While researching a series of exciting South American-built offroaders, I found myself perusing the online showroom of Chevrolet Uruguay. It is like looking into an alternate universe where the corpses of Old GM compacts rose up out of the grave.
For some car companies, it's easy to keep track of what's being shared across different models under the skin. Take BMW, as explained by Automotive News Europe. There are the front-drive Minis all on one platform. The i3 and i8 share architecture. The 5 series, 6 series and the 7 series are on the same platform along with the Rolls-Royce Ghost. The 3 series shares its bones with the 1,2, and 4 serieses but not with the X3 and X4, those two have their own a platform as do the X5 and X6 and hey isn't the X1 still based on the old 3 series wait no, this is actually all super confusing.
Relatively straightforward companies are difficult enough, but it's virtually impossible to get a handle on all of GM's platforms, possibly because they carry incomprehensible names like GM4200 and possibly because old platforms never die in GM-Land.
In America, you can buy two Chevrolets based off of GM's "Gamma II" platform. We get the Sonic and the Spark. Uruguay gets five.
There's the Sonic we know and love in hatchback and sedan forms.
There's the Cobalt, which is not actually an old Cobalt, but a Sonic sedan with cheapo parts.
There's the Onix and Prisma twins that look like weird body panels stuck on an Opel Corsa. These are actually also Chevy Sonics with cheapo parts, just different cheapo parts than the Cobalt that's not a Cobalt.
There's the Sail. Now, all over the world you can get a Chevy Sail and under the skin it has been an Opel Corsa. This Chevy Sail is not an Opel Corsa, it's yet another Sonic with entirely different cheapo parts, this time designed in China.
There's the Spark GT, which is a Chevy Spark as we know it.
However (and I am leaving the Gamma II platform at this point), there is a Chevy Spark (not GT) sold in Uruguay. Their Chevy Spark is actually a 2005-2009 Daewoo Matiz. The current US Spark (sold in Uruguay as the Spark GT) is also sold as a Daewoo Matiz, possibly for added obfuscation.
Uruguay also gets the Chevy Celta. This is actually an old Opel Corsa! I know you were wondering when that was going to show up. The Celta is a 1993-2000 Opel Corsa B, which, and I swear I am not making this up, was also sold as a Chevrolet Prisma in its sedan form, but that was only the predecessor to the current Prisma that has nothing to do with the Celta or the Corsa.
They get the Chevy Cruze down in Uruguay. This shares its bones with the Opel Astra and the Daewoo Lacetti, but that's getting beside the point. The Cruze we get here in America is the same Cruze you can buy in Montevideo, though you can also get the five-door hatch there.
Oh wait, those are only the sedans and hatchbacks!
The Gamma II platform also underpins the Chevy Tracker, which we get as the Buick Encore.
There's the Captiva Sport, which is a rebadged old Saturn Vue (aka Opel Antara) that you can't buy new in American showrooms but you can drive as a rental car.
Also on sale is the Chevy Spin. Being a medium-sized minivan with a Korean-oriented design, you might think it is closely related to the Chevrolet Orlando, which is sold internationally (including in Canada), but not in the US. This is not the case. The Spin is a Brazilian-designed Gamma II car sold in developing markets like China and Indonesia.
Two pickups are available from Chevy Uruguay. The bigger of the two is the S-10, which is sold in other markets as the Chevy Colorado. Don't be fooled, that Colorado is different than the Colorado we get here in America.
There's also the Chevy Montana, and it took me nine tabs in wikipedia before I had a concrete answer what this cartruck really is. One page describes it as a Gamma II car, which is understandable since it looks like a Sonic with a trunk. In fact, it's based on an old Opel Corsa B. Don't think this is an El Camino-ized version of the Chevy Sail, though. The Montana is a later revision of the Opel Corsa B, coming after the previous generation of Montana that was unbelievably based on the following-generation Opel Corsa C.
The Opel Corsa C is also badged internationally as the Chevy Agile (not to be confused with the unrelated Opel Agila), but that car is curiously not sold in Uruguay.
Finally, there is the Chevrolet N300 and keen fans of exotic GM platforms will be salivating when I say this is actually a Wuling! Wuling is part of GM's Chinese joint venture with SAIC, formerly Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. The N300 is a Wuling Rongguan, which may be an independent design but may be a revised version of a Mitsubishi Minicab. The difference between the Rongguan and the nigh-identical Hongtu (also sold as the "Sunshine") is not clear. More of an explanation can be found here.
Discerning shoppers that they are, Uruguayans only get the top engine in the N300. This is an 81 horsepower 1.2 liter, a significant step up from the 53hp 1.1 liter, based on a 30-year-old Suzuki motor Wuling also builds.
If you're wondering how this all fits into a global perspective, Chevrolet is currently the best-selling brand in Uruguay, which shifts something around 65,000 vehicles a year. That's three orders of magnitude smaller than the US car market. Americans didn't just buy as many F-Series trucks alone as Uruguayans bought new cars last year; Americans bought as many F-series trucks just last month as Uruguayans bought new cars last year. You can double check my data here, here and here. GM clearly has an interest in the market, but it's understandable why it doesn't get the most attention.
Many of these vehicles in Uruguay are built and sold all over South America, which still has a strong market for budget transportation. Having long ago amortized the development costs of these old platforms, GM can sell old models with new names and sheetmetal for discount prices down there. Well, that and their standards of automotive safety aren't quite as rigorous as ours.
That's why there are six different variations of the Chevy Sonic with four levels of cheapness. That's why you can walk into a showroom and see a nine-year-old platform vehicle sitting next to a 21-year-old platform vehicle, both sold as new cars.
Oh, but you can get the Camaro down there. We're not so different, are we?
Photo Credits: Chevrolet Uruguay