By on July 31, 2012

Forget the cascade of poor reviews that have apparently hampered the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco; the biggest detriment to the new car’s success might be the outgoing model, and the steep discounts being offered on the 2012 ‘Bu.

Automotive News reports that sales figures for the 2013 Malibu Eco have been dismal compared to the 2012 model.

the Eco has become a sideshow amid torrid sales of the incentive-laden 2012 model. From the March launch through June, GM sold about 7,000 Ecos, compared with about 100,000 of the 2012s.

The discounts on the 2012 model, according to AN can be as high as $6,000. The rest of the 2013 model lineup, including the base 2.5L car and the much-touted 2.oT will roll out starting in August, with high end versions launching in the fall. AN reports that GM CEO Dan Akerson ordered the Malibu Eco to roll out in March, as a means of beating the revised Nissan Altima and Honda Accord to the punch.

Akerson also assumed that strong promotion during the NCAA Basketball finals would help Malibu sales. But how attractive is the idea of a Malibu Eco, at $26,085, when the outgoing model (which doesn’t have the Eco’s compromised trunk, with its “hybrid” components) and $6,000 less, is right next to it in the showroom? A Toyota Camry Hybrid gets much better fuel economy and is $655 more, while a new Nissan Altima, which gets nearly identical fuel economy, is roughly $4,000 less.

The Malibu Eco has become a victim of GM’s own strategy of throwing cash on the hood of vehicles, privileging volume and market share above all else.  Whatever the faults of the 2013 car may be, the launch appears to have been successfully torpedoed from within – GM’s competitors didn’t even have to lift a finger.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

55 Comments on “Did GM Completly F*** Up The Launch Of The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco?...”


  • avatar
    dcars

    “Ackerson assumed.” A good CEO is priceless, a bad one is expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      To answer the headline: Yes, GM did completely f*** up the launch of the Malibu Eco, and the whole Malibu line for that matter. You can tell Akerson isn’t a “car guy” because the split launch of the new Malibu was just a miserable idea. Bet Sergio would never have ok’d that one. Launching with the Eco, arguably the least desirable model, has now “tainted” the rest of the lineup. And the “newness” of the design has already worn off. What’s that old saying, “you only have one chance to make a first impression”. GM, we are NOT impressed.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        GM’s never ending, always and forever, one step forward and three steps backward approach.

        Who had the bright idea to reduce the 2013 Malibu’s wheelbase by 4.5 inches, meaning that an already tight rear seat (in terms of ‘family’ sedans) became even less roomy? If that had to be the case because of the sharing of the use of the Epsilon II platform (shared with the Buick Regal), then scrap that. Family sedans should emphasize roomy back seats. The Buick Regal has a rear seat that’s literally smaller than the Chevy Cruze in terms of real world experience (mine)- who’s going to buy a ‘family sedan’ with such a small rear seat? Idiocy.

        In addition to the heavy discounting of the outgoing Malibu, that could be a big contributing factor in the dismal sales of the 2013 Malibu.

        I’m not cocky, but I am absolutely confident that so long as I was given free reign, I could turn General Motors around in 12 months, and the first thing I would do is get rid of all the layers of meddling interference between the engineers and CEO. The engineering teams would have an open door, 24/7, into the CEO’s office, with maybe one or two other hand picked, bright executives whom I trusted, in terms of identifying winning strategies and improving cost efficiencies, allowed to join in on the conversation.

      • 0 avatar
        MrGreenMan

        @mjz @DeadWeight

        Preach it, brothers.

        A larger back seat (what happened to cars getting a little bigger every year? They decided to not just buck the trend, but actively thwart it, to no good result) in a car with either a turbo-4 or some sort of V6 providing the classic formula of family-sedan-performance would have been a far better move…but that’s a Sonata, or a Fusion, or an Optima, or even a Camry of the right stripe. What a botched opportunity.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Well, GM’s “one-world” strategy is essentially the same as Ford’s “one Ford” plan.

        Launching the new Malibu Eco ahead of its stablemates wasn’t the best idea.

        Nonetheless, despite being a “mild’-hybrid, the Malibu Eco is the 3rd best selling hybrid YTD after the Prius family and the Camry hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        @Deadweight The space inefficiency of the Epsilon II boggles the mind. How can a car with basically the same wheelbase as everything else in its class have so much less space inside? It’s like an anti-TARDIS.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        @dtremit

        Anti-TARDIS ftw!

  • avatar
    Dan Roth

    Yes. I have said this a lot on our podcast. GM screwed this one up. The Eco doesn’t even match the fuel economy of the competitions’ standard models.

    The 2.5 (that should never have been slated for the ATS) should have been there from the get go. If it wasn’t ready, then you wait. GM has this history of launching cars back-filled with old powertrains and promising that “the one you really want to wait for is JUST around the corner.” Well, okay, so why would you want to buy an Eco that forces compromise when you can just wait, or oh, hello, $6,000 discount on the not-bad older Malibu.

    So, everyone has forgotten about the Malibu because it launched back in March or something. Budgets are exhausted. All the drive events four journalists will likely not be repeated on the same scale. The competition is stepping on GMs neck. Yes, the Fusion looks beautiful, but the Altima is no joke, and is probably the one to watch out for.

    Way to go, guys.

    • 0 avatar
      samabuelsamid

      The new Malibu program was just one of many product victims of the financial meltdown and bankruptcy at GM. The car that is launching now was supposed to arrive in 2010 but like everything else except the Volt it was put in hold in 2008. Following the bankruptcy, the Malibu schedule was reset for mid-2012.

      After Ackerson became CEO the entire product schedule was revisited and the decision was made to try and recover as much time as possible in the schedule for one of the companies highest volume models. Unfortunately building cars is probably second only to building aircraft in terms of complexity and logistics.

      It turns out the engine program (the new 2.5 Ecotec) couldn’t be pulled ahead but the eAssist was already in production for LaCrosse and Regal. The decision was made to launch the car six months early with eAssist in parallel with the existing car. Unfortunately the process of selling down old Malibus means a huge price difference and with the limited mileage benefits of the mild hybrid it just doesn’t make sense to buy the new car.

      According to the numbers on fueleconomy.gov, the Malibu Eco will only save $200 a year compared to the 2012 with a 2.4. At a $6,000 discount, it would take 30 years to make up the difference.

      This is why most companies don’t sell old and new models simultaneously. If you give customers a choice like this, they will usually take the option that hurts the automaker. Since GM couldn’t make a clean break, they probably should have canceled the pull-ahead and just launched all of the 2013s at the same time with almost no 2012s left on the lot.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        ‘The car that is launching now was supposed to arrive in 2010 but like everything else except the Volt it was put in hold in 2008. Following the bankruptcy, the Malibu schedule was reset for mid-2012′

        Really? The 2008 Malibu was a new design…they had a two year cycle planned for that generation of the Malibu?

        Doubt that. Everything else you said wanting to pull it ahead early and being held back by the new engines is correct.

        The story of how successful this generation of the Malibu will be told in the retail sales it generates after it is fully launched.

        The overall sales will go down vs the current (previous) model due to a planned reduction in fleet sales.

        The Malibu ECO is not the volume vehicle and is probably getting the mediocre reviews that it deserves.

      • 0 avatar
        samabuelsamid

        I was working for a supplier back in 2006 when the 2008 Malibu was being developed and it was only meant to be an interim 30 month program.

        The then-current Malibu wasn’t doing so well so they put a new body on the long wheelbase platform of the Malibu Maxx hatchback. It was an odd program and as it turns out it was probably the right decision. If they had not done the 2008 redesign they probably would have been stuck with the 2004 model until now. As it is, the 2008 got a normal life cycle although people probably would have found the 2013 model a lot more impressive 2 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Now that you mention it, I do remember the Saturn AURA having a plan for a short run before a newer version was due to come out. I didn’t realize the Malibu was going to go along with it.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I think,for what its worth, Akerson, for the most part, is doing a great job.

    For sure, there has been some major F.U. However, those that created them are finding themselves on the outside looking in.

    Time will tell.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Perhaps Mr. Ewanick was fired for pointing this out to Mr. Akerson, and then saying “I told you so!”?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Had the same thought. Worked at more than one company where the quickest way to the door was to say, “I told you so,” to the CEO for a dumb idea they supported.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Or maybe it was Mr. Ewanick’s idea in the first place…?

    • 0 avatar
      D in the D

      I hadn’t previously considered this, but would certainly believe it was possible. Lt. Dan seemed to have come up with this staggered-launch idea – which seemed questionable even before seeing all of its ramifications. And Ewanick could easily have popped off about why the new ‘bu is selling so slowly (there’s no “sizzle” to an E-assist model).

      I think the car will eventually do fine once the other powertrains are out, and making it smaller DOES do one good thing – it creates a place for the new Impala to play in, even as it squeezes Cruze. There’s always something…

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The challenge the Malibu faces is that, even with the new powertrains, the car itself will no longer look “new.”

        Meanwhile, it goes up against a brand-new Accord and Fusion, which debut this fall.

        The new Camry and Altima appeared to have already gained traction in the marketplace.

        The Malibu will thus be caught between two all-new competitors and two competitors that have already gained acceptance by buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “The challenge the Malibu faces is that, even with the new powertrains, the car itself will no longer look ‘new.’”

        That’s the product problem in a nutshell.

        They really should be launching with their best foot forward. This doesn’t seem to be it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Typical GM, handicapping themselves in this case not only with their sales practices but offering a superior outgoing product for less than its new fangled (and lesser) replacement.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I believe it’s really hard to beat the combination of incentives and a still decent previous model. Additionally, the car may have been launched in March, but even here in GM Country we didn’t see actual cars on the dealer’s lots until June, at least in any quantity. It’s hard to sell cars you don’t have.

    FWIW, I had one for an evening, it was a nice car. I found the actual e-Assist system to be virtually transparent, no issues with weird brake feel. It is kind of strange to see the tach drop to zero and then below when your at traffic lights or driving away from them. E-Assist feels like mild turbo boost in actual freeway merging, not a violent rush, but a nice surge. The one I had was not the model with fog lamps or a sunroof (maybe a 1SC? I didn’t check), but the level of standard equipment was pretty comprehensive.

    Where I live now, the car wouldn’t really have much benefit for me, as there’s little traffic as big city folks would recognize it. If I were living in Chicago or Atlanta, this would definitely be on my shopping list.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I don’t think it matters much if GM botched the launch of the Malibu eco, the question is whether GM botched the launch of the whole Malibu line by launching the eco model only at the beginning? Whether or not the car is popular on launch time often sets precedent on how well the car is perceived for the rest of its model year. By launching only the eco, which normally would comprise only a small number of the sales figure, GM risks the entire Malibu line being branded a sales failure, and thus a less attractive model, for the rest of its model year. People might associate Malibus with being expensive and has small trunk, even once the regular version come out later.

    Of course Ackerson will find someone else to blame for this. He is the supreme leader, he’s never wrong! He’s beginning to look like the typical dictators, or medieval rulers. Someone needs to fire him NOW, before it’s too late. A good CEO would realize that the buck stops with him, and admit responsibility.

    • 0 avatar
      oboylepr

      This whole GM bankruptcy-bailout-recovery story is very orwellian in nature.
      If you are familier with the novel ‘Animal Farm’ you will know that it became impossible to tell between the farmer and the pigs towards the end. Akerson is looking very Wagoneer-like at the moment. So much for change for the better. Now the same mistakes are being made that got GM into the mess it’s in. With luck, maybe Obama will ask him to resign also. He should.

  • avatar
    NN

    This was a terrible mistake made in haste. The 2.5L and turbo versions of the Malibu may actually be good products, but unfortunately for GM, the image of their new Malibu is being branded now, and it’s not a flattering one. GM has a history of half assed long launches and resulting failures…of releasing the “good” version sometimes years after the model debut. It’s sad to see that Akerson isn’t aware enough of GM’s past, and has made the same mistake.

    I own a 2010 Malibu LTZ, which I did purchase with large incentives, new, in 2010. At under $23k for a loaded car, it blew away anything in a comparable price range, and we still love the car with now 42k on it. I would make that same purchase again. I would not buy the 2013 Malibu, however. I also do not believe that anyone will achieve real world 37mpg on the highway, the car is too heavy and underpowered for that.

    • 0 avatar

      On a recent trip from Warren to Saginaw in a Malibu eco I got a verified 36.6 mpg with the cruise on 79 mph and the a/c on. Not hard to do, and like another commentor said, the e-assist is almost like a turbo boost to make you forget it’s only a 4 cyl. Maybe you should drive a car before you comment on it’s performance?

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        WARNING! Obvious GM shill alert!

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        TCBRacing, I’m not saying outright that I think you’re lying/embellishing/fudging about how the Malibu eco you drove at nearly 80mph with the cruise on approached or beat VW/Audi Diesel territory, matched or bested what some true hybrids would have done (at that speed), or that it performed other miraculous feats…

        …but I sure am thinking it.

      • 0 avatar

        WARNING! Obvious GM Basher alert! Nice Avatar. Need to update it with something more clever like Government Motors…

      • 0 avatar

        DW – To say I was not very surprised would be a lie. Don’t just believe me, take one out for yourself and see.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        “Supplier Quality Engineer, General Motors”

        Thanks for the laugh! No wonder you apparently have a lot of time to fart around on the Internet…

        How about those Sonic brake pads, Tommy Boy?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        TCB, I know that the tech center is in Warren, and it matters not whether you work for GM or not to me.

        Did you achieve that economy based on what the fuel economy readout was proclaiming, or if the car was set up with more accurate equipment (that I see GM engineers driving around with), with the (at least somewhat more) sensitive/accurate equipment of the testing type?

        My initial response came off way too snarky, but it was reflexive based on the fact that I haven’t read anything indicating the fuel economy would be close to that (which doesn’t mean reports haven’t been underestimating the new mild hybrid Malibu).

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I’m having a hard time believing it, too. The Malibu Eco is heavy for its class with Cd and CDa that are mediocre for its class and the 2.4 is not an famously thrifty engine.

        I note Saginaw is 93 miles from Warren. Could be significantly less if you the trip terminals were on the nearer sides of the respective cities.

        Did you measure at the pump? Was it a one-way trip? What was the total trip distance? Did the pump cut off early? Did you fill it at both fillups? The same way? Ideally, using the same pump?

        Even a pint difference in the fillup could throw the calculation off by a couple of miles per gallon on a trip of just 90 miles.

        Every now and them my minivan gets awesome mileage… but it’s because the pump inadvertently shut down early and I didnt’ realize it. Next fillup – the mileage is not so good!

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Verified may mean data from the trip computer. Even the Cobalt has one.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        And they’re often overly optimistic, even on cars far superior to the Malibu.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        The one Cobalt I rented had an overoptimistic trip computer.

      • 0 avatar

        Wow VoF even knows how to use Google too… Sonic brake pads were a supplier issue that was caused by packaging. The entire hub and strut come in as an assembly and the pad retention was not adequate to hold them in during shipment. Someone saw a pad in the returnable container and raised the flag. I don’t remember hearing about any actual cases in the field. As I recall GM was #5 in total recalls last year behind your beloved Toyota and Honda along with Ford and Chrysler (and the same for the first half of 2012).

        Yes, I work at GM and my opinions are my own. If I wanted to hide that fact I would come up with my own screen name based on an over-hyped, exaggerated and inaccurate story about a car company I hate.

        By verified I mean that I filled up prior to the mostly highway trip to our Saginaw Customer Call Center and then filled up after the return to Warren. I confirmed the trip mileage to the trip computer with Google Maps because I wanted to be sure.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        TCBRacing: “As I recall GM was #5 in total recalls last year behind your beloved Toyota and Honda along with Ford and Chrysler (and the same for the first half of 2012).”

        One of my beloved Toyotas (and they’re beloved because 4, which all had six-figure mileage, have served me *very* well, not because I have some fetish for all things Japanese), a 10 year old Sienna, was recalled last year to check the cable that holds the spare up and determine if it was corroded.

        It wasn’t. They did it during an oil change, so it wasn’t an inconvenience in any way. So why would I, or anyone, care all that much about recalls?

        Now, I’m still having some difficulty accepting 36mpg. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. As for driving it, well, there’s only so many hours in the day and many of us have lives and wives, so we pick and choose the ways we fritter our leisure time away.

        Eventually, the car should get some reports on Fuelly (there are amazingly few Malibu registrations) and what I see there may – or may not – impress me.

        I thought to check FuelEconomy.gov:

        http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=32208

        Uh, that ain’t so great.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Well they screwed up the previous model Malibu when it was launched back in 2008 (I am not sure it was 08 but no doubt someone will correct me) so why not the 2013. It’s what GM does. This adds further to the idea that not enough has changed in GM to say that it has turned the corner. No matter how much Mikey and other GM apologists may claim that the ‘new’ GM is largely fixed, there is very little real evidence that this is the case. A half-baked hybrid priced so close to a real hybrid which is far superior to it in every way (Camry) quickly gathers a mountain of bad PR and puts the whole Malibu refresh in Jeopardy. Expect a part shortage and/or a recall to put the icing on the cake. Like I said, it’s what GM does. Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda must be laughing their heads off.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The premature launch of the Eco wasn’t just a bad idea but it messed up the launch of the other variants as well. The combination of underwhelming reviews for the overpriced Eco and heavily discounted 2012 stock quick extinguished all interest in the 2013 model. Now its old news unless GM spends another significant amount of cash to re-introduce it.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Launching a new car without either its performance or base engine is probably a mistake, no matter how you look at it.

    I’m sure that it would have been expensive, but the launch should have been delayed at the very least until the base engine was ready. You don’t want to confuse the customer base by leading with the motor that almost none of them will buy.

  • avatar
    myleftfoot

    I saw $8k off in April making a 2012 about $16,500. A disincentive of $10,000 to buy new.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I think this is the sort of thing a reasonable person might expect to happen as a result of pipeline stuffing with obsolete product combined with illogically launched new inferior product. If you have lots of outdated product on hand, it won’t command a high price. If the new model has a smaller back seat, goofy proportions, and no decent power train options available, it won’t sell well against bargain run out models.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I knew the incentive-laden 2012 ‘Bu was pulling the lion’s share of the weight last month when the Malibu topped 31,000 units. But I didn’t know the Eco was stinking it up QUITE so much.

    Americans know what they want, and they don’t want cars with half-assed missions. Take the CR-Z, Crosstour, ZDX, Venza, 5-Series GT, and R-Class, and Malibu Eco.

    What do all those cars have in common? They’re all confused, over-compromised, and unpopular.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I’m sure that it is difficult to match the availability of a new engine with a new chassis,although the Japanese, Koreans and Germans seem to do it regularly. Supposedly the Eco was launched early because the new 2.5 liter engine was not ready. The Eco gave the factory time to work out the bugs in the new platform prior to high-volume production, so to that end it wasn’t worthless. In my mind, it is better to program to have the next generation engine available a year ahead of the next generation chassis. If the engine stays on time, you can drop it in the outgoing model featuring “next year’s engine”, giving the old model a last burst of showroom newness and gaining a year’s worth of experience to stomp out any bugs in the new engine.

    GM knew that a Fall 2012 launch would be tough with a new Accord & Altima and Fusion. I don’t think that GM screwed up the launch timing as much as it under-delivered on the car. GM may have to do an emergency redo on the Malibu much like Honda is doing on the Civic.

  • avatar

    I would bet that 75% of the Malibu’s are going into rental fleets, along with the outgoing Impala’s. By doing this, GM keeps the value of the new models higher. As soon as the old car stops production, 100% of that old model volume will transfer to the new model. The difference between the two cars is night and day, especially the interior. No one will be sorry to wait…

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    “… With luck, maybe Obama will ask him to resign also. He should….”

    Heh, the cretin that should resign is the Obamaloon, who couldn’t run a lemonade stand.

    His pick for GM – as stupid as the pick is – is still quantum levels above the Cretin-in-Chief when it comes to business ability.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I’ll always say the four door family sedan is the toughest segment. By launching the Eco version first, GM didn’t give us room to rationalize. They should have launched the SS, normal, and Eco at the same time. Let customers drive all three, then let the rationalizations begin. The SS is sweet, but the Eco will do just fine as DD rationalizations. You don’t like the color? Lets walk over to the back lot.

  • avatar
    George B

    In my opinion the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu suffers from a fatally flawed platform and waiting to get the new engines would not fix too much mass and not enough rear seat leg room. Maybe GM should have let Daewoo design the 2013 Malibu instead.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Wow, when I read this, I worrry for ‘New GM’
    “I would bet that 75% of the Malibu’s are going into rental fleets…”
    “As soon as the old car stops production, 100% of that old model volume will transfer to the new model…”

    Great way to to ruin the Malibu’s brand image, dumping into fleets and huge discounts to unload them. Adding $6K rebates turns them into tacky ‘Blue Light Specials’ and true retail customers will buy the higher resale products, instead.

    The “as soon as…” attitude at GM is still going on. “Just wait for the new models” “Just wait for the new pickup!” “New engines are coming!”

    • 0 avatar

      “The “as soon as…” attitude at GM is still going on. “Just wait for the new models” “Just wait for the new pickup!” “New engines are coming!””

      Every car maker does this, it is not just a GM thing. How else are you supposed to get people excited for your new products??


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

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States