlando, Cruze, Sonic, Camaro and Sail. Sadly, no Malibu or Impala. And with those, Chevrolet has been able to remain the no. 1 best selling brand in Chile. Until this year. 2016 will be undoubtedly be lead by Hyundai, seconded by Kia, ending a 33 year-long streak at the top by Chevrolet. And this despite the Chinese Sail being the top selling model. Probably because of this defeat, GM in Chile is in the midst of unleashing a new batch of Mercosur models.


Chevrolet aims to compete with Onix and Prisma against the leaders of the compact car segment, like the Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai Accent, with similar pricing. I’m not sure they will be able to pull that off, as Korean cars have a solid image in our market (they are top sellers for a reason). And they can’t drop their prices in the future without competing with their own Chevrolet Sail.


Chevrolet Prisma interior, with neat brown touches.


Next week, a further two cars from Brazil will be included, Cobalt (not your Cobalt) and Spin.