By on November 20, 2007

chevrolet-malibu-3-lg.jpgStop the presses! GM has a hit! Well, at least a hit with the media. In fact, the mainstream automotive press loves the new Chevrolet Malibu so much they’re ready, willing and able to tell the world that this is it! The product-led turnaround that GM’s quintessential non-car guy, CEO Rick Wagoner, predicted seven years ago. Arriving as it does immediately after GM’s new two-tier labor contract with United Auto Workers, the new ‘Bu seems the literal embodiment of a corner turned. But is it? Is the new Chevy a harbinger of a new dawn for the beleaguered America automaker? 

The new Chevrolet Malibu is hardly Detroit’s first “world beater” since the transplants transplanted stateside. Some of these automobiles never deserved this appellation (e.g. the old GM J-cars)– and proved the point in the commercial marketplace. Others fully deserved the plaudits. Even as its market share erosion began in earnest, The Big 2.8 has produced some genuinely remarkable, class-leading cars. So, what happened to them?

Cast your mind back to the turn of the millennium. What was the “wonder car” from Detroit that year? That’s right: the new Ford Focus. It was Car of the Year on two continents. It was an American-built small car that Americans actually wanted. And yet here it is, just seven years later: a finalist for TTAC’s Automotive Hall of Shame; an awkward-looking car that’s so uncompetitive in its class that even FoMoCo considers it little more than “place holder” for a future replacement.

Recalls were the first sign that the best of the best wasn’t so good. While the Focus never approached Vega-levels of self-destruction and lacked the “massive single flaw” of the Pinto, the Focus was recalled 14 times (steering, structure, suspension, etc.) in 2000, and another 10 times the following year. However much they liked their hatchback, the recalls had a damping effect on actual and potential customers’ enthusiasm.

All those warranty claims sliced the Focus’ thin profit margins. Rather than significantly renew or refresh the car’s mechanical components to keep pace with (never mind outpace) its inexorably improving competition, Ford “de-contented” (i.e. cheapened) the [American] Focus and used low price to keep its competitive hopes alive. Marketing support simply disappeared, as FoMoCo moved onto the Next Big Thing. Ironically, a lack of focus transformed a Car of the Year into a TTAC Ten Worst finalist.

Ford is hardly the first automaker to fail to maintain new model momentum. Volkswagen’s entire history post (original) Beetle is the same story writ large. Chrysler also has a long, sad history of slowing but surely extricating defeat from the jaws of victory.  

It is hard to explain the Neon’s impact when it first hit the market in 1994. It was good looking, well-sized and American-made. The combination of the spiraling Yen and special bare-bones construction gave the Dodge Neon a solid price advantage. The ever-paranoid Japanese media even dubbed the Neon “the Japanese car killer.”

Flash forward 13 years and the Neon is toast, while the Corolla and Civic are still here, still selling in vast quantities.  

While the Neon had some early mechanical issues, they were not Focus bad. The Neon’s troubles arrived later, as the model aged. Thanks to beancounting, the car’s mechanicals weren’t built to last. The Neon morphed from “new car” to “heap” after just a few years. As a result, resale value dived low and stayed there. The difference in depreciation confirmed the fact that Toyota and Honda were selling their cars on “value” not “price."

Believe it or not, this came as something of a shock to Toyonda; their management had no idea of their own strength. The men who designed the Neon literally paved the transplants’ way to prosperity. As for the former “killer,” the Neon received only one half-hearted update. By the time it vanished, most of the kids who got stuck with one had no idea how revolutionary the car had once been.

What does this mean for our friend the Malibu?  First, it’s far too early to declare victory. The slow rollout brings hope that Malibu’s quality will be kept high. But no one will know what’s what until real volume hits the streets. Even then, it will take a couple of years to see if the ‘Bu’s bits are built to last— a key quality for success in this segment.

And after THAT, there remains the nagging suspicion that GM, a company with well over 100 models spread over eight brands, will repeat its history of neglect, aggressive corner cutting and itinerant marketing. 

For those of you who say of course GM’s learned its lesson, two questions. What has been done to fix the Saturn Aura’s less than stellar gearbox? And when was the last time you saw an ad for the car? Well exactly.   

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

113 Comments on “The Truth About the Chevrolet Malibu...”


  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Good points. Victory that is less than long term is not victory at all.
    The last paragraph on the Aura hits the spot. The media has focused on the V6 Camrys problems, the Aura had an almost identical (slightly higher) score in CR. Zip in the press.
    Why? IMO we expect excellence from Toyota and a mis-step is “news”. Problems from GM are not “news”.

    Personally, I think this will come down to an underrated factor, TRUST.
    I really do not think GM is restoring it with the public (every high reliabilty score seems to be offset by one or two low ones). Time will tell.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    chris2

    Only thing I’ll disagree with here is the assessment that the Neon was “good looking”. Good Lord that thing was ugly.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    GM should offer free scheduled maintenance to 3y/36k miles and/or Hyundai-like warranty.

    And offer its highest selling volume dealers (say top 15%) $$$$/subsidies to refurbish their showrooms to Audi-like looks.

  • avatar
    Orian

    GM has to consistently build quality and desirable cars before people will come back. They can’t let them sit in purgatory and not update them as the competition has been doing for years before they worry about warranty and incentives.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    This article confirms two points:

    1. Detroit can build a world class car when they want to.
    2. They still have a long way to go before people will think of them in the same vein and Toyota or Honda.

    GM can be proud of the Malibu now. It’s a rather good looking beast (though, that front grille NEEDS to go!) and it’s creating a buzz and a good pop. But as Mr Bunter1 says “anything other than long term victory isn’t a victory”. I remain sceptical that this car will be all that it’s cracked up to be. You see, the Malibu can be good looking, talked about even bought in high levels, but there one other quality the Malibu needs to have…..profitability. If the Malibu doesn’t generate substantial profits for GM, then all of this is a next door to pointless exercise.

    This is where, I fear, GM may come unstuck. In their pursuit of profits, they may have cut a few corners which prevents the Malibu from being a good car to being a great car. If people start having warranty claims on the ‘Bu then GM will be back at square one. This is supposed to be their halo car, their flagship, their Camcord killer. If they can’t produce a class leading car in this segment, then what’s left? GM need to stop thinking short term and start thinking long term. The Malibu has had a good start, let’s work on it.

    I like the Malibu, I really do. But is this the model ready to take the Camcords on or does it need another generation…….?

  • avatar
    melllvar

    The press may be loving the new Malibu, but when I walked throuhg the GM booth at the Central Florida International Auto Show everyone was ignoring “The Car You Can’t Ignore”. At the same time, the new Accord couldn’t get a moment’s rest.

    Also the Experience a GM was a joke – but thanks to the lousy attitudes of the GM employees running it, I wasn’t laughing.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    I own a Hyundai – the 2006 (new style) Sonata. GREAT CAR!!! 2 years next month – 35k on the clock. Zero defects (not one single warranty repair, just oil and tire rotations). Even my doubting wife (when we bought it) said the other day how much she loved the car.

    I USED to own a Pontiac before – I can’t count the number of warranty repairs in the first two years. And Hyundai has a 5 year bumper to bumper (which I haven’t needed to use). GM still only has a 3 year B2B.

    It will take more than hype and media to get me back to a GM (or any North American) product. Where’s the warranty to back this all up? A (subjective) pretty face won’t cut it any more.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    Didn’t Hyundai just reduce their new car powertrain warranty from 10 yrs down to 5? I guess maybe beancounting is killing their profits, having to repair 6 and 7 year old cars for free…

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    melllvar:
    The press may be loving the new Malibu, but when I walked through the GM booth at the Central Florida International Auto Show everyone was ignoring “The Car You Can’t Ignore”. At the same time, the new Accord couldn’t get a moment’s rest.

    Ironic. Can anyone report what’s going on at the LA Auto show, or has that one not yet opened to the public?

  • avatar
    NickR

    Don’t bring up the Focus and the Neon. I had friends who had both (early production years). The Focus was am abomination. If Canada had lemon laws, it would have been taken back three times over. The Neon was better, but not much. Ugh.

    The new Malibu has to be bullet proof for the first 2-3 years of production. Period.

  • avatar
    rjzinger

    I love the points you make about the Neon, I really thought the car had great potential. I drove a 97 Plymouth Neon for a number of years, my father hated the car, we tore down the engine and put it back together to fix some leaks, then a few months later it throw a rod. The interior was cheap but I thought it was a decent little beater. Now I drive a 97 Honda Accord and realize that the Neon was not so nice, especially when the value of the same year Accord is 5 times higher and the Accord isn’t that much bigger.

    Plus the last couple of years of the Neon I thought looked great and very sporty. I test drove a 2000 (I think) R/T but was not impressed with it’s performance. They should have kept the Neon or redesigned it and made it better instead of replacing it with that nasty thing, the Caliber, can you say YACK!? WTF? Seriously.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I thought the Malibu was a great car, especially compared to a Camry, but I don’t trust GM to make a car that wont self distruct after the warranty ends. I think Lutz’s comments confirm they have already given up and moved on the next thing instead of backing this car up 200%. Until they start putting there focus into the product/customer and not on quick profits they are toast.

    And the fact they didn’t fix the Aura’s problems even before the Malibu came out are telling about how much they really care.

  • avatar
    radimus

    The new Malibu has to be bullet proof for the first 2-3 years of production. Period.

    More like the Malibu needs to skate through it’s first 100k miles with little more than a minor hiccup here and there before people’s attitudes about GM start to change.

  • avatar

    I throw the first gen Chrysler LH cars into the mix. The cab-forward design was striking and sleek, taking the jellybean Taurus to the next level.

    I remember the automotive media went nuts over it too. But it wasn’t enough. The reliability wasn’t there (one owner remarked Chrysler should throw a spare transaxle in the trunk, because its gonna fail at 70,000 miles) the design was neglected…and then it was forced to die a tragic death.

    Well written article. And Detroit, please don’t screw this one up.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    I drive a 1998 neon with 165,000 miles on it every day– were it the heap you so badly want it to be– it’d have had a mechanical fault in the last 11 years, no?

    It hasn’t.

    I redline it often, and haven’t replaced the timing belt yet. Sounds fairly durable to me.

  • avatar
    nutbags

    Our industry leaders suffer from what is called “The Dog Syndrome”. When we pet a dog, the dog is thinking that it is good and will last forever, not unlike the auto manufacturers. When they produce a decent car, instead of trying to improve it, they just think it will be decent or competitive forever. And by the time it is realized that they have fallen behind (if they ever realize) it is too late. The boards just keep scratching (giving bonuses) management and they in turn think it will go on forever. When are they going to realize that their masters (consumers) have left the house never to return.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Can anyone name a single US car nameplate which has been kept fresh, competitive and reliable with complete redesigns every five years or so?

    Toyota and Honda keep all of their volume vehicles in the hunt all the time. Why can’t GM, Ford or Chrysler?

    The UAW has one thing right, management failures are at the root of Detroit’s competitiveness problems. It’s ironic that said managers are paid many time more than their better performing Japanese counterparts.

    I worked for many years as a semiconductor product engineer, where our focus was always on discovering and fixing root cause problems. Treating secondary symptoms feels like you are doing something, but is rarely effective. You must get to the core of the problem and fix it there.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    I hate to generalize from a single fault, but one thing that always sticks out in my memory is that the Neon had available power windows, but ONLY for the front windows! That is, you could get crank windows all around, or power front and crank rear windows. Who was in charge of that decision? Incredible.

  • avatar
    glenn126

    Neon was the final nail in the coffin for the Detroit 3, in my household. Head gaskets. 3 times, for 2 Neons, both new. (They were both commuter cars). Nuf said.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Wasn’t the Neon R/T just an appearance package with the racing stripes and nicer seats. I remember riding on one as a passenger for about 5 minutes and thought the car was a joke, pathetic even for the day and I wasn’t even driving just riding in it. It flexed so much in the 6 blocks we went in it I wasn’t sure the car would stay together and as I remember the car was only about a year old at the time.

    I agree with Sajeev the LH’s were darn nice at the time. I drove a lot of them when I worked at Budget as a shuttle driver and was impressed, the New Yorker was my favorite and the Intrepids as ugly as they were, were a hoot. I didn’t own one so I can’t vouch on reliability but they were sure miles ahead of the Ford’s at the time, what total junk those Turii were.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Sajeev: Chrysler did redesign the LH cars for the 1998 model year, and reliability and build quality were greatly improved. Considering that the cars originally debuted for the 1993 model year, a five-year lifespan isn’t necessarily a sign of neglect. Note that the Honda Accord and Civic are now on a five-year cycle.

    Now, whether Chrysler improved the LH cars enough is certainly a matter of debate, but the bottom line is that Chrysler was moving in the right direction in how it treated the LH cars.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Sajeev Mehta:
    Well written article. And Detroit, please don’t screw this one up.

    Keep your fingers crossed … or not. Detroit will need a miracle of biblical proportions in order to “not screw this one up”.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    The new Malibu faces a serious problem in that I believe folks are expecting a bit too much.
    It is important to remember that the legendary reliability and quality that the Japanese manufacturers created in the past was actually due to them “over-engineering” their products to truly be better than those of the domestics. This did cost them some extra coin to do back then, but the trade-off was increasing market share.

    Any sensible person that can look at GMs piss-poor financial situation and see that there is NO money to spare! GM is already maxed-out in terms of expenses and also hobbled by it inability to generate any profits from these types of vehicle sales.

    Needless to say it is a given that GM had to do some serious cost-cutting up front to get this Malibu to market at a competitive price point. On top of this notion, GM is GM! This is the company that has shot itself in the foot time after time with such POS cost-cutting measures like plastic intake manifolds and poorly made defective CONSUMABLE products like bad head gaskets. Lets and in the insult of bad manufacturing processes to the mix!

    The car companies that produce good products do so because they have spent decades constantly improving their manufacturing processes, and being very discriminate with their suppliers.
    These are practices that GM has NOT been following for several decades. GM is the company that is known to simply release products to market because it is time, not because the product is ready for market.

    Now, after watching GM continuously commit the same crime over the course of 3 decades YOU believe they have been rehabilitated?????

    Smart money STILL says avoid GM at all cost!

    Buying a new Malibu is like jumping off of a cliff! Since Gms resale value in stuck in the toilet if you are not happy with your Malibu you will be STUCK with that damn car unless you are ready for a quick and dirty trip to the cleaners.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    whatdoiknow1 nailed it.

  • avatar
    pharmer

    My second, closer look at the Malibu confirms the bean counting suspicions. The trim around the inside of the doors and on b-pillar is hard, crappy, pebble-tone plastic. Some of the interior trim on the LTZ I looked at didn’t fit right, and the sliding cover to the cupholders was already broken. There was untrimmed flashing from the mold on the driver’s b-pillar cover.

    Great looking car, same old GM.

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    jthorner :
    November 20th, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Toyota and Honda keep all of their volume vehicles in the hunt all the time. Why can’t GM, Ford or Chrysler?

    Money and bad management.

    If they had made good business decisions 10 or 15 years ago they wouldn’t be so far in the hole that they can’t make good business decisions now.

    I think the Ford Focus is the absolute greatest example of this.

    If they had spent the money to be competitive with this car when it first debuted they’d have the money to make the new one competitive.

    They didn’t, so they don’t.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Chrysler not only had the Neon, they also had the “cab-forward” cars: Intrepid/Concorde and the new New Yorker. So why didn’t their world-beating cars take over the world? This was the start of a 7-year period of rock-bottom gas prices, and the erstwhile Big 3 went for the high-margin SUV market and let their car development languish.

    Same deal with Ford. Go back to 1992 or so, you had a Ford lineup that was very competitive, from the Protege – I mean Escort – up to the freshly restyled Crown Vic. Then they were dumbfounded with the mega-hit Explorer and the rest was history.

    Toyonda, well, they kept doing what they were doing, making their cars incrementally better. In 1992 a Taurus was every bit as good as a Camry. By 1999, Camry was leaps and bounds better, but who cared if Ford jellybeans sold slowly when they could turn a $10,000 profit by slapping a seven-seat cab on an F-series chassis? Just ship the excess out to fleets and be done with it.

    Well, now it’s a different world. Every auto maker’s success is absolutely dependent on small and midsize cars. The Neon wasn’t do-or-die for Chrysler. Nor was the Focus for Ford. GM has obviously poured their heart and soul into the Malibu, and they know if they can’t get American butts back into their cars, they’re dead. So don’t look for anything other than GM’s best effort here on marketing and continued development. I’m not saying they’ll succeed, just that they’re not going to neglect this car.

  • avatar

    Excellent editorial.

    The LXs replaced the LHs. But the second gen LH was allowed to run a year or two longer than it should have.

    Chevrolet has kept the Corvette fresh. Does that count?

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I’ve seen it the most with Chrysler.

    The Neon was great, briefly, and after its flaws were revealed what did they do? Nothing. Look at Corollas and Civics… they didn’t have long-lasting bodies in the beginning, but that changed. Why couldn’t Chrysler change what was wrong about the Neon? Then the PT Cruiser. Big hit, good for them, and then what? The Intrepid… how can you kill off such an important model? Without replacing it! Now we have the 300, the golden boy which almost saved Chrysler. I’d bet they’re not even working on the second generation yet.

    You just get the feeling that when a new Toyota or Honda comes out, the engineers immediately get to work on the next one. You don’t get that feeling from the Big 3.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    NickR :
    November 20th, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Don’t bring up the Focus and the Neon. I had friends who had both (early production years). The Focus was am abomination. If Canada had lemon laws, it would have been taken back three times over. The Neon was better, but not much. Ugh.

    I leased a 2000 Focus, drove it for 75,000 km and never had a problem. I returned it twice for recall work. The dealer returned it to me the next day all cleaned up and ready to go. It was a small inconvenience, but nothing to write home about.

    I loved driving the car. Not quite the smile that my old RX-7 used to bring, but the car handled superbly and the engine, although not a winner, also wasn’t a loser.

  • avatar

    Can anyone report what’s going on at the LA Auto show, or has that one not yet opened to the public?

    I was there on Saturday. I didnt spend much time in the Chevy section, but from what I saw they had a single, lonely Malibu tucked away off to the side. They should have had that thing plastered all over the place, but instead, front and center were a couple of celebrity Vettes, and 2 huge stages pushing the Volt and E85.

    At least for the few minutes I was there the Malibu seemed pretty much overlooked by the crowd.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    ” … I saw they had a single, lonely Malibu tucked away off to the side.”

    How is it that GM has it’s marketing in such a mess? They launch the Malibu with a huge advertising campaign, but don’t have supply up and running to feed the dealers. They go to the LA auto show and pitch vapor-ware instead of selling what they have. Duh.

    The great extinction of the American Independent Automakers happened during a period when GM and Ford where fighting it out for market share. The first casualties were everyone else. Today in the US family sedan market Toyota and Honda are competing with great vigor while everyone else fights over the leftovers. Nissan and Hyundai are doing a credible job on their piece of the fight, but the 2.8 continue to loose ground. Even as good as the new Malibu might be, it isn’t going to turn the tide in part because GM isn’t acting like they actually care enough to turn the tide!

  • avatar
    Chaser

    iNeon> No head gasket problems? Seriously? Then y ou must be one of the very few lucky ones. A friend of mine bought a 96 Neon and it was great at first. I was so impressed with the bang-for-buck factor that I got a 98 myself. Then we both started having problems. Head gaskets on both cars, water leaks, faulty factory exhausts, etc. I’ve owned 6 cars and that was the worst. Good riddance.

    As for the Focus, I’ve never owned one but a couple of my friends have. Constant problems, including a seat that broke and literally started sliding back while my friend was driving. Being 5’4″, you can imagine this was a bit of an inconvenience for her. Her and her friends called it the F*ckus, because it always f*cks us.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Has anyone written a book that parallels the GM(or Ford) corperate culture with our American government?

    I see a lot of similarities and I was curious if anyone has done any real studies on this.

  • avatar
    tech98

    the Focus was recalled 14 times

    Did the Focus have all these recall problems in Europe as well?

    If not, what was the difference? Did FoMoCo NA do its usual hack-job of de-contenting it with cheap crap parts?

  • avatar
    j_slez

    ” … I saw they had a single, lonely Malibu tucked away off to the side.”

    Not exactly true. They had two ‘Bus along a main aisle in the middle of the Chevy display. Still, not as prominent as I’d expected. There were people checking them out, but not big crowds. There were much bigger crowds around the CTS. The big crowds in the Chevy area were around Leno’s Corvette, the Volt, and the Camaro concept.

    I don’t think the crowds were any bigger around the Accord, but in fairness it was getting late by the time I got there. Around that time I looked at the Lincoln MKS for a full revolution on the turntable and nobody else came within 10 feet of it.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    Wait, what’s wrong with the Aura’s transmission? I have the same one in a G6, and it performs flawlessly.

    At least, I assume you’re talking about the 6-speed automatic.

  • avatar
    Ed S.

    To tie this conversation back to a long-standing TTAC/GM discussion – how much better would the Malibu be without the Aura taking some of the platform’s R&D money? Would that increment of funding be enough to put the Malibu over-the-top, so to speak? I would estimate that in total, GM’s investment in this chassis’s transition to the US market is probably commensurate with what it should spend to make a first-rate vehicle. But the funding was split between two vehicles and two design teams.

    This also brings us to the point that this program was a relative bargain for GM-NA compared to developing a completely new vehicle platform. Why would a company the size of GM even consider taking $$ shortcuts when they’ve already save a bundle by using the Opal chassis?

    The jury is still out on reliability. If this turns out to be a reliable car then the above doesn;t apply. But if not then it does. It’s a shame, really, that they’ve left the door open to ridicule at all.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    ca36gtp-
    Your car maybe just fine. Even in a car with higher than average problems it is usually in single percentage points or low doubles.
    Anything that get near 50% of the cars, from anyone is bizzar.
    An example, 3.5M engines are in teh infamous “Toyota sludge” family. Actual reported cases are in the single digit thousands. tenths of a percentage, doesn’t even show on surveys.
    Sucks to be one of the few.

    Anyway, probably 90% that you’re OK.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    andyinsdca

    I went to the LA Auto Show on Saturday. GM’s area was a mess. No coherence (amongst the brands or GM overall) and a billion SUVs & pickups for Chevy. Buick was a sad afterthought and Saab had 2 or 3 cars kind of there, but basically another sad afterthought. GM put absolutely NO EFFORT into their displays at the show – basically stuck some cars/trucks out there with some pathetic display hardware and that was it.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    I was just curious, because the article makes it sound like a design problem, and thus affecting all applications, not a reliability issue.

  • avatar

    Not exactly true. They had two ‘Bus along a main aisle in the middle of the Chevy display. Still, not as prominent as I’d expected.

    Ah, I must have missed those since I was in a rush at the time. Still, I think they were extoling the G8 on a rotating platform in the Pontiac section, so I was surprised the ‘Bu didnt get at least a raised stage or something.

  • avatar
    Unbalanced

    The Taurus has to be the ultimate example of allowing a winner to devolve into meaninglessness through neglect. We’re talking top selling car in the land down to rental fleet filler down to nothing at all in a blink of the automotive eye.

    Detroit has a bad habit of losing interest in boring old mainstays in favor of pretty young things. But Ford has to take the cake on this; it wasn’t that many years ago that Taurus, Focus and Ranger were top five sellers in the US. Yes, Ranger. Where are they now?

  • avatar
    Skooter

    The new Malibu is a great looker. And pretty affordable too. There are a lot of GM naysayers out there. This car could change a few prejudices.

  • avatar
    rocket88

    My Son has a 2003 Focus. It has 110,000 km, is a hoot to drive, and has never had any problems. i think by 2003 they had all the launch problems sorted out. But of course the bad press was now all over the place. Nonetheless it is still has been one of the only CR recommended small US made cars.

    I dont understand the logic of its barely refreshed 2008 replacement which looks more or less the same to me – except that the wagon and 5 door i liked are gone. if they didnt want to do anything really substantive, it would seem they should have just saved all the tooling money and lowered the price or included synch for free or something. The new one is not going to fool anyone, and reminds me of what GM did with the venture to uplander minivans.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The later year Foci were much better cars. But the damage was done. I am sure that there were a few good first year cars. Christ, there are still two Lada Niva’s and a Volare in my neighbourhood. The Malibu can’t afford first year teathing troubles.

    Redbarchetta

    Has anyone written a book that parallels the GM(or Ford) corperate culture with our American government? I see a lot of similarities and I was curious if anyone has done any real studies on this.

    No one has the stomach for it.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    ca36gtp-
    A design problem does not necessarily cause failure across the board. Those type usually show up well before production (even at Land Rover).
    I maybe a matter of haveing left too small of a factor of safety in a part or assembly that only some users are exceeding. It could be designing with too much variance in tolerances in the parts and only parts at the extremes of the specification may be failing.
    Speaking as a mechanical engineer I can assure you that there are many ways to have a design failure that will not cause universal problems.
    A person can own a statistically unreliable vehicle and still have a very good experience with their particular one depending on things like the variances cited above (and others), and things they can control like car care and driving habits.
    Take care, wish you the best with your transmission.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    See, what I thought the writer was talking about was not necessarily a failure, but that the gearbox itself was simply not designed good.

    For example, the way GM’s FWD 6-speed manual became known for not being very smooth and having a notchy feel to the shifting.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    GM has a FWD 6 speed manual? What is it in, I didn’t even know they offered any manuals in the FWD cars they make. I stopped caring about there trannies when they went auto in practically everything.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    It was designed by Opel, but made it across to the US in a couple cars. It was in the 2006 G6 GTP, and briefly in the 2007 G6 GT, but no longer.

    I think it’s still used in the Saab 9-3 and 9-5.

    The reputation for its shift action is not stellar.

  • avatar
    JJ

    About the focus.

    I remember it won some TuV (highly respected german testing agency) test for reliability for cars between 3 and 5 years old if I remember correctly.

    And I’m not talking about the new Euro-Focus.

    Maybe the American one was built at a different plant or to different standards…

  • avatar
    discoholic

    My impression is that unlike Ford and Chrysler, GM are now really getting their act together (not necessarily in marketing, but at least as far as product is concerned).

    GM bashing notwithstanding, I do believe that the Malibu is a highly competitive product as long as GM get the long-term quality right. If you believe the reviews, it is rather good, and more importantly, it has more style than ANYTHING Chevy has put on the road for the last 30 years. (Which is probably what most people care about, anyway.)

    Moreover, they transformed Saturn (not very long ago the manufacturer of what were possibly the most appalling cars in automotive history) into a range of quite desirable Euro-flavour rides – and those who have their doubts should definitely testdrive the excellent Astra.

    Pontiac seems to be getting its mojo back with the G8 (alright, I’ll conveniently ignore the Pocontibalt G5 – then again, so do most buyers), Buick is certainly miles ahead of where they were five years ago. There’s nothing wrong with making comfy cars for the elderly, as long as they are decent. The Century I was in last year certainly wasn’t (the “quality” of the cheap-arse interior was beyond belief – honestly, portable lavatories are made of better materials), but compared to that the LaCrosse is a palace on wheels.

    IMHO, GM are quite right to use the strengths of their subsidiaries in different countries (Opel for Saturn, Holden for Pontiac) – no need to reinvent the wheel everywhere. After all, Saturn are now getting an outstanding little car for almost zero development cost. I do believe that good product will be paramount in getting customers back, and I think GM have FINALLY started using their organisation to deliver.

  • avatar
    stimpy

    Does ANYONE (besides a particular poster with a penchant for calling Germans and Japanese offensive names) truly believe that GM has suddenly wised up and begun building vehicles with an eye toward the long-term? Because I believe their problems go well beyond designing and building a quality car. Their problems are philosophical, cultural and systemic. Their attention span is far too short and their goals are far too greed-based to ever INVEST in the continuous improvement of a particular model.

    Your example of the Ford Focus is spot on. In fact, you could certainly go back another decade and say the exact same thing about the Taurus. At the time, everyone – from consumers to the media – predicted that Ford would become #1 in the world. They were building revolutionary vehicles and drowning in cash reserves. They were gobbling up market share like nobody’s business. BUT THEY WERE STILL BUILDING SHITTY CARS THAT FELL APART IN A FEW YEARS AND TREATING THE CONSUMER LIKE A RESOURCE, NOT A REASON FOR BEING. And now look at them.

    The Japanese know that reputations are built through slow, grinding effort. Yes, they too can build the occasional revolutionary vehicle, as well as quite a few misguided dogs, but mostly, they just concentrate on doing everything within reason to improve their cars every model year and keep them competitive. Maybe that is why there is such shock at the new Camry and the apparent loss of focus at Toyota – it is so unlike the typical Japanese model. They usually do not try to hit home runs – they are like Ichiro, hitting singles, stealing bases and playing good defense. The Big 2.8 are like Frank Thomas is now – good for a few home runs, but not much good for anything else.

    So, yeah. The new Malibu looks like a winner today. The big question is what it will look like in 2 short years. My bet is on complacency and decline, and then GM swinging for the fences AGAIN saying they finally got one right. How stupid do they think we are, anyway?

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    In terms of the Toyota and Honda coming up with new versions of the Camry and Accord every so many years, those new versions are less new than you think. I drive a 97 Camry I bought used from a family member, and I looked under the hood of a brand new Hybrid Camry that a colleague of mine was collecting as part of a research project on hybrid vehicles. The 97 and the Hybrid 07 looked so much alike past the weird sheet metal styling of the new Camry. Everything from the layout of the spring towers to the positions of the engine damper struts that give that great Camry quiet to the layout of the accessory belt on the 4-cylinder mill were all the same. The only difference with the Hybrid Camry is it looked to have half the trunk taken up with the battery pack, and some of the accessories looked like they were taken off the engine drive belt and given electric drive.

    Credit Toyota and Honda with continuous improvement, if you will, but there is little that is “all new” about the “all new Camry” or the “all new Accord” when these things come out. Maybe that is lesson to Ford, which introduces and then abandons entire platforms.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    redbarchetta asks, “Has anyone written a book that parallels the GM(or Ford) corperate culture with our American government?”

    Dunno about that, but the late David Halberstam wrote a terrific book that paralleled the Ford corporate culture with that of Japan’s #2 at the time, Nissan. It’s called The Reckoning, and despite a few detail inaccuracies, on the whole I highly recommend it.

    As for the Neon, what I’ve always found interesting is that its basic innovation (other than styling) was that it was a landmark in using techniques to build a car at lower cost. It was designed to have fewer parts, a smaller number of fasteners in a lesser variety of sizes, etc. At the time it was reported that Toyota tore it down, was greatly impressed, and plagiarized its techniques into its own cars going forward. I felt then that the late-’90s Camry was the first bitter fruit of this “enlightenment” (one switch instead of two for two reading lights, the now-ubiquitous one-piece Rubbermaid grille/bumper cover). The new one merely takes the same idea to a disastrous extreme.

    Today, I truly believe that the reason Toyota is eschewing parking-lot side moldings on everything from Yaris to Lexus LS is simply to eliminate the parts and labor. There’s a whole lot of this thinking visible in modern Toyotas if you’re looking for it.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Let’s assume that the new Malibu is a good, or even great car. The question is, will anybody care? Will it boost GM’s sales? Will anybody beyond fleets and Detroit loyalists buy it?

    That is, how does GM get people who buy a new Camry or Accord every three to five years (and are very happy when they do so) to even come to a Chevy dealer to look at it?

    GM’s problem is that Toyota and Honda are the 1960′s IBM of cars. That is, in the 1960′s, if you were buying a mainframe computer, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”. It was the default choice. Honda and Toyota are now the default choices in midsized sedans.

    Now, for this to happen, GM needs to have consistantly good product across the board, and at least come within spitting distance of Toyota and Honda in reliability surveys such as Consumer Reports-and do this consistantly for a decade or so. Now, Toyota stumbled in CR’s surveys recently, and had three vehicles get “less than average” ratings in reliability. But about half of GM’s products did the same thing. That’s not going to cut it.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    i have One simple question. Why Hyundai built an all new platform and an all new engine for the upcoming Genesis near-premium sedan? why they didn`t outsource from their japanese joint venture bins? And why the new Malibu is german Opel- based, and german engined? Does a company claimming of building world class competition -beating cars outsource platforms and engines?Why should I believe a company that outsources its engines from the cheapest car brand in Europe? What does it say about the engineering capabilities of GM? And I might sound like an old gramophone, but i will repeat it until my last grasp of air, unless you accept fair game rules of REALLY engineering and building cars yourself, you will never ever survive. you should listen to what Ron Paul says. Honesty and hard work. and 5% of talent.

  • avatar
    mastermik

    The Ford Fusion was dealt with the same fate, I believe. There was hype surrounding that car when it came out. The quality rating were actually HIGHER than the Japanese cars. Look where it is today…

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Jurisb,

    What exactly did GM outsource? The platform was developed by one of their brands, probably by Saab and Opel. The ecotec engines were also co-developed by Opel, Saab and GM NA (). In English this is not called “outsourcing” but “sharing” since the parts are developed by company’s internal divisions. Outsourcing is when the “source” is “out”side of the company.

  • avatar
    Emro

    “lprocter1982 :
    November 20th, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Didn’t Hyundai just reduce their new car powertrain warranty from 10 yrs down to 5? I guess maybe beancounting is killing their profits, having to repair 6 and 7 year old cars for free…”

    no?
    http://www.hyundaiusa.com/global/warranty/warranty.aspx

  • avatar
    jurisb

    ra_pro, opel is part of gm, but hardly an american brand. If a gm bought a latvian bakery and exported their bread to the states, i doubt if people who worked in that bakery would say now we are making gm, an american bread. do swedes consider saab an american brand since it was bought by gm? gm uses ecotec engines and those are 100% built by german opel , using german fritz- engineers. engines were co-developed with gm? what exact parts did gm NA construct in 2.0 or 2.4 liter engines? you see you buy a company, but still can`t buy a country of origin. and saab will always have astamp made in sweden, no matter who owns the stakes ,or shares.
    and the platform was developed by opel, it is a vectra platform. and opel is included in german dax index, not in NA nasdaq indexes. so think yourself!

  • avatar
    mrcknievel

    The only thing that will fix GM’s problems is time..and ti-i-i-i-ime AIN’T on their side..no it ain’t.

    Fool me once, shame on me, Fool me for a couple of decades…..

  • avatar
    jurisb

    mrcknievel-be careful, they might consider it flaming G. W. Bush :)))))))))))))))))

  • avatar
    thrillsville84

    As a devoted car guy, I have to say that I have always owned American made cars, and I have yet to be disapointed. I had an old Dodge, then a 1988 Ford Tempo which ran for almost 300,000 miles with almost no trouble at all before it was retired. I then got an Oldsmobile Acheiva (1996) which averaged 30mpg (40 on long trips) and in the course of its 210,000 miles (before I wrecked it)used no oil and had only the alternator and a map sensor fail. I then got a 1996 Chevy Lumina which has been a great car to date. I’ve spent a total of $50 p&l for a new water pump for it. That’s it. Only fail. These cars drove well, were comfortable and reliable, and not too hard to look at.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    ” … 1996 Chevy Lumina …. ”

    Keep an eye out for coolant in the oil thanks to an intake manifold gasket leak. They have an extraordinarily high failure rate such that going 11 years without it failing is almost a miracle. Many failed at between 40k-80k miles.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    Yeah, my Lumina sold me on the “quality” of American cars. Just a nasty car all around that had fuel injector failures and a broken turn signal switch to name a few things. There wasn’t one thing about it that was better than a Camry of the same time period, it was just flat out inferior.

  • avatar

    More info on the GM 60-degree V6′s coolant leaks. I think the Northstar V8′s head gaskets have the same problem.

    I think its more of a Dexcool maintenance issue, something the imports (in general) didn’t worry about because of 70k timing belt services/reacharounds back then.

    I don’t know why GM needs Dexcool in the first place and I’m certainly not recommending the Lumina to anyone. :)

  • avatar
    kjc117

    Why all the press over an Opel and how is this any differnt than the Saturn Aura?

  • avatar
    sj1204

    I am a little confused as to why the author spoke of the tranny problems with the Aura as if that is a known fact. I am unfamiliar with this problem and other reviews I read did not mention it. I’m not sure that we can take his personal observation about the tranny performance as a certified defect that needs to be corrected ASAP.

    Anyone who cares to look at the facts can see that GM is much better than it was 5 years ago. Of course, the talk of things not changing and GM being on the brink of collapse have been around before. Whats interesting is how the positive reviews garnered by the majority of GM’s vehicles dont seem to be considered when people talk about them changing. When dicussing quality GM’s performance in JD Power or even CR is not mentioned. Nor is GM’s reduction in warranty cost claims over the last few years. Those with eyes can see that GM’s design prowess is impressive these days. Those who can drive know that GM’s engines are more competitive than ever and they have more vehicles with decent handling than ever. When looking at the whole body of evidence its hard to argue that nothing has changed at the General. But that wont stop people from making that argument.

    As for GM not upgrading models over time the Aura now has an I-4 engine for 2008 since many demanded it. The Malibu is getting a 6 speed in spring 2008 for the I-4 LTZ. The aura should be getting a 6 speed for late 2008 or 2009MY. The G6 had a DOHC V6 and 6 speed combo for the 2007 MY. The Equinox got the combo for 2008 MY. STS got a 302hp V6 and 6 speed as base powertrain plus exterior enhancement for 2008 MY. Tahoe is getting hyrbid model for 2008MY and will get 6 speed next year. I am hard pressed to see how thise points to the fact that GM lets models rot on the vine. Not saying they didnt in the past, but their current lineup doesn’t support that notion.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    Saturn doesnt do specific TV ads for the aura but the car is featured in the brands ads. They continue to advertise for the car on sites like edmunds.com and in print. The car has only been out for one year so its seems a little early to say GM is letting the car stagnate. It had two engines at launch and it has three now plus a mild hybrid. This is all since August 2006. The car is scheduled to be replaced in 2009 so I would say GM is investing in this model aggressively, especially considering it’s volume.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I know people who work on the GM line. They said that rock-bottom morale and rampant drug and alcohol use mean they won’t by a GM either.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I am a little confused as to why the author spoke of the tranny problems with the Aura as if that is a known fact.

    Of the 25 TSB’s (technical service bulletins) issued for the Aura, eight are related to the automatic transmission.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    what are the isses and how do we know they havent been corrected? Just saying the tranny is problematic doesnt tell us anything. Also anyone is going to accuse them of sitting on the problem and continuing to produce shoddy mechanicals some proof should be provided. This tranny is used in the G6 and Malibu as well so they should suffer the same defects.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    what are the isses and how do we know they havent been corrected?

    This information is freely available on NHTSA’s website. You will find that are numerous issues, include control module problems and rings that require replacement.

    In addition, the Consumer Reports survey finds that the Saturn XR has below-average reliability. (The XE model is recommended.)

    Also anyone is going to accuse them of sitting on the problem and continuing to produce shoddy mechanicals some proof should be provided.

    You appear to be the one making the accusations. The data is available. You can deny it if you like, but then the burden is on you to show why it is allegedly faulty or incomplete if you believe it to be so.

    In any case, not many consumers care whether or not GM is “sitting on the problem.” They would prefer that the problem not arise in the first place.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    Odd that you are so focused on these transmission problems and see them as proof that GM is inept when Toyota has problems with its 6 speed auto. I have heard nothing about widespread problems with the Aura’s 6 speed. Not saying there arent TSBs (they exist for lots of vehicles) but I havent heard of problems so serious people wanted tranny replacements or new cars. Have you? We know both have happened for the Camry.

    I am fully aware of what CR recommended but they didnt specify why the XR isnt recommended. “problems” can mean a lot of things with CR, it doesnt mean XR trannies were failing and requiring replacement. Since you are so knowledgable about what CR recommends I’m sure you know the camry V6 isnt recommended. For some reason I doubt that would prevent you from buying a camry. BTW, there is a difference between a recall and a TSB bulletin. I’m not aware of any recalls for the Aura’s tranny. Are you?

    I also asked how do we know GM hasnt addressed the tranny issues. I havent gotten an answer yet.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Odd that you are so focused on these transmission problems and see them as proof that GM is inept when Toyota has problems with its 6 speed auto.

    Er, no.

    First, you accused the author of making claims about the transmission that weren’t true.

    I then pointed you to the TSB’s, that document the problems that you disputed.

    Then, you questioned whether the TSB’s are for anything important.

    I pointed out in reply to your question that there were, in fact, numerous issues.

    You apparently didn’t like that answer, so then you dragged Toyota into it, even though I didn’t mention them here.

    I’m sorry that you don’t like the truth of the matter. If it bothers you, then go complain to GM and tell them to build them in such a way that there won’t be any TSB’s for us to discuss here.

    You’re shooting the messenger, just because you don’t like the message. But the problem isn’t with me, it’s with the car.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    first of all the authors comments may not be true. You havent provided any evidence to the contrary. Unless I cannot read my understanding is the accusation was made that GM is doing nothing about the Aura’s rotten transmission. I have been told there are TSBs but no proof has been provided that GM hasnt dealt with these issue. Do you have proof?

    Please no not get offended because I am asking questions you dont want to hear. I am fully aware of what a TSB represents believe it or not. I am asking how you can say TSBs on the Aura tranny represent an engineering and design failure on GM’s part but Toyota’s tranny problems do not represent the same thing. You didnt respond to that for whatever reason. Toyota was “dragged” into this because you seem to be suggesting having TSBs are unacceptable froom GM and I want to know if they are acceptable from Toyota- the world’s greatest automaker. Waiting for a response.

    Until someone can show me that GM is ignoring the TSBs or that the Aura has been recalled than I stand by my original comments. Like it or not. As you said, dont shoot the messenger. You have had multiple opportunities to answer my questions and they have not been answered yet. Meanwhile I provided quite a bit of evidence that GM has been upgrading their recent launches over time and you ignored all that and focus on TSBs. If a TSB is a sign that a car is a POS then I submit a large number of vehicles today fall into that category.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    First of all the authors comments may not be true. You havent provided any evidence to the contrary.

    The author asked what GM had done to remedy the problems. Apparently, you don’t know the answer to the question.

    But the problems themselves are documented. You may not like them, but there they are on the NHTSA website. If you don’t like that reality, then complain to GM for building them that way or, if you prefer to stay in messenger shooting mode, then complain to NHTSA for reporting them.

    Please no not get offended because I am asking questions you dont want to hear.

    No offense taken. It’s more a matter of curiosity on my part, as the facts in respect to the documented transmission problems don’t seem to interest you. You disputed the existence of the facts; when they are pointed out to you, you try to change the subject.

    I am asking how you can say TSBs on the Aura tranny represent an engineering and design failure on GM’s part but Toyota’s tranny problems do not represent the same thing.

    I wasn’t aware that Toyota’s recent (and atypical) missteps gave a Get Out of Jail Free card to GM. It is GM’s responsibility to deliver a reliable product.

    The average consumer is indifferent to whether the problem was with engineering, design, subcontracted parts, assembly, the Tooth Fairy or a combination of these. Most of them just don’t want to deal with it.

    You have had multiple opportunities to answer my questions and they have not been answered yet.

    You disputed the transmissions issues, and I proved them. Again, if you don’t like the reality, then complain to GM for creating the problem or to NHTSA for reporting it.

    If you think that Camry transmission problems will help the Malibu, I’d rethink that belief. I suspect that most disgruntled would-be Camry buyers will be heading to Honda dealerships.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    first of all lets use some common sense here. How could anyone other than GM answe the author’s question? Basically he is saying because he has no personal knowledge of corrective action none has been taken. Not good enough for me, but apparently it is for you.

    secondly, you are no adding more and more information to each post. We started with TSBs and now you are saying GM is making unreliable product. Again I ask (not that you will answer) what info do we have that suggests Aura’s have failing trannies. TSBs are issued for many reasons, but those reasons can be far more minor than component failure. If the TSBs are addressing tranny failures that have left people stranded let me know.

    I was not awar of the TSBs so I thought the author was referring to performance problems with the tranny. Now I know about the TSBs and I contend that many cars have them. That being said why are you and the author singling out one car for being crap? My guess is have long standing animosity towards GM or domestic cars in general and are furious that the press has been giving GM vehicles accolades. while your passion is admirable I am not willing to say that the mere presence of TSBs is “proof positive” that GM is making unreliable vehicles that cant hold a candle to reliable Toyotas. I’m not a TSB expert but I suspect that there have been TSBs issued for Toyota products prior to the 2007 Camry but I’m sure you will disagree.

    You infer its acceptable for Toyota to make problematic products but unacceptable for GM to have one single TSB on its products becuase of the reputations of both companies. Sorry, but I do not agree. Like it or not all evidence shows that GM products are getting better. In fact, if you look at CR’s detailed reliability ratings in the current car issue you will see that virtually every GM vehicle (including those CR calls unreliable) has better than average ratings for powertrain and electrical systems. Considering the average problem rate for many CR categories is 3-4% that is pretty impressive to me. Of course that doenst mean anything because the aura has TSBs.

    for the record I didnt “dispute” the TSBs after I was informed about them. I wasnt aware of what the author was referring to and he did not clarify what he was speaking about in his article. I now know there are TSBs but you are the one who has deducted from that the fact that the Aura is unreliable and GM is doing nothing to address this. Wasnt aware the TSBs told you all that.

    As for the TSBs not interesting me- I just want to know if the issues have led to people being stranded or trannies being replaced. Unless you can tell me that definitively I’m not going to declare the Aura an unreliable failure as you seem prepared to do. I find it interesting that you feel the standards should be higher for a company that is working its way up in quality than one who has staked its reputation on unshakable quality. You seem to be saying Toyota’s past successes have earned a free pass but I fail to see how that helps the owner of a current Camry with a bad tranny. again, I have read about Camry trannies having poor shift quality and being replaced under warranty. Havent heard the same for Aura or G6. And TSBs don’t mean that GM and Toyota tranny issues are equivalent.

    feel free to try and push this doctrine on someone who is easily fooled but I’m not buying it at all. The original question was how do we know GM isnt addressing the TSB issues. No answer has been provided and yet people are speaking as if this alleged negligance is fact.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    TSBs are issued for many reasons, but those reasons can be far more minor than component failure.

    Rather than arguing with me, you could read the TSB’s for yourself. If you want to claim that they aren’t relevant, then prove your case by discussing the specifics.

    It’s clear that you haven’t read the TSB’s. You can find them on the NHTSA website if you really interested.

    You infer its acceptable for Toyota to make problematic products

    I never inferred any such anything. I pointed out that customers lost by Toyota will more likely go to Honda than to GM.

    I also stated that Toyota’s problems don’t excuse GM in any way whatsoever. But in any case, since GM has a vastly inferior overall track record to Toyota’s, then extra scrutiny of GM products is warranted. The bad reputation was earned, and will naturally invite more skepticism.

    As for the TSBs not interesting me- I just want to know if the issues have led to people being stranded or trannies being replaced.

    If the transmission requires new rings, as one TSB indicated, or cannot be placed into gear, as was the case with another TSB, then yes, drivers will be stuck or stranded as a result of those failures.

    Again, instead of attacking the messenger, do further research if you are truly interested. Pretending the problem doesn’t exist, simply because you can’t apparently be bothered to read about it, is not the author’s problem.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    checked out the TSB site. Nothing indicates the problems havent been addressed. Furthermore none of the “major” issues we are discussing seem to have required replacement of the transmission. I saw a lot things about warning lights being activated and shift programming. Annoying issues? Most likely. reliability issues? That might be a stretch. I didnt plug in other cars but based on my brother’s experience with a Mazda3 I suspect that many TSBs exist for many cars.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “I never inferred any such anything. I pointed out that customers lost by Toyota will more likely go to Honda than to GM. ”

    This has no relevance to my point. YOu suggested that there wasnt reason to chastise Toyota (maybe you have a camry) for its tranny problems based on their stellar track record. I disagree. Those are are lauded for being the best should back that up with product.

    “If the transmission requires new rings, as one TSB indicated, or cannot be placed into gear, as was the case with another TSB, then yes, drivers will be stuck or stranded as a result of those failures. ”

    I did not see anything that clearly stated cars were undriveable. Did you? It seems you are putting your 2 cents to make the point. Again, do you have any first or second hand knowledge of people being stranded by this car? Yes or no. I can read the TSBs but they dont answer the questions I am asking apparently you cannot either. Toyota has been forced to replace trannies on the camry. Has GM had to do the same? I think that would be some indicator as to how serious the problems are. BTW, the saturn outlook and Acadia are now recommended by CR and they have a version of the Aura’s tranny. Same with Ford Edge which is also recommended as far as I know.

    Read the TSBs. They exist for many models. Nothing on there suggests that a) Gm is doing nothing as you and the author portend or b) GM has been forced to replace trannies in mass due to the TS issues.

    is there anything else I need to read that will prove your point?

    You are becoming quite repetitive and I dont know why. I stated (a few times) that I was unaware of the TSBs. Now I am so I know what problems the author is referring to. What I don’t get is why he is acting like the Aura is the only first year car to ever have TSBs or why he suggests that GM isn’t addressing the TSBs without providing any proof. After hearing abou the TSBs I never said they didnt exist. Some tranny problems like those with the Camry are well known but these are not as well known so I wasnt sure why the author was commenting as if the whole world knew about these tranny problems. Based on what I’ve seen so far I’ll take my chances with the GM 6 speed over the Toyota 6 speed that is being replaced. Furthermore, Toyota execs said they knew about the issues when they launched the car. Now THAT is commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    YOu suggested that there wasnt reason to chastise Toyota (maybe you have a camry) for its tranny problems based on their stellar track record. I disagree.

    You must be reading a different thread. I never said any such thing. However, it is clear that you are trying to use Toyota to change the subject of the article, which was the prospects of the Malibu. Unless Toyota starts building Malibus, Toyota won’t be responsible for its reliability or lack thereof.

    I did not see anything that clearly stated cars were undriveable. Did you?

    A car that doesn’t go into gear is not drivable. I suppose that one could put it into neutral and push it for the daily commute, but I’ll bet that most consumers would prefer that the drivetrain do the work.

    I also suppose that you could attempt to repair the rings through some sort of hypnosis. But I’ll bet that in most cases that a mechanic’s intervention would be required.

    What I don’t get is why he is acting like the Aura is the only first year car to ever have TSBs or why he suggests that GM isn’t addressing the TSBs without providing any proof.

    Because there is no indication that the problem in the Aura has been remedied in such a way that it won’t be repeated in the Malibu. Since the Malibu’s reliability will likely drive its future sales, the failure of the Aura puts this future into doubt.

    Since the transmission is clearly problematic, as has been documented, the burden is on GM’s and its fan base to prove that the problems aren’t relevant. Most people would consider a transmission that doesn’t go into gear to pose a bit of a problem.

    So far, you’ve raised questions but provided no answers. If consumers end up shopping elsewhere, don’t be surprised.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    No need to mention Toyota to disprove your points. I just thought it would be handy to use them for reference. It squite apparent you dont want to discuss their recent faux pas when talking about who is and isnt making unreliable vehicles. YOu want to comment about GM’s unacceptabel reliability but then say there is no reason to compare it to recent Toyota reliability.

    Again, still waiting for you to tell us about Aura trannies failing.

    I didnt see a TSB that specifically said the 6 speed couldnt be put into gear. Even if it did I want to know how we can determine how widespread the problem is and how you know GM is doing nothing to address the problem. I never argued that a mechanic wasnt needed so I’m sure why suc a comment was necessayr. I said that you offered no proof that Aura’s were leaving driver’s stranded. You still have not to provided any and I suspect you will not.

    “Because there is no indication that the problem in the Aura has been remedied in such a way that it won’t be repeated in the Malibu. Since the Malibu’s reliability will likely drive its future sales, the failure of the Aura puts this future into doubt.”

    There is no indication that the problems haven’t been remedied for the 2008 Aura and Malibu. Period. There is no proof that a) this tranny is unreliable (still looking for that recall) or b) that whatever issues that existed haven’t been addressed already. In summary, there is no proof that the Malibu will be unreliable as you stated nor is there any that there have been frequent failures of the Aura’s transmission. I love hyperbole as much as the next guy but the facts do not change. No information you have provided indicated problem rates, tranny replacment rates or what % of Aura owners have been stranded due to their transmission. In fact we don’t even know if any Aura transmissions have failed while in use. If the TSBs give some of that info let me know. Until then its dubious to claim with certainty that the Aura and Malibu have bad transmission and are unreliable.

    Thus far you have provided no concrete proof to back your assertion that the Malibu will be a failure. Initial sales data and positive reviews tell me that the car has a decent chance for success. I understand that you may not be comfortable with the positive press or the fact that the car may match or surpass the Altima in sales but that isnt my problem. while we have plenty of opinions about GM’s poor reliability we dont have a lot of hard data to support the tired notion that their quality is lagging significantly behind the leaders.. Not CR, not JD Power, not long term tests conducted by auto magazines. Those things may not mean anything to you vs a few TSBs for the Aura, but they mean something to me.

    “Since the transmission is clearly problematic, as has been documented, the burden is on GM’s and its fan base to prove that the problems aren’t relevant. Most people would consider a transmission that doesn’t go into gear to pose a bit of a problem.”

    How many trannies didnt go into gear? What % of Aura’s had this problem vs the % of camry owners who had problem? without these answers the accusations are pointless. The burden is on those making the accusations to provide data to support the statements being made about mass failure of Aura transmissions. You need to prove the problems are major and relevant. Lets remember who is making the accusations and bold declarations here.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    There is no indication that the problems haven’t been remedied for the 2008 Aura and Malibu.

    There is no indication that it has been remedied. Since the failure is clearly documented, the burden is on the party that failed (GM) to show that it is no longer a problem.

    Until GM proves it, we can speculate whether it has fixed it or not. Given their track record, my inclination is to assume the worst.

    I understand that you may not be comfortable with the positive press or the fact that the car may match or surpass the Altima in sales but that isnt my problem.

    As I am not a stockholder in Nissan, I’m not particularly worried about it. But as we are all prognosticating here, I suspect that the Malibu will sell about 100,000 units retail, plus whatever gets dumped into fleets. If I am proven correct, that would put it behind the Altima.

    GM has had so many “turnaround” vehicles that failed to turn anything that I don’t expect that the public will be leaping at the Malibu, either. The Aura has not sold well, and I believe that it provides the best indicator of what to expect from the Malibu.

    Competition is stiff in this segment, and I suspect that the Accord will come away as the winner, with the Camry close behind it. If I’m proven wrong, that’s good for GM, but I call ‘em as I see ‘em, and my glasses aren’t rose colored in favor of one company or the other.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    you tell me how we can verify if GM is working on the problem and then we can talk. Until then I see no point in blaming GM for inaction when you have no way to verify they arent doing anything. If you have inside info from GM let me know.

    GM’s track record is that they have been improving quality for the last 10-20 years. There is data to support this but there is no data to support you notion that their “track record” is one of continuous stagnation when it comes to quality. You can assume whatever you wish but the data available doesnt support your assumptions. I’m not aware of any automaker that doesnt move to correct first year problems. The Focus started out with a host of problems that were corrected in one or two model years.

    I hate to throw facts into the mix but the old Malibu sold well over 100k units in a year. See no reason the new one wouldn’t exceed the old one.

    CTS has been heralded as a turnaround vehicle and sales are up 60 or 70%. yes you are right, GM’s improved vehicles do not attract customers. Same goes for Enclave, Acadia, Silverado, Tahoe, Escalade, etc. The Aura is a new nameplate from a brand that has 400 dealers. Its sales can never compete with ALtima, Camry or accord when you look at the facts. Seeing as though Saturn was selling ZERO midsize cars in July 2006 I would say selling 5k Auras a month isnt too bad. The Malibu has more production capacity (about 250k per year), more dealers, a better brand name and a larger ad budget. I’m sure it will be a flop, just like the Impala has been. Aura and Malibu are the same underneath but are in totally different situations. GM’s retails sales have been up in recent months while fleet sales have been down. That suggests their newer product are gaining traction. Of course thats only if you regard the facts. People like you are quick to say the Aura isnt selling well but no one says what they are comparing it to. If you had expectations that it would knock the camry or accord of their sales pedastals you werent being realistic. The Aura is outselling cars from other manufacturers with relatively few dealerships- cars like the Passat and 6. Its also outselling the Maxima most months. its selling about half as many cars as the Sonata but hyundai has more dealerships and the sonata is being dumped into fleets.

    “but I call ‘em as I see ‘em”

    me too. I think you are going to be sorely disappointed in the Malibu’s success. BY next year I’m thinking 20k units a month will be average. The old car eclipsed that mark several times and was an inferior car. sorry to disappoint but the critical mass is building and declaring the 6 speed auto a failure on this site isnt going to change anything.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I hate to throw facts into the mix but the old Malibu sold well over 100k units in a year.

    You should take care to throw in all of the facts, so that the context is appropriate.

    About half of Malibu sales have been to fleets, most of those going to rental. So that leaves about half of Malibu sales going to retail. GM delivered about 164,000 Malibus during 2006, so it’s fair to say that about 80-85,000 of those were sold at retail.

    My guesstimated projection of 100,000 retail sales is actually pretty optimistic, as it assumes an increase in retail sales of about 20-25%. Your figure of 240,000 would require sales to increase 300% in a single year, which frankly seems a bit…well, I’ll be polite and just say that you’re more enthusiastic than you probably should be.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    I dont lie or exaggerate, no need to.

    1. Malibu sales were better in years prior to 2006 which would make sense because the car was aging.
    2. Malibu fleet sales were not 50% of total sales according to date I’ve seen about fleet penetration.
    3. GM has added capacity at the plant where the G6 is built so they can build UP TO 250k a year. Did not say they were guaranteed 250k sales a year but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible by 2009.
    4. Counting retail sales only is a cop out to make the car seem less successful. As we all know GM has cut fleet sales for recent models and this car will be no exception. Furthermore, every import midsize sedan is selling a higher fleet % than a few years ago. Yes their percentages are less than many GM models but they are rising while GM is reducing fleet sales. If we are only going to count retail sales then the same should be done for all cars in this class. Bottom line is by the end of 2008 Malibu will most likely be outselling every midsize car short of the Japanese big 3 in retail and may be close to or beyond Altima sales overall. Thats signficant in my book.
    5. It is not difficult to have a 25% sales increase with a brand new model. See CTS sales for reference, increaes in the first two months of the 2008 model are far more than 25%. I wouldn’t call your estimate overly optimistic at all.

    I’ll be polite and say nice try, but no cigar……again. If you can find anywhere where I have exaggerated or misrepresented the fatcs let me know.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Pch101: The Aura has not sold well, and I believe that it provides the best indicator of what to expect from the Malibu.

    Interesting discussion here, and you raise many good points (as always). I do believe, however, that the Aura’s track record may not directly reflect on the Malibu’s chances for success.

    From what I’ve seen, Saturn sells vehicles to people who want competitive prices and the no-haggle sales experience. These customers do not care about style, performance or handling (otherwise, why would they be buying a Saturn in the first place?).

    When they see the Aura, they see a car that costs considerably more money than they are willing to pay, despite its attributes. Those buyers who want those attributes aren’t likely to be visiting the Saturn dealer in the first place, and GM’s spotty approach to marketing this car isn’t helping.

    Chevy at least has SOME buyers who will consider trading in their old Malibu for the new one. Plus, it will appeal to domestic diehards. I can see it stealing sales from the dreadful Chrysler twins (Sebring and Avenger). Not so much from the Fusion and Milan, as those cars have at least earned the Consumer Reports’ stamp of approval, which is important in this segment.

    From GM’s standpoint, a retail sale is a retail sale, whether it comes out of Toyota’s hide or Chrysler’s.

    After looking at the Malibu and the Impala this Sunday at the dealer, I see a bigger problem. Namely, there aren’t any reasons to buy an Impala instead of a Malibu. GM can lower the Impala’s price, but that car is supposed to be more expensive than the Malibu. Once again, we see the effect of GM selling too many models through too many divisions. So GM may end up stealing a fair number of sales from…itself.

    sj1204: Seeing as though Saturn was selling ZERO midsize cars in July 2006 I would say selling 5k Auras a month isnt too bad.

    Saturn was selling the L-Series in this segment earlier in the decade, and the Aura hasn’t beaten that car’s sales, even with almost a quarter of Aura production going to fleet customers.

    I would be very surprised if the new Malibu experiences a huge increase in total sales, unless GM keeps fleet sales at currently high levels.

    This market segment is fiercely competitive. Plus, it looks as though car sales are getting hammered by the fallout from the collapse of the housing bubble. We’ll find out in about a year.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “From what I’ve seen, Saturn sells vehicles to people who want competitive prices and the no-haggle sales experience. These customers do not care about style, performance or handling (otherwise, why would they be buying a Saturn in the first place?). ”

    Saturns image has been upgraded over the last two years or so. Saturn wouldnt sell any cars if their current buyer didnt care about performance, styling and handling. when they sold nothing but S series cars and the Vue your sentiments may have been correct. Not in 2007 however.

    “Saturn was selling the L-Series in this segment earlier in the decade, and the Aura hasn’t beaten that car’s sales, even with almost a quarter of Aura production going to fleet customers. ”

    as with many GM cars in the past the L series sold based on price, it was one of the cheapest cars in the class and had a V6 that was the weakest on the market. Thats why it sold. The Aura launched without a 4 cylinder engine when most cars in this segment are sold with such engines. Yet another reason the Aura did not match those sales. When the L series went on sale there was no Vue, Sky or Outlook. Yet another reason it outsold the Aura. The Aura is also larger and more expensive than the L series.

    did GM want more sales in the first year for the Aura? Yes. Is the car the huge flop that PCH01 claimed? No. It’s pretty simple.

    “I would be very surprised if the new Malibu experiences a huge increase in total sales, unless GM keeps fleet sales at currently high levels. ”

    again, lets use the CTS for reference. The CTS is in a competitive segment and sales have been up big time. Facts always come in handy when trying to dismiss something as a pending flop. The CTS has gotten great reviews and a few awards. The Malibu is getting great reviews, has been named an All Star and to 10BEst and has a hug ad campaign. I would be shocked if that doesn’t lead to 200k sales in 2008.

    As for the Impala, its larger in every way, has a V8 engine option and doesn’t offer a four cylinder. Saying Chevy shouldnt sell both cars is like saying Toyota should ax the Avalon or Honda doesn’t need the TL now that the Accord is larger and more powerful. The Impala will take a hit, but it will survive. Besides, it will be replaced with a RWD model in 2 years or so.

    I totally disagree with your claim that the Malibu is only good enought to get sales from other domestic brands. While CR is likely to call the car mediocre because its from GM, other sources have called the car a legit alternative to the camry and accord and the styling is expressive. No domestic car will ever get mass defects from import owners but the Malibu is good enough to do well in that category.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Saturn’s still come with the stigma of the past. No one I know wants to be seen in a Saturn, including myself. And when people praise the new Saturn’s style it is almost always followed by “…but it’s a Saturn, no way!” Just because they want to sell to a new kind of customer doesn’t mean they will show up in the showroom. And with GM’s half ass marketing it becomes even more difficult. I think the fact they aren’t selling cars is proof of this. Just go down to a Saturn dealer and look at how many are sitting there, red tag and all(ironicly the red tag is green).

    Honestly sj1204 you don’t need numbers or memos from God to see that nothing has changed in this company. Just look at what they say and do(all of it not just what you pick and choose) and compare it to the past. If you see history repeating itself nothing has changed, period. Take a break from the kool-aid and you might see what we are talking about.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    1. I have an Aura XR and wouldn’t have owned a Saturn before this.
    2. GM’s progress has been noted by everyone from C&D to Edmunds to MT to CR. Its not my personal opinion that’s being referenced here, its the general opinion of those who follow the industry. You dont have to like it or accept it but thats the reality.
    3. GM’s vehicles have seen noticeable improvements in fit/finish, panel gaps and interior design. This is open to debate or discussion, its a fact that has been noted by anyone with eyes.
    4. Gm’s powertrains are at least as advanced as anything offered by Toyota, Nissan and Honda. I wont go into specifics but if you look at GM’s powertrains across the board they are wholly competitive. This couldn’t have been said a decade ago.
    5. GM has probably gotten more vehicle awards in the last 2 years then they did in the previous decade. Period. Meanwhile GM vehicles are regularly beating out other manufacturers for awards or in comparos. In the lastest C&D the CTS is named to 10Best (along with Malibu) and it finishes 3rd (above a Mercedes) in a comparo against two excellent competitors and is lauded for its chassis, styling and quality.

    The facts are what they are. You can speak of “kool aid”, throw insults, twist facts, disregard every major auto publication that contradicts your assertions or anything else you chose and the facts will remain the same. Everyone has the right to hate GM, but let’s not act like their products havent improved.

    BTW, when I got my car there were few 2007 XR’s (thats the more expensive model) left around and the salesperson confirmed that the lower trim car was selling slower and thats why it had the better incentives. Thats interesting since according to you no self respecting person would ever got to Saturn to get a car thats more than $20k.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Malibu fleet sales were not 50% of total sales according to date I’ve seen about fleet penetration.

    According to the Fleet Central website, 58.8% of the Malibus sold during the first half of MY2007 went to fleet.

    Counting retail sales only is a cop out to make the car seem less successful.

    I will not rehash here why fleet sales at that level are bad, but suffice it to say that they are. The leaders in this segment — Accord, Camry and Altima — don’t have fleet sales anywhere close to that level. Maybe you don’t want to believe that, but no one in the industry views high fleet numbers as a positive.

    The Aura is a new nameplate from a brand that has 400 dealers. Its sales can never compete with ALtima, Camry or accord when you look at the facts.

    As of October, Saturn sold about 50,000 Aura’s this year. Compare that to the Jetta, which is very much a low-volume niche car in this segment — it sold over 82,000 during the same period. The Fusion, which has been a disappointment for Ford, is selling about 124,000, with fleet numbers similar to those of the Aura. Meanwhile, Honda sold about 333,000 Accords. On the landscape of midsized sedans, the Aura is barely a blip. The fleet numbers that Geeber quoted accurately tell you that Saturn built more Aura’s than they could sell at retail.

    Saturn has never generated a profit for GM and has never come close to meeting its sales projections. The Aura would need to sell in far greater numbers for it to be profitable.

    Given the history and the market, I can’t imagine that Malibu sales are going to start nipping at the heels of the Accord anytime soon. The Aura was supposed to save GM, too, and we know how that turned out.

    Geeber makes some valid points, and I would agree that I would also expect that the Malibu will outperform the Aura. (Based upon my 100,000 retail sales guesstimated forecast, I myself expect that its retail sales will about double those of the Aura.) Still, I don’t see it being a massive hit. Based upon my forecasting guesswork, it will slightly outsell the Fusion in retail sales, which given the styling improvements seems about right.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    Not all fleet sales are negative. rental fleet sales are the worst. As you may or may not know import fleet sales are primarily rental while many domestic fleet sales are corporate or government. Those are not as low margin and do not damage resale value like rentals do. Sorry, but things are always more complicated than you make them seem.

    The Fusion barely outsells the old Malibu, in fact I’m not sure the Fusion eclipsed the Malibu in 2006. You are mistaken if you believe the new Malibu is going to sell in the 12k units per month range like the Fusion. The G6 sells more than that most months and Pontiac lacks Chevy’s dealer network or huge ad budget. Continue to predict Malibu failure if you wish. I think you will be disappointed. Most recent GM models that have replaced an existing model of the same name have outsold their predecessors. CTS is an example, as is Impala as is Lucerne.

    “The Aura was supposed to save GM, too, and we know how that turned out. ”

    According to you, not GM. A new brand from the 3rd smallest GM brand cannot save GM. Common sense dictates that for those who chose to use it. On top of that Aura production capacity could never touch that of Accord or Camry. In fact, even the Malibu at 250k doesnt have the capacity to overthrow those two. Now Malibu + Impala sales are a different story. They already outsell Accord and in 2008 I think they can outsell camry as well.

    “The Aura would need to sell in far greater numbers for it to be profitable. ”

    Feel free to provide proof. The cost of Aura’s platform is amortized over many brands and models. GM sells over 300K epsilon cars in the US alone and many more in Europe. Your statement is without basis and is likely untrue. Even if it is true, its irrelevent since most GM models arent turning a profit in NA. Not sure what all the anti Saturn commentary is about but your personal feelings aside Saturn is making some nice cars.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I didn’t say no self respecting person would buy a Saturn. You claimed the cars would easily get conquest sales. That would be people like me, my friends and a lot of people I know that own, Japanese, German and even Korean cars. But I don’t see that happening, why becuase they all remember the Saturn of old. Shaking that image isn’t going tobe easy, especially with the no haggle higher pricing, which makes it harder for anyone I know to justify a Saturn.

    I didn’t say anything about fit and finish or poertrains either. I actually thought the interior of the Malibu was very nice, hate the front but that’s my opinion. And the CTS is competitive for it’s class. And I was impressed with how smooth the 4 speed in the Malibu was, the engine is noisy but so are some others. It’s their habit of building self destructing cars I take great offence to. The parts you can’t see that cost a lot of money to fix out of warranty. If the cars were cheap to start with where do you think the cost savings to pay for that nice new interior or spiffy new V6 are coming from, cost cutting the parts you don’t see.

    Actually I shouldn’t include myself in that possible pool of conquests since I am currently shackled to one of GM’s POS cars and I am a die hard member of the Never Again Club.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “You claimed the cars would easily get conquest sales.”

    Never made such a claim. Conquest sales are difficult and those on anti GM vendettas are the last ones who would ever trade in their imports. As for no haggle pricing anyone who bothers to check the pricing will see that Saturns are priced lower than their GM counterparts to compensate for no haggle pricing. When you factor in rebates saturns are often cheaper than comparable GM models, not to mention imports.

    “And I was impressed with how smooth the 4 speed in the Malibu was, the engine is noisy but so are some others. It’s their habit of building self destructing cars I take great offence to. The parts you can’t see that cost a lot of money to fix out of warranty. If the cars were cheap to start with where do you think the cost savings to pay for that nice new interior or spiffy new V6 are coming from, cost cutting the parts you don’t see. ”

    And the proof of that is where? GM offers the 5year/100k powertrain warranty, not Toyota. GM offers roadside assistance and loaner cars during that period, not Toyota or Honda. While I know there are some smart people at GM I dont think they are smart enough to make vehicles that magically fall apart on the first day of the 6th year when the warranty expires. Furthermore Hummer, Buick, Cadillac and Saab have 4 year bumper to bumper warranties. If anything GM (and Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai) has been expanding, not reducing its warranty coverage. Not a move usually made by a company who designs disposable products as you suggest. A quick glance at CR shows that most GM products get stellar reliability ratings in all the major cost categories like engine, engine cooling, transmission, electrical systems, etc.

    Sorry that they burned you but that doesn’t make the Malibu an unreliable car as you claim. As for repairs, I have never known domestic vehicles ot be more expensive to repair than imports. Try telling this to my mother in law who just spent $400 getting a mass airflow sensor replaced on her camry.

    I understand that too many GM models were problematic in the 80s and even into the 90s but the evidence is there that things have improved considerably. That may not be enough to sooth someone who has sworn off domestic cars for life (in spite of ample evidence that imports are not infallable in quality) but it’s reality.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Personnaly I don’t care about awards or magazines and I guess that makes me not worth listening to. What I concern myself with are butts in the seats. Those are the real facts and true data, how many people are willing to put down their hard earned money for the cars. Data can be manipulated to show all kinds of results, people taking the plunge on buying is the real truth of weather people want what they are selling or not. And fleet sales are not real sales just a way for them to dump the overstock of cars real people don’t want.

    My “kool-aid” comment was not an insult, your posts come across as though you are a GM exec. Do any of them drive Saturn’s? Just look at you last post twisting the sales data to say who knows what, since the G6 is a huge fleet queen. You contradicted yourself about the profitability of the platform also. How can it be relevent at the beginning of your paragraph and then be irrelevent at the end because they don’t make a profit in NA. You claim they have changed internally but later show how they yet again failed to see what the market wants by screwing up the Aura launch by not having a having a 4 cylinder model at launch. Sure eventually it will have one, but late to the game as usual.

    And I thought GM still hadn’t decided where to put the drive wheels on the next Impala. Isn’t that going to be decided after they work out the new CAFE regulations. So I guess they are going to design, engineer, test and produce the next Impala in 2 years so the current one wont have been on the market forever. That would be impressive even for Honda who is currently the fastest in the industry. I guess if the Volt can be done that way why not the Impala.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “You claimed the cars would easily get conquest sales.”…Never made such a claim. Conquest sales are difficult…

    For your lofty forecasts to be accurate, Chevy would need to generate six figures’ worth of conquest sales to make your six figure sales forecast. Unless you plan on National and Hertz remaining their largest customer, GM would have no choice but to get substantial conquest sales from Toyota, Honda and Nissan if your forecast is to be accurate.

    A quick glance at CR shows that most GM products get stellar reliability ratings in all the major cost categories like engine, engine cooling, transmission, electrical systems, etc.

    A quick glance at CR shows that 51% of the 2007 GM lineup has reliability scores of “below average” or worse on the reliability survey, with the Solstice being the least reliable car in the survey.

    Not all fleet sales are negative. rental fleet sales are the worst.

    And rental sales drive much of the domestic market. Some examples in the midsize sedan class for the first half of MY2007:

    Vehicle / Rental as %age of total sales / Fleet as %age of total sales / Retail sales
    Chevrolet Impala / 30.0% / 53.9% / 68,565
    Chevrolet Malibu / 41.4% / 58.8% / 26,435
    Ford Fusion / 15.7% / 26.8% / 48,838
    Pontiac G6 / 35.0% / 36.2% / 45,380
    Saturn Aura / 22.8% / 23.7% / 20,888
    Honda Accord / 3.9% / 4.9% / 155,556
    Nissan Altima / 15.3% / 16.4% / 106,705
    Toyota Camry / 4.7% / 7.7% / 177,431
    Subaru Legacy / 14.0% / 15.5% / 33,232

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I totally disagree with your claim that the Malibu is only good enought to get sales from other domestic brands. While CR is likely to call the car mediocre because its from GM, other sources have called the car a legit alternative to the camry and accord and the styling is expressive. No domestic car will ever get mass defects from import owners but the Malibu is good enough to do well in that category.

    If you didn’t claim they would get conquests then what does that last statement mean. And for them to meet the substantial sales numbers you claim they have to get customers from somewhere, if not domestics or imports then who?

    And the proof of that is where? GM offers the 5year/100k powertrain warranty, not Toyota. GM offers roadside assistance and loaner cars during that period, not Toyota or Honda. While I know there are some smart people at GM I dont think they are smart enough to make vehicles that magically fall apart on the first day of the 6th year when the warranty expires.

    Exactly how do you think they determine how long to make those warranties. They have armies of people who know exactly how long each and every part is going to last in there cars, if they didn’t they would be going out of business, oh wait they are. And I am sure we can find many people that have real life stories of there cars falling to shit shortly after their warranty expired. Doesn’t really matter since GM rarely honors their warranty. Everything is “normal operating condition” no matter how faulty the car runs and drives.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    sorry but I do pay attention to awards if a car gets lots of them from different sources. Most domestic bashers conveniently dismiss accolades when domestics when them. Nothing new there but the funny part is they have no problem quoting magazines and websites when the reviews are negative. Give me a break.

    First of all I was comparing G6 sales to Fusion sales and both cars sell to fleets in volume. The fusion is a fleet queen compared to accord and camry. BTW, I dont “twist” data. Just because I report facts you dont like doesnt mean I am manipulating data. For the records, fleet cars are paid for by someone and are wanted by someone or some entity. To say that you can simply siphon cars from the factory to a company fleet makes no sense to me. Governments, companies and rental agencies need cars and they pay for those cars. GM has cut back on fleet sales but the business that exist in this country need vehicles and have to buy them from someone. Since fleets are a dumping ground for POS vehicles I want to know why the Altima, Sonata and Camry are increasing their reliance on them. BTW, since Toyota is much smarter than GM shouldnt they be able to produce the amount of cars people want and stop selling to enterprise?

    “That would be impressive even for Honda who is currently the fastest in the industry. ”

    Most Hondas are on a 5 year cycle. Most GM cars are on a 5 year cycle. More misinformation. Impala was supposed to be RWD for 2010- they claim its up in the air but that is doubtful. If not they will probably do a epsilon2 based Impala. Either way I would expect a new car in 2009 or 2010. Honestly I dont care because the Impala will still sell in the end. I dont have a problem with Chevy having the two cars, you do apparently.

    Profitability of a vehicle is GM’s problem, not mine. I dont buy a vehicle based on how much money I think the manufacturer is making. I merely said that its quite possible that Saturn may be able to make money on the Aura. But then when I considered GM is losing money in NA due to many factors its really kind of pointless to try and figure out which models are profitable and which are not.

    why in the world would a GM exec drive a Saturn if they could get a Cadillac or Buick for free? Dont get it.

  • avatar

    “sj1204″ writes:[W]hy in the world would a GM exec drive a Saturn if they could get a Cadillac or Buick for free? Dont get it.Neither do the GM execs, apparently…

    And that is exactly the problem — if GM vehicles suck, that is why.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “And that is exactly the problem — if GM vehicles suck, that is why.”

    So eloquent and yet still inaccurate. You can ignore the evidence as long as you chose but the facts remain the same. GM is making the best vehicles out of the Big 3 and the best vehicles it has ever made. Its been recognized by anyone who can see, touch and drive. I can take the word of virtually every respected automotive publication on the market or I can listen to you. Guess which one I chose? You can usually tell when someone is out of constructive criticism when they resort to using words like “suck”. There is definitely someone who “doesn’t get it” but I’m sure if its the GM execs.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    GM is making the best vehicles out of the Big 3

    That’s debatable, given GM’s prominence on assorted lists of unreliable cars.

    But even if it was true, fighting about GM’s place in the pecking order among the Big 2.8 is about as reasonable as arguing about which dumb kid in the class is the best “D” student.

    GM doesn’t need to worry much about Ford. It needs to beat Honda and Toyota at the lower end, and BMW, Mercedes and Lexus at the higher end. When it is capable of doing that, then you’ll have something to talk about.

    The Aura doesn’t need to be better than an Ion, it needs to be better than an Accord. Improvement doesn’t count; leadership does.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “That’s debatable, given GM’s prominence on assorted lists of unreliable cars. ”

    actually its not debatable. The press nearly unanimously believes GM is making the best American cars these days. Its not even close to those who look at the actual products. It may be debatable to anyone who hates GM however. I wouldn’t know since I just base my statements on the vehicles.

    “GM doesn’t need to worry much about Ford. It needs to beat Honda and Toyota at the lower end, and BMW, Mercedes and Lexus at the higher end. When it is capable of doing that, then you’ll have something to talk about.”

    and who said they arent competing with Honda and Toyota? You? I havent heard any GM exec say they are not concerned about those two companies. When the CTS wins COTY over a dozen imports and the Malibu makes 10Best and All Stars and the altima and camry do not that tells me GM is designing vehicles that can stand on their own merits vs the imports. Same with cars.com pronouncing the Vue superior to the RAV4 and Rogue. Or the CTS beating the LEXUS (thats a Toyota brand) IS350 and MERCEDES C350 in an Edmunds comparo.

    The facts are obvious. Its up to you to accept them.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    and who said they arent competing with Honda and Toyota? You?

    The public has, and has been saying so for some time. Sales are falling, and market share has been falling with it. Consumers vote with their dollars, and the election isn’t looking good for GM. Consumers even prefer the relatively unpopular Jetta to the Aura, which should tell you something.

    Look at those retail sales and fleet percentages that I posted above. The writing is on the wall. The question isn’t what it says, but whether you are willing to even bother to read it.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    sj1204 What did you cross shop your Aura with? Did you really and truely compare all the options before you bought that Saturn?

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “The public has, and has been saying so for some time. Sales are falling, and market share has been falling with it. Consumers vote with their dollars, and the election isn’t looking good for GM. Consumers even prefer the relatively unpopular Jetta to the Aura, which should tell you something.”

    considering the name of this site I feel compelled to tell the truth. GM’s share is flat to slightly up this year. In the last few months GM has posted better monthly results than Toyota. That is what the public is saying my friend. In additon you should know that public opinion always trails the reviews. The press was saying Hyundai was making decent vehicles before the public caught on and gave Hyundai a chance. The same applies here. You went from arguing about the vehicles to arguing that that declining marketshare proves that GM makes crap. In actuality falling marketshare proves that GM’s reputation isnt where it should be and a certain % of people who bought their older products were not fully satisfied. Any company that is turning around has to make better product consistently to get credibility. That is what GM is doing as we speak. I dont argue that GM’s rep isnt great, but I do argue their current products are better than average. I recommend vehicles based on price, styling and capability not whether or not it’s considered cool by other parents at the PTA meeting. If you are concerned with public perception of your vehicle choices than I wholeheartedly recommend you stick to Honda and Toyota.

    I am fully abreast of GM’s reliance on fleet sales. The question is whether or not those numbers would have been worse if we looked at MY06. The question is are those numbers better if we look at what has happened in 2007. The trends are clear and anyone with a shred of sense knows one of the main reasons GM’s overall sales are down this year is lower fleet sales. GM’s retail sales (aka the PUBLIC) have actually been up most months this year. Its not open for debate, its just a matter of whether you are willing to accept the facts.

    As for GM’s imminent collapse, we have heard it all before. They were supposed to be bankrupt two years ago. And in 1992. And probably in 1982 as well. Let’s see: better products + better productivity + better press reviews+ better labor contract= GM imploding Makes perfect sense to me.

    “Consumers even prefer the relatively unpopular Jetta to the Aura, which should tell you something.”

    Lets see: Jetta is an established nameplate with a following, VW has incentives on the car and VW recently lowered the price and content to get it under $17k due to slow sales. Basically, that comparison tells me nothing. Aura is outselling the Maxima. That should tell you something.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You went from arguing about the vehicles to arguing that that declining marketshare proves that GM makes crap.

    No, I pointed out that declining market share indicates that the products are not “competitive.” Competitiveness is determined by the market, not by you or me personally.

    I am fully abreast of GM’s reliance on fleet sales.

    I have to question that. You didn’t realize that the lion share of last-generation Malibu sales were destined for rental lots. You don’t seem to know that rental fleet sales for the transplants (with the notable exception of Hyundai and Kia) are far below those of the domestics. And you clearly don’t understand the impact of fleet sales on the overall bottom line.

    Lets see: Jetta is an established nameplate with a following, VW has incentives on the car and VW recently lowered the price and content to get it under $17k due to slow sales. Basically, that comparison tells me nothing.

    The comparison should tell you that Saturn is an established brand that has no established nameplates. It should tell you that the Saturn badge is not a badge that is compelling enough to motivate a lot of buyers. It never created enough brand equity with any of the earlier products to make those nameplates worth keeping or to create a reputation that could help it to generate decent sales volumes. Just a bit more writing on the wall for you.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “sj1204 What did you cross shop your Aura with? Did you really and truely compare all the options before you bought that Saturn?”

    No need to be patronizing. I know more about cars than anyone I know except my brother. I am aware of every vehicle for sale in this segment. Are you?

    what I find funny is that you would react in such a manner to someone actually liking the Aura when it has gotten many good reviews. It’s not like we are talking about the Sebring here.

    for the record, I would never buy a Camry because I’m too young. The 2008 Accord wasnt out but I wouldnt have gotten it anyway. Altima is nice but too expensive with the options I wanted and its too common. Nothing wrong with any of those cars just as there’s nothing wrong with the Aura. Not sure if that is an acceptable answer on a site like this.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    No need to be patronizing. I know more about cars than anyone I know except my brother. I am aware of every vehicle for sale in this segment. Are you?

    That’s meaningless to me, I don’t know your brother. For all I know he is a well versed 13 y/o who reads all the car mags. Being aware of all the cars in a segment does not mean you are familiar with how they drive, the interior, etc.

    Yes I am familiar with this segment and some other segments as well. See I enjoy test driving cars and really evaliating them so I deal with the salesman so I can get some wheel time. But to be honest I don’t like wasting my time in this process so the worst of the domestics are often left out in the cold, like the Sebring which I couldn’t put up with the sales dick so I left after 5 minutes.
    I have driven the new Malibu in base trim, the Jetta with the new crap 5 cylinder, Golf with the 1.8T, ’08 Subaru WRX, ’07 Impala(passenger but that was enough for me), ’07 Accord V6(passenger but I have driven ’05′s and it’s the same), ’07 Toyota Camry(passenger again too boring for me to want the wheel in my face), and we own and ’05 Subaru Legacy GT. Not brand new cars I have driven would be the Altima 2.5 and 3.5, BMW 328, Audi A4 3.0, Acura TSX, Acura RSX(regular and Type-S), Infinity G35, 350Z, Sentra Se-R Spec V, I know I am missing some but I can’t remember all of them right now.

    I have been in a lot more cars that I didn’t have the chance to drive mostly because I couldn’t put up with the dealer experience, like the 300, Magnum, Aura, Sonata, Fusion and G6. I have been trying to drive the new Focus but no dealer seams to sell that ugly thing around here.

    To be fair I am going to ride out to the Saturn dealer and drive that Aura and see if it’s any better than the Malibu I drove. It’s a pain in the butt to test drive a car when you ride up in a motorcycle.

    And no you didn’t answer my question and I was not trying to be patronizing I just wanted to know what your evaluations of the competition were when you went car shopping, but it doesn’t look like you really shopped around. Saturn’s no haggle pricing has it’s benefits for certain kinds of customers.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Ok there is no Saturn dealer where I live. I always think the Hyundai dealer it a Saturn dealer for some reason. This explains why I haven’t seen any new Saturns driving around town except college kids in there crappy little Ion’s. So I stopped in and took a look at that Elantra Justin reviewed, I thought it looked nice in the SE trim and you can definitely get one with a 5 speed for under $16,000 with a bit of negotiation. I didn’t drive it though since they were about to close.

    Oh and I forgot to add Mazda to the list of cars I have driven. The Mazda6 in both 4 and 6, but I actually liked the 4 better. And the Mazda3 in base level trim. Oh and just so you don’t think I haven’t actually experienced American cars I drove the entire lineup of Ford and Chrysler back when I worked for Budget in the late 90′s. The Continental and New Yorker I liked, cab forward was fun to drive but ugly, the rest was crap.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    “No, I pointed out that declining market share indicates that the products are not “competitive.” Competitiveness is determined by the market, not by you or me personally. ”

    Marketshare is stable to slightly up on the year. Enough said about that for now. It’s hard to make a point about declining marketshare when their share slide has stopped. It was the highest of the year in the last few months. Next.

    “I have to question that. You didn’t realize that the lion share of last-generation Malibu sales were destined for rental lots. You don’t seem to know that rental fleet sales for the transplants (with the notable exception of Hyundai and Kia) are far below those of the domestics. And you clearly don’t understand the impact of fleet sales on the overall bottom line.”

    The devil is in the details. Like it or not, all fleet sales are not equal. Thats a fact. Furthermore, I am fully aware of what fleet sales can mean in terms of lower resale value and public perception. Thats why I’m wondering why you can rent Altimas and camrys at Enterprise. I asked you explain why those cars are not worthless even though they can be rented but every GM model that is sold to fleets is crap. Never got an answer. Import fleet sales are going to be lower than domestics for many reasons. One is their models are priced higher. Two, they dont have estabished relationships with rental agencies and corporations. Three, government agencies typically only buy Big 3 vehicles. Toyota wouldn’t mind selling some camrys to municipal fleets but bid specifications for new cars can be written in such a way that unwanted vehicles do not qualify.

    “The comparison should tell you that Saturn is an established brand that has no established nameplates. It should tell you that the Saturn badge is not a badge that is compelling enough to motivate a lot of buyers. It never created enough brand equity with any of the earlier products to make those nameplates worth keeping or to create a reputation that could help it to generate decent sales volumes. Just a bit more writing on the wall for you.”

    Doesn’t tell me anything. In fact, its the first time anyone has ever tried to make a point to me regarding the Aura by using the Jetta. They are in different size and price classes. The Jetta starts outu about $3k less than the Aura and has only four cylinder engines. Jetta has been aroudn for decades so the fact that VW is using generous incentives and a lowered MSRP to move more units than the Aura says more about VW than Saturn. Not sure why you are so obsessed with Saturn bashing but last time I checked crappy Saturn, the brand with no appeal, has sales comparable to VW. Care to explain? The writing is on the wall indeed, Saturn is making the best vehicles they have ever made thus far. You arent going to acheive momumental sales gains overnight when you are entering new segments. Ask Vw, they should know after the failure of the Phaeton. Ask Acura, they should know with the failure of the RL. It takes time to build credibility in new markets. Period.

  • avatar
    sj1204

    I assure you I am knowledgable about vehicles. I certainly haven’t read anyting here that would indicate I am out of my league when it comes to knowledge of the industry or vehicles. If you can’t determine that I am somewhat well versed in these matters based on what I’ve written thus far I don’t know what else to say.

    Saturn is known for excellent dealer service so I am perplexed by your comments that you cant put up with the dealer experience at Saturn. If you have driven the 2008 Malibu than you have essentially driven the Aura since they are the same size and perform in the same manner. No need to do a separate test drive. The 2007 Malibu is substantially different from the Aura however.

    The only other sedan I realistically considered is the Altima. I am not crazy about the tailights, the car is ubiquitous in the Phila area and the price was too dear with the options I wanted. For $3k more I would have gotten dual zone auto AC, pushbutton start and a rear armrest. I would’ve lost 18″ wheels, remote start, Onstar and $3k. Not worth it in my opinion. I like the Mazda 6 but its old and underpowered. I like the Fusion except for the interior. All midsize sedans are capable so the idea that I missed out on something by not driving 5 of them is misguided. I didn’t need to drive the Camry or Sonata or Galant because I knew from the start I wasn’t interested. Not because they are “bad” cars but because they dont fit my requirements for style and performance.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India