“President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again.” Sounds like our august founder, Robert Farago, sounding off about
American Leyland the New GM. Nope, it’s Forbes this time, and they come to bury the General, not to praise him.
Through the mid-1980s, General Motors essentially owned the midsize sedan market. This dominance was ended by the original Ford Taurus, and GM’s position sunk further with the rise of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to the top two spots. In recent years the Fusion has replaced the Taurus, while Nissan, Hyundai, and (for 2012) even Volkswagen have become serious contenders. For GM to reclaim one of the top spots, the Chevrolet Malibu had better be a damn good car. The model has been redesigned for 2013. Is the new car good enough? After doing my best to get some seat time in the Detroit area, I gave up my press junket cherry to Chevrolet to find out.
Avoiding the usual Auto Journo networking opportunities like the plague leaves me with the road test equivalent of everyone’s sloppy seconds. But there’s a good story behind a nearly dead model, unless we are talkin’ about the Chevy Malibu. Without the charms of a 6th gen Honda Civic or Panther Love (‘natch) this whip’s demise couldn’t come soon enough. A recent sales chart proves the point: a sad commentary for a car that was once hailed as “the car you can’t ignore” by people genuinely interested in making a CamCord fighter…so how exactly has the ‘Bu faired since then?
Like the Chevrolet Cruze before it, the new Malibu was supposed to debut in Korea (probably as a Daewoo) a good year before it arrived in the US. But a few things have changed in GM’s relationship with its Korean unit, no longer called Daewoo but GM Korea. The Daewoo brand is gone, for one, replaced by the Chevrolet bowtie. And with Bob Lutz’s blessing, GM CEO Dan Akerson pulled forward the US Malibu launch by some six months, which means we should be getting it in the first quarter next year.
And though the possibility of a simultaneous global launch is still out of reach (video of the Korean launch can be found here), this model is a key element in GM’s globalizing effort, replacing not only the US Malibu, but also the Daewoo Tosca (a.k.a Chevy/Holden Epica). We knew GM has way too many architectures across its global lineup, but were you aware that the Tosca/Epica had optional Porsche-designed transverse straight-six engines, in 2.0 and 2.5 liter configurations? Neither did I. But with the new Malibu, it’s straight-up-and-down GM: the Epsilon II platform, with 2.0 or 2.4 Ecotec engines (in Korea, anyway… an all-new 2.5 liter engine is on tap fro the US). We may be quick with the Daewoo jokes, but this new Malibu is doubtless making the automotive world a much smaller, more homogenous place. Welcome to the future… [Hat Tip to our man in Korea, Walter Foreman}
Sajeev and Steve,
I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all wheel drive and Turbo=bad gas mileage, I drive about 40,000 miles a year and betwen the gas and the upkeep I am getting killed, hence time for a new car.
My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground. I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil. I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the dealership (an independent dealership) said that its time was slowly approaching about a year ago, but they couldn’t promise how fast. My mom loves this car and my dad likes it too. Her requirements are preferably station wagon, heated leather seats, and automatic. They live in Michigan so it gets cold. AWD is not a necessity, and she knows that snow tires work just fine. She does haul a bike on occasion, so it must be easy for her to haul the bike without having my dad there at all times.
She loves her Volvo and would like another if she could find one that would be reliable. I recommended the Outback, especially the 2005 and later models. What are other possibilities? Their budget is around $15,000 or less. They tend to drive their cars into the ground, so reliability is more important than the badge. What should she look at?
When I reviewed the current Chevrolet Malibu, I was generally impressed with GM’s effort in a highly competitive segment, but I had a few complaints. One of those complaints had to do with the ‘bu’s back bench, which prompted me to note
the rear seats seem like almost an afterthought compared to the well-appointed front row. Low seat height, a relatively narrow bench and unsupportive seating make for a poor combination
With images of an updated Malibu making the rounds of the blogosphere, and the Detroit News reporting that its production has been pulled ahead by six months by the order of Dan Akerson, you might think GM had taken the opportunity to improve the Malibu’s second-row shortcomings. But, according to Automotive News [sub]‘s product editor, Rick Kranz, it seems that GM has done the opposite of improve rear-seat interior space… because of yet another of the ‘bu’s shortcomings.
When March sales come out tomorrow, the Chevrolet Malibu will likely find itself in a tough position again. Last month the car that was once hailed as Chevy’s Lutzian turning point had fallen to fifth place in the midsized segment, having sold only slightly better than the Impala which has never been hailed as anything other than a large, inexpensive and unsexy sedan. But Chevy has learned from Ford that the right amount of mid-cycle styling freshening can go a long way: the Fusion never quite lived up to its hype until an update that was more than just a facelift improved its aesthetics, sending it soaring to the number two sales spot in the segment. Chevy is clearly hoping that a fresh look, featuring Camaro-style taillights (a move that echoes the new Charger’s retro-taillamp graft from the Challenger) will juice up the ‘bu… and with no Impala replacement coming for at least a few years, most of Chevy’s midsized-segment chickens are in this retro-look basket.
It looks like the Malibu is finally outselling the Impala. There’s been a lot of discussion, here on TTAC and elsewhere, as to why that hasn’t been the case all along. After all, the Malibu is the shining example of New GM’s ability to compete on an even footing in the marketplace with relevant, modern product, while the Impala was originally engineered in 1986 and has an interior made entirely of recycled Tupperware. Every “car person” in your life, from the neighbor kid who drives a slammed Civic EX Coupe to your IMSA Patron GT3 Cup-racing podiatrist, knows the Malibu is the smart choice.
I’ve been driving GM10 and W-body cars since I first rented a 1990 Cutlass Supreme sedan for a Spring Break trip (to Chicago, dammit, not Daytona Beach) twenty years ago, and I know them pretty well. It had been a while since I’d driven a ‘Bu, however, so I snagged an el-cheapo 1LT 2.4L/six-speed from Budget Rent-A-Car and put 1100 miles on it over the course of four days. Perhaps the Malibu would explain to me why it hasn’t left its ancient showroom mate in the dust.
These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But there’s danger down below. Hyundai’s Sonata has been making steady progress all year (June excepted), and the Malibu has enjoyed more modest, but equally steady growth. Altima all but matched Camry in February, and gave Accord a scare in March. There’s still a tight pack of four nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Time to start coming up with a new nickname for the D-Segment?
Context is everything. Because TTAC has never tried to operate as another entry in the press-car sweepstakes, our context for the industry tends to be based more on news from the business end of things than on a regular sampling of the latest vehicles to hit the market. This basic truth about our perspective goes a long way towards explaining our obsession with the travails of the domestic car industry, and the resulting accusations that we are institutionally biased against Detroit. If we do harbor such biases (and our commitment to the truth won’t let us pretend that true objectivity exists anywhere), it is because we are products of the steady flow of bad news that has bled out of Detroit for the past decades. But this is no excuse: we owe it to you, our readers, to be ever mindful of our own shortcomings. With this in mind, I set out on a quiet weekday afternoon in search of more real-world context about the automaker we are most often accused of harboring bias against.
Long rumored to be arriving, the Chevy Malibu has now, finally, arrived! It is yet another car to be mused over by import crazed Brazilians. It comes in LTZ guise with a 2.4L gasoline-only engine that’s good for 171 ponies. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that allows manual shifting. And it’s loaded to the gills (at least by Brazilian standards) with 6 airbags, ABS, stability control, automatic A/C, and even (by gosh!) electrically-adjusted and heated seats, remote start key, 18 inch aluminum wheels and, last but not least, an audio system with CD and MP3 with 8 speakers (according to Bestcars). All of this for a princely 89,000 Brazilian reais or $49,900 (at 1.8 real to the dollar).
When someone pays tax, they generally like to think it’s going to towards something that will benefit society. Maybe it might be a repaired road? Or funding towards a crumbling school? I doubt they would want the money to go towards shifting a supposed CamCord killer or an alleged 3 series rival, but that’s what’s going to happen. BusinessWeek reports that executives at “New” General Motors are going to cut prices and rework adverts to boost flagging sales of the Chevrolet Malibu and the Cadillac CTS; two saloons considered critical to meeting Ed Whitacre’s target of a profitable 2010. That’s right, “New” GM are going to cut prices (A.K.A “Cash on hood”) to make more sales. Sound familiar?