While we have yet to hear of a Volt SS or revised Z-Spec Volt, news from the internally combusted side of Chevrolet’s offerings could be interpreted as a positive portent of change heading in that direction.

This year’s Specialty Equipment Marketers Association (SEMA) show marks a departure from previous years of GM’s focusing on modified gas-guzzling models, and it is instead featuring 31 tricked-out small cars, including 21 Sonics and 10 Cruzes.

“The heritage of Chevrolet cars like the Corvette and Camaro is being expressed in smaller packages for the next generation,” said Chris Perry, vice president, global marketing and strategy for Chevrolet. “The Sonic and Cruze concepts demonstrate that performance comes in all shapes, sizes and displacements at Chevrolet.”



The SEMA event will be held Nov. 1-4 in Las Vegas and is unique in that it is open only to manufacturers and aftermarket specialists. The idea is to show their talents, see what everyone else is up to, get inspiration, ideas and create positive energy for the aftermarket and dealer add-on business of selling interior, exterior and performance parts.

According to Cristi Landy, director of small cars for Chevrolet, the Z-Spec series is Chevrolet's most desirable modification package for its Sonic and Cruze, and they will feature ground effects, paneling, wheels, rear spoilers and grilles.

The Z-Spec lineup was introduced last year at SEMA, and Landy told Automotive News this year enthusiasts can expect the lineup to be sportier and a step closer to production – possibly for 2013 model year vehicles.



“The nice thing with accessories is customers can come back to their dealer,” Landy said. “They’re important to generate excitement around vehicles and for people to get excited to come to the dealer.”

Larger GM cars and trucks will also be at the event, but the emphasis on small cars could be evidence that winds for the American enthusiast scene are further shifting toward economical choices.

All this year Chevrolet has reported its more frugal models have led its sales comeback, and featuring small cars at SEMA is at least a step in the right direction.



The pending Spark and Sonic are being targeted for the youngest drivers who will form opinions of what is cool, and they represent the future generation of Americans.

These same car-loving drivers will mature in their tastes, and will in coming years be in a better position to embrace EVs and plug-in cars – probably more so than many of today’s consumers who are still on the fence.

GM knows the money is now in economical cars, and it is sharing the love with industry aftermarketers and related businesses that will be coming to visit the profit-inspiring show.



The Sonic went on sale this fall and the Cruze, while being in the U.S. market for only about a year, has become Chevrolet’s best-selling car and the top-selling compact car in the U.S. calendar year to date. Both cars offer available factory turbocharged powertrains – with the Sonic offering the only turbo engine in its class.

Annual revenue for the automotive aftermarket industry is around $30 billion and this is a significant chunk for automakers, dealers, and aftermarketers who manufacture, sell and service modification parts.

While we’d all love to see plug-in cars sooner, this is the reality. We have heard GM executives call the Volt a "halo" car, and release tidbits of EV news on the horizon and the mainstream’s mindset has yet to change to the coming electrified paradigm, but at least it is on its way.

And in the meantime, plug-in cars are being rapidly developed so by the time a Gen II Volt SS or Z-Spec version is built after 2015 and beyond, more drivers will be open to such options.



Last year's Volt Z-Spec. It won't be at the show this year.

Yesterday afternoon GM Spokesman Rob Peterson explained where things are with the Volt, and why no high-performance options are being featured this year.

"The Z-Spec Volt was a show property designed to draw interest from the aftermarket crowd in the Volt. There are no plans to proceed with those modifications," Peterson said. "There are also no plans to show the Volt at SEMA this year. Our focus this year will be on the Sonic which is the ideal platform for a variety of aftermarket technologies, graphic packages and other customizations."

I had already written this article and Peterson's response by email only confirmed what I surmised (above) of GM's posture on its small cars and the Volt's place in the constellation.

"Keep in mind that part of the role of the Volt in the Chevrolet portfolio is to serve as a halo vehicle drawing new buyers into dealerships," Peterson said. "It's a very successful marketing strategy, made even more successful by having a solid lineup of cars that includes the Sonic, Cruze and soon the Malibu and eventually the Spark. The Sonic's presence at SEMA parallels this approach in that it draws the attention of a new generation of tuners and after-marketers toward the Chevrolet brand."

GM’s partial list of SEMA show cars

Sonic Z-Spec #1 – (Red car) Designers took a turbocharged Sonic five-door and dressed it with concept Z-Spec accessories. They added Z-Spec ground effects, a spoiler, unique grille and graphics package – then finished it off with a Torch Red exterior and Z-Spec concept 18-inch wheels. Inside, the Cobalt Red cabin features custom trim, including perforated black suede seat inserts, a Z-Spec sport pedal kit, sport shift knob and a racing-style flat-bottom steering wheel. Additional upgrades include performance brakes with four-piston calipers, a new high-flow exhaust system and performance suspension parts.

Sonic Z-Spec #2 – (White Car) The next Sonic concept – in Flat White with Torch Red accents – builds on concept Z-Spec accessories with a more aggressive ground effects package, unique grille, rear spoiler and graphics package. It rides on Z-Spec concept 18-inch wheels and also includes a re-trimmed interior with Z-Spec sport pedal kit, Z-Spec sport shift knob and a flat-bottom steering wheel. It also features custom racing seats with the Z-Spec logo. The factory powertrain features the 1.4L turbo engine and six-speed manual transmission. Performance upgrades include brakes with four-piston calipers, a high-flow exhaust system and suspension parts.



Sonic Z-Spec 4D Concept – (Above) The more formal look of the Sonic sedan lends itself to a touring car-style motif, which this Ashen Grey Metallic concept picks up with concept Z-Spec ground effects, rear spoiler, grille, “Chevrolet” graphics and larger Z-Spec concept 18-inch wheels. As with its five-door counterparts, this Sonic features a re-trimmed interior – in Dark Titanium with Cobalt Red accents – Z-Spec sport pedal kit, aluminum sport shift knob and a flat-bottom steering wheel (trimmed with Cobalt Red suede). The factory turbo 1.4L engine and six-speed manual transmission are complemented by performance upgrades that include four-piston caliper brakes, a high-flow exhaust system and suspension parts.

Chevrolet is keeping a few super-secret Sonics under wraps until the SEMA show, each representing an even higher level of performance and personalization.



Cruze Z-Spec – (Below) Wearing concept Z-Spec ground effects, 18-inch custom wheels, an accessory spoiler and a high-flow grille, the Cruze Z-Spec has the looks and feel of a taut touring car. The exterior appearance of this Cruze is enhanced with a new stripe package that will be available soon, while on the inside are special seat inserts, a racing-style pedal kit, accessory shift knob and interior trim, as well as a new steering wheel.



Cruze Dusk– (Not shown) Complementing the Sonic Dusk concept, the Cruze Dusk suggests a more subtle and sophisticated approach to personalization, including a mild concept ground effects package, a unique grille treatment and dark-tinted wheels. The interior has custom seat inserts, along with an accessory shift knob, sport pedals, interior trim kit, a suede-trimmed steering wheel and a custom audio system.

So what do you think?

I am able to see anything that creates more interest for smaller more economical vehicles optimistically – and it is in keeping with GM's forward-looking strategy – but I could understand also if some of you can offer other views?

Do you think GM is doing enough to promote the electrification of the automobile? Do you think it will dominate even if it is not offering full disclosure of what it is doing behind the scenes?

Does anyone believe modified Volts, Voltec concepts, or even one in stock trim should have been among the 31 small cars at this highly conspicuous event?

GM is taking a long-term approach in response to its sense of the market, and even the designated Volt spokesman is on board with the Volt being a halo car.

Presumably the company knows its business. It is easy to wish for more, and be armchair pundits, but do you believe GM is managing its opportunities as well as it could?

What could GM be doing differently to secure the advantage the Volt's head start has already given it? Or do you think everything is going A-OK?

Automotive News .