By on February 10, 2009

As the maximum era draws to an end at GM, there’s no shortage of praise for the Bob Lutz-led product turnaround. Cars like the CTS, Lambda CUVs and the Chevy Malibu are said to represent a new day in quality and design for the General. And without a doubt, they are all consistently better cars than GM has made for years. But for all their accolades and fawning reviews, these vehicles actually represent a relatively small fraction of GM’s offerings. Though marketing executives wail from the Renaissance Center that consumers aren’t understanding the alleged sea change in GM products, there are still more GM vehicles you can ignore (to borrow GM’s marketing phrase) than you can’t. Automotive atavisms occupy GM’s entire lineup, but the contrast between Chevrolet’s D-segment offerings, the Malibu and Impala tells the whole story. And it isn’t pretty.

It’s no coincidence that the Malibu is, above all others, the poster child for a GM turnaround. Its clean styling and high-quality interior give it an edge in the first impressions game that GM hasn’t enjoyed in decades. More importantly, it brings an impression of actual effort to the crucial mid-sized segment, a category that was long ago ceded to the CamCord legions by such W-bodied luminaries as, well, the Lumina.

But the W-body and its parts bin of horrors lives on. Though the “Malibu Classic” has gone to the great rental lot in the sky, the Impala remains a rolling reminder of a time when the term “GM midsized” meant cheap, bland and unreliable. GM’s current fleet queen boasts a shake, rattle and roll interior, with all the aesthetic delights of a cheap pocket calculator. And let’s not even discuss the old-school wallow that the Impala calls handling. Place the Impala and the Malibu side-by-side and the contrast in impressions couldn’t be greater.

And yet, the Impala sells far better than the perception gap-changing ‘bu. In fact, the Impala is by far GM’s best selling car, with 265,840 sales last year. That’s more than the entire Pontiac car lineup, and nearly the volume of Saturn, Buick and Cadillac cars put together. The Malibu is well behind with 178,253 units sold last year, despite relentless hype and giant ad budgets.

Of course, none of this should come as much surprise to the experienced GM watcher. It is, after all, a long-standing GM tradition to offer long-outdated models as a cheap fleet sale booster. But not only is GM supposedly trying to cut back on fleet sales, unlike the Classic before it the Impala actually sells at retail too. Oh yeah, and GM has been propping up Malibu sales with fleet deals as well.

So while publicly denouncing fleet sales, GM is keeping its fleet queen in the public eye by keeping the roomier Impala’s retail price relatively close to its marquee Malibu. So when shoppers arrive at a Chevrolet dealership to look at the mid-sized offerings, both sides of General Motors are there to see: the sleek (but snug) Malibu or the roomy but dismally old-school Impala. And if you work with the best fleet percentages we have for 2008 (about 50 percent of Impala sales and about 33 percent of Malibu sales went to fleets), it turns out that more people are buying Impalas, even at retail.

This raises a number of interesting questions about the value of GM’s supposed product-led turnaround. If the Impala sells better than the Malibu at retail, despite its aged underpinnings and staid looks, was Bob Lutz’s enormous paycheck and frequent outbursts worth the investment? Class-competitive styling, interiors and platforms cost a considerable amount of money, and based on the numbers it seems that loyal GM customers aren’t particularly swayed by them. For all its accolades, the Malibu looks to be not only less popular than its fleet-flooding cousin but less profitable too.

And so we arrive at the real question: why do GM customers seem to prefer the aged and uncompetitive Impala to its acclaimed Malibu? In his hilarious address to the White House Press Club, Stephen Colbert quipped that President Bush’s 30 percent approval rating meant that though the metaphorical glass is only two-thirds empty, the last third is usually backwash. And the implication that Bush’s constituency represents all the ugly stereotypes of American culture also applies to GM’s midsized predicament. After decades of foisting uncompetitive cars on the American public, choosy shoppers no longer even consider GM a source for high quality vehicles, a fact proven by KBB’s 2008 “most researched” list.

And as long as Impalas and Malibus share lot space, GM’s cries of “perception gap” will continue, as the brand image is confused by two such divergent approaches to the midsized segment. The Malibu is fighting an uphill battle to convince now-loyal Toyota and Honda customers that the bowtie brand can offer quality, and sales momentum isn’t helping. And with GM pricing a fleet version of the Malibu considerably cheaper than the Impala, it’s also only a matter of time before that model loses its luster to the fleet residuals curse. And since its sales and profitability are already worse, the damage has already been done.

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64 Comments on “GM Death Watch 231: A Tale Of Two Chevys...”

  • avatar

    What GM needs to do (assuming it survives, I mean) is to look at Hyundai, at the Sonata and the Azera.

    The Azera is a distant cousin to the Sonata; sufficiently larger, more upscale and having a different appearance, but shares underpinnings nontheless.

    A new Impala needs to be this, to the Malibu, but with the option of front bench seats. This should have been introduced ALONG WITH the Malibu, or almost immediately following it (say, within 6-8 months). Not “non-existant”.

    Yet another shooting-themselves-in-the-foot by the General Messup crowd.

    The Buicks need to be upscale and rear wheel drive, completely separated from the Chevrolet, and offered in two sizes.

    Look at the Hyundai Genesis and the proposed Chrysler 200, for two possible examples of the two sizes that’d work well for Buick. Strap the dual mode hybrid system into the dang things for efficiency, along with ultra-modern V6’s and even small V8’s as an option on the top of the line Roadmaster. The smaller car could be the Invicta.

    But GM won’t survive long enough to do any of it.

  • avatar

    When we were car shopping, my wife refused to even test drive the Malibu even though she really liked how they look. Too many bad memories of a past Malibu.

  • avatar

    Why does the Impala sell? One of my sister’s coworkers at an insurance company had the choice for a company car between an Impala and a (fleet special) Chrysler 300. He picked the Impala. It had better seats, a bigger trunk, and a better highway ride.

    I stopped in a Chevy dealer last year, and I preferred the roominess of the Impala to the Malibu, although I didn’t drive either.

  • avatar

    I believe that GM’s latest generation of cars is the best ever. If they survive the storms they’ll come out stronger and smarter than ever. They need a change in leadership and new strategies.

    They really should take a look at Ford…not Hyundai.

    GM has very few brand marques with as little “equity” as a Hyundai anything…

    And GM needs to aquire Chrysler cause otherwise, they are dead. We don’t need a big 3. We only need 2.5

  • avatar

    Here’s a thought, instead of offering a mid size and an ever so slightly larger mid size, the Impala could become a full size car, which I suspect is what many customers -e.g. my mom- think it is.

    It traditionally was a full size. Why should Chevy compete with itself in the mid size market? Competing with all the other GM divisions is bad enough.

  • avatar

    I stopped in a Chevy dealer last year, and I preferred the roominess of the Impala to the Malibu, although I didn’t drive either.

    That is how you can find out just how bad the Impala is.

    I haven’t driven a new Malibu, but a rental car Impala convinced me that there couldn’t be much worse out there. It had horrible ergonomics, ridiculous interior design in general, and possibly the worst automatic transmission I have had this misfortune to experience.

  • avatar

    Why have the woman in the ad run into an old GM product? Basically the Old’s version of the two generations ago Malibu. A Camry or Accord would have been better… seems like shooting yourself in the foot. Can GM do nothing right?

  • avatar

    Interesting. I think there are 3 categories of buyer. Those looking for the best car. They have written GM off. Second, you have the price shopper and third, the customer whose family has always bought GM cars. To both of these groups, the Impala is a better value. Bigger, decent performance, very little additional money. And (flame guard up) I think the Impala is a better looking car, at least from the outside. I like the inside of the Bu, but its only decent angle is a straight-on side view. Front and rear are butt-ugly.
    This story raises another issue I would like to see addressed by the multi-brand apologists for GM – Why is Chevy even selling the Impala. There is only one reason – because Ford is selling a Crown Vic and Taurus. The Bu ought to be Chevy’s flagship. If GM were made up of Chevy and Cadillac, then a redesign of the Impala that takes aim at the Avalon might make sense. But now? GM should be out of the “cheap pretty big car” market. But it is not, and this is killing what GM is trying to do. (Or what GM says it is trying to do.)

  • avatar

    “GM has very few brand marques with as little “equity” as a Hyundai anything…”

    Are you referring to these few?

    G3, G5, G6, Torrent, Vibe, Aveo, Cobalt, Equinox, Avalanche, HHR, Trailblazer, Lucerne, Lacrosse, Uplander, Astra, Vue, Aura, Outlook, Ion, 9-3, 9-5, 9-7X

  • avatar

    If for no other reason, didn’t the Impala have a lot more incentives last year than the Malibu? Since the Malibu was a new debut, initial cost had to be higher than the Impala and maybe some just went with what’s known rather than the unknown.

  • avatar

    I gave The Impala faint praise in my last comment. I should balance it to say that, after renting a Taurus, I can say that I would pick the Taurus as a company car over the Malibu or the Imbala hands down, and the 2010 Taurus is supposed to be much better than the 09.

    The Impala’s back seat is somewhat compromised. The Taurus’s back seat handles adults about as well as the front. The Taurus’s trunk is f’ing huge. The Taurus is screwed together well, has good quality materials, a modern powertrain and is reasonably priced.

  • avatar

    The situation is fairly simple. A lot of the car buyers who would be interested in something like a Malibu are going to avoid the Malibu and choose a Camry, Accord or Altima, instead. The Malibu has to compete head-on against these other vehicles, and most of the time, it’s going to lose. The mid-sized sedan segment was pretty much invented by the transplants, and they continue to own it.

    In contrast, someone who wants something similar in concept to an Impala doesn’t have many choices. The transplants don’t get that business because they’re not in it. The transplants aren’t there because there isn’t much of it to get.

    The implications of this are not good. When domestic cars go head-to-head against the transplants, they lose just about every time. What they’re left with are their traditional buyers, who are getting older and dying off by the day. Meanwhile, the transplants control the best segments and have such strong brand identification in them that it could be impossible to change this anytime soon.

    The situation has been like this for so long that the domestics aren’t even considered for many car purchases. The consumer presumes that the domestic companies have nothing to offer them that can’t be done better by a transplant. They’re right to believe that.

    With the traditional large American car buyer dying off for good, the direction of market share is almost certain. It would take many, many years for the Malibu to share the stage with a Toyota, and GM just doesn’t have that long to wait.

  • avatar

    Yeah yeah yeah! Heard it all before.Even with the LTZ trim, the interior of the Impala is a little spartan.On the upside 2 minutes with a damp cloth its spotless.Just the way I like it.
    Perfect for clean freaks,dog owners and people with small kids.Agreed it wallows it doesn’t thrill me,but I can live with it.Its smooth and quiet I don’t hear no shake or rattles.I also own a Firebird convertible, IT shakes and rattles.

    I wouldn’t be caught dead driving a Hyundai,or a Kia.The Camry has got to be the ugliest car ever concieved.German cars are overrated, overpriced and they break down.I sort of admire and respect Honda products but I still wasn’t buying one.

    Chrysler products are too scary but I do like
    what Ford is doing the Fusion caught my eye.But alas neither Honda or Ford would would honour my GM retirement car voucher.So it came down to a Bu or an Impala.The Impala seemed to me to be a bigger bang for the buck.So the Impala it is.

    I love my big black Impala, cheesy interior, outdated platform and all,as only a car guy can.
    In closing I really don’t give a f–k what anybody else says or thinks.

  • avatar

    Why do retail customers buy Impalas?

    The back seat. Its width at the hip is enormous. This is undoubtedly a by-product of its main mission in life (to be the taxi cab of choice in North America).

    If you have three kids and two are still in car seats (infant seats take up even more lateral room) there are not many vehicles in the $20,000-25,000 (Canadian)price range to choose from.

    Given the price limit my wife and I set, we quickly narrowed down our choices to the Mazda5, Kia Rondo, and the Chevy Impala.

    We chose the Mazda but I imagine a lot of others prefer the Chevy when doing the same analysis.

  • avatar

    I know a lot of youngish (under 40 – hey that’s young to me) people who own impalas.

    Nearly all are completely delighted with the ride and handling (remember, most people aren’t pistionheads). The most frequent comment I hear is that the Impala is a little bigger and more comfortable than the BU, gets about as good gas mileage, and isn’t much more money.

    Who’d have thought that if you offer people just a little bit bigger car for about the same price people would opt for the slightly bigger one?

    What’s wrong with this lineup (I’m looking at you Maximum Bob) is Chevy doesn’t need two mid size models.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Mikey: You prove the point. The ‘bu has received nearly unanimous acclaim from the critics, but it didn’t retail as well as the Impala last year. Granted some of that might have to do with strike-related undersupply. Either way, perceived “quality” is clearly not everything to all consumers.

    So does GM spend the money to chase style or “quality” when, by the numbers, bang-for-buck value is what sells? Oh right. Hyundai/Kia.

  • avatar

    When looking at GM’s turnaround and/or survival, it’s an uphill battle no matter what angle you look at it from. My apologies if this seems to ranty; it’s tough to analyze the situation without many other issues popping into view…

    I’ll give credit to GM on the new Malibu. It has looks, is well-put together, and drives nice. Seriously. But, it’s up against not only the competition, but also the previous Malibu’s legacy. The Malibu is aimed squarely at Camry and Accord, two nameplates existing since 1980 and 1976, respectively. And they haven’t been in production and selling for 30+ years because they are inferior products! On the other hand, the Malibu’s past consists of a single decade where it was seen as a second-rate CamCord (I doubt many will research/remember/care about the Malibus of the Sixties).

    The Impala has been on the market now since 2006 and in need of a redesign. And I’m in full agreement that a full-size Impala would make sense. Funds are most likely an issue. But, as has been mentioned before, the G8 would make a nice replacement assuming the price could be bumped down a bit. Save the V8 for the Impala SS. But instead, the G8 is saved for dead-brand-walking Pontiac, one of the numerous casualties of GM’s blatant badge-engineering of the past (I‘m looking at you, J-Cars!).

    Frankly, GM has too many brands with too little exciting product to flesh them all out, so to speak. Overall, all of GM’s brands have remarkably little exciting and desirable product.

    – Chevrolet Malibu (for all intents and purposes, Corvette is it’s own brand)
    – Pontiac G8
    – Buick Enclave, though the new LaCrosse is garnering some buzz
    – Cadillac CTS
    – GMC – Umm…
    – Saab – Umm…
    – Saturn – Aura? Vue? I’m not too sure.

    (I am, however, anxiously awaiting for the Hummer Strategic Review (H-SR), for men ballsy enough to stare bankruptcy in the eyes without blinking! And, of course, soccer moms ready to once again upgrade thanks to lowered gas prices!)

    The writing essentially is on the wall – GM needs to kill some brands in order to deal with the reality of running its operations with a lessened market share. Trimming brands will not only help with cannibalization (really only acceptable in the Andes), but help GM focus on its “core brands” without the distraction of the damaged ones. Lest we forget: “Buick: It’s All Good.”

  • avatar

    This is yet another flop from the Putz.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t be so quick to deem the Impala “unreliable.” TrueDelta has only a limited amount of data on it, but what we have and other sources suggest that these cars hold up pretty well.

    It probably doesn’t hurt that GM engineered the things to potentially serve police duty.

  • avatar

    I had an Impala as a rental for about a week last year. We were up in the Canadian Rockies, near Banff.

    I really liked the car, generally. It didn’t seem cheap at all, and it seemed well constructed. It was pleasant to drive and very roomy. In short, very satisfactory.

    Now, as a 3-Series owner driving in the Rockies, I missed the power, transmission, and brakes of my 3-Series, but since 99.9% of the driving I do ISN’T in the Rockies, I didn’t think that it was a fair point to complain about. The Impala never felt underpowered or underbraked until the mountain roads got pretty serious.

    I concluded that most people would be very happy living with an Impala, assuming long-term impressions equal my week’s impressions.

    I know the Malibu is supposed to be better, and I agree with the view that having both is a bad decision for GM, but I didn’t see anything that wrong with the Impala. I’m with Mikey on this one.

  • avatar

    Though the “Classic” has gone to the great rental lot in the sky, the Impala remains a rolling reminder of a time when the term “GM midsized” meant cheap, bland and unreliable

    Technically, the Impala is the more reliable car of the two, and the most reliable product GM makes. It’s not as nice, nor as high-quality, but in terms of raw mechanical reliability it’s less likely to break. Just about every reasonably-objective source confirms this.

    Please don’t make the mistake of equating materials quality with reliability: that’s the mistake that all the buff books make, and it’s why Volkswagen and Mercedes aren’t called on the carpet for their atrocious reliability.

    Props to Oshawa Car for making GM’s highest-quality products. Your reward? Getting closed down.

  • avatar

    The back seat. Its width at the hip is enormous.

    The leg room and support sucks, though. Like the Crown Vic, the seat is low, short and badly-angled. For a two-hundred-inch car, it’s not a good scene.

  • avatar

    The fleet sales are obvious. Cops and Cabbies still insist on the full size Impala if they aren’t going with a Crown Vic or Charger.

    That the Impala can outsell the Malibu at retail is the surprise.

    What this shows is how damaging the cannibalization between GM’s rebadged glut of brands is.

    The W-body (D-segment) Impala really competes against nothing in the GM lineup now that the Grand Prix is dead and the LaCrosse is a bit player soon to be replaced.

    The C-segment Malibu, on the other hand, competes for sales against its Epsilon brothers the Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6 in GM’s lineup. And it will soon be competing for sales against the new Epsilon LaCrosse.

    Overall I would guess that at the retail level Epsilon platformed cars outsell W-body platformed cars in the US. But the Malibu’s sales are being cannibalized, in the classic GM tradition, while the Impala has no real competitors in the GM lineup.

  • avatar

    My hooning is typically limited to a few sharp curves around where I live and freeway onramps. There is ZERO hooning fun in an Impala. None. Nada. Chevy should have just called it “Car – Large” and been done with it.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Malibu is aimed squarely at Camry and Accord, two nameplates existing since 1980 and 1976, respectively.

    IIRC, the Camry was first badged in ’83, replacing the Corona.

    Malibu’s previous heyday was in the mid-70’s through mid-80s, where it overwent a metamorphisis from a former semi-muscle car to a decent downsized midsize sedan. Those things were all over the place in the early 80’s, then discontinued in ’85 or so until ’97.

  • avatar

    Like most have said, GM shouldn’t have both cars. When the new Malibu came out, GM should have made the Commodore a new Impala, and not make it a Pontiac. This is GM’s biggest issue with their offerings. They have to much confusion when someone shows up at the dealership. If the current Impala wasn’t around, those customers would have taken Malibus.

  • avatar

    “the sleek (but snug) Malibu”
    The Malibu would seem a lot roomier if the front seatbacks weren’t so ridiculously thick. I’m guessing 2-3 inches of rear knee room could be added with more intelligently designed front seats. Oh, and people like center rear armrests.

  • avatar

    Pch101: “In contrast, someone who wants something similar in concept to an Impala doesn’t have many choices.”Yeah, Japan, Inc. doesn’t do large, cheap cars. The Malibu competes with the CamCordia6. That’s a tough crowd. Considering what the Malibu is up against, it actually does okay in its market.

    The Impala competes with what? Cross-shopping an Impala is limited to the Crown Vic, Charger/300 and G8. In that small domestic group, the Impala is actually okay, particulary since it’s the only large front-driver among them (don’t know if the Taurus is in the same size category or not). Add in the available V8 SS version, and there’s just nothing else.

    I’m guessing that the closest thing to the Impala from Japan might be the Toyota Avalon and, despite the better build quality, I suspect it’s still not as large as (or priced anywhere near) the Impala.

  • avatar

    The Impala does have some competition. The Taurus is FWD and a much better car.

    Also, the Kia Amanti competes directly against the Impala as a FWD boat on an old platform that dealers will sell dirt cheap.

    The Kia has a five speed auto and a lot more standard features, but some people won’t consider it because it is furrin or has baroque broke styling. I do see more civilian Amantis on the road than Impalas.

  • avatar

    Given GM’s usual product-launch strategy, I would bet that the average transaction price for the new Impalas sold at retail was lower than the new Malibu, with bigger incentives. If you’re going for store-brand macaroni and cheese, why not get the biggest box for the lowest price?

    I don’t think it’s anything more complicated than that.

  • avatar

    Although both cars are vastly improved over past General Mistakes (such as the 1980 Pontiac Lemans which nearly killed me financially and – on one occasion – physically), the Malibu is clearly the more competitive of the two. But even the Malibu fails the why-should-I-buy-this-over-a-HondaToyotaNissanHyundai test.

    I suspect that nothing short of a ridiculous price advantage will ever convince import buyers to take a chance on GM, and GM just doesn’t have enough air left in its lungs to do that sort of thing. So long, and thanks for the memories.

  • avatar

    The Malibu has a severe ergonomic problem on entry for those of us who are big, moderately tall, and middle aged or older. The rounded, sleek A-pillar ended up in my face (or across the side of my head) when entering the front seat. The Impala has no such problem.

    I rejected a late-model used (2004 or so) Taurus wagon when shopping for the same reason.

    I enjoyed 1500+ miles in rural Arizona with an Impala in 2007, including long stretches at 100 mph or so. Its handling was predictable, if wallowy. It gave no sign of being anything but well screwed-together. I noticed the limited rear legroom, but didn’t have to put anyone there.

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    Did GM copy this Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren commercial? YES, they totally COPIED this one!


    They sure do look very similar, down to the jogging and choosen camera angles. Even the jogger turning left part too. And with the Malibu released so much after the SLR, I think it must be GM that copied MB.

    Here you have one ad more to copy, GM
    Trabant 600

  • avatar

    Please don’t make the mistake of equating materials quality with reliability: that’s the mistake that all the buff books make, and it’s why Volkswagen and Mercedes aren’t called on the carpet for their atrocious reliability.…

    Man, you took the words right out of my mouth. I can’t tell you how many times I get told that I don’t know what I am talking about when I say MB reliability sucks.

    Regarding the Impala, I had rented one in the Rockies, too. The biggest impression left in my mind is that I can’t believe that the same company that built my friend’s Silverado built the Impala.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    I think that the Impala now has a engine from China, I wonder how reliable it will be in the long run?

  • avatar

    Lets talk build quality:Anybody that has perfomed same task over and over again will discover that it gets easier and easier and your perfomance will improve.I don’t care if its brain surgery, flying a jet, maybe a trial lawyer or working on the line.Practice makes perfect.

    Case in point, in my new position as stay at home husband I’m learning to cook.The first few efforts went into the garbage.A couple of things were at least edible.It took me longer to cleanup than prepare.But now its getting better,faster and a lot less mess.Hey wifey doesn’t slip it into the garbage when she thinks I’m not looking anymore.

    So I think back to years on the Chev line.In 80s we built B chev 3 trim levels, both Canadian and American versions B Pontiac American and Canadian.
    With every option and engine every 5th car a wagon.Each car comming down was different from the one in front of it.I’m sure some of the folks here have heard of the mid eightys GM diesel.This aberation was an Olds Rocket 350 with lag bolts holding the heads down.Diesels didn’t create enough vacum for power brakes.So they jury rigged
    a plumbers nightmare from the power steering pump to give it brake boost.We ran them down the same line. I might of heard that these diesels had some reliability issues.Who da thunk?

    Myself and a few others were fulltime job instructers/line chasers.A real fun job running around the plant dragging tools,parts,air hoses and getting in peoples way.By the time the operators got some practice in we would be into model change,more options,California emision standards you name it. The folks on the line had hardly caught on to thier old job,new faces every day.Groupleaders,foreman, repairmen,maintenance,inspection we were all told the same thing DO NOT LET THAT LINE STOP don’t let them pile up in reject,ship em!

    Does it come as a suprise that build quality might of suffered?

    Now fast forward to the 2009 version.The Impala runs on the line all by itself[the LaCrosse is gone]there might be different trim levels but every car is just about identical.Laser welds,robots,auto inpection, work standards so far advanced.Its a complete different world.But above all that car has remained just about the same for nearly 10 years.The same people doing the same job over and over again.

    Take it from a guy that spent a lifetime on the plant floor,the build quality of that Impala is second to none.I don’t give a rats ass about resale value,when I’m done with it,it will be worth the price of scrap.I don’t care that its a fleet queen,that translates to cheap parts down the road.Who knows where GM will be next year or next week,for that matter.But your gonn’a see Impalas around for a long long time.

  • avatar

    Ford does does not sell the Crown Victoria retail. It has been fleet only for a few years. If you want a new panther you have to buy a Grand Marquis or a Town Car.

    You are the perfect GM customer. They need a couple hundred thousand more customers just like you. (execpt with out the certificate they gave you for a free car)

  • avatar

    Geo I think the motors come from StKitts.
    @npbheights nothing is free I had to part with my super clean Grand Am GT then the tax man wanted some.If the package hadn’t been so sweet I would have stayed,so it was a good deal for all parties concerned eh?

  • avatar

    Regarding the Impala: It had horrible ergonomics, ridiculous interior design in general, and possibly the worst automatic transmission I have had this misfortune to experience.

    In 1987 I experienced, as a rental, the automatic transmission of the then-current Nissan Sentra. I was interviewing in the SF Bay Area. On hilly freeways that POS couldn’t find a gear to save it’s life.


  • avatar

    Continuing thought…
    I was a big GM fan when I did not have to pay for them (my dad was a used car dealer who would frequent the enterprise rent a car auctions). When the time came for me to buy a car that I was paying for (dad passed away) and will have to outlast a five year note at 30,000 miles a year, I went straight to Toyota.

  • avatar

    This has been GM’s problem for 20 years. Think of Oldsmobile. GM tried to change the product to appeal to the import buyers with the Aurora, then the Alero and Intrigue. Problem was, they new cars, though much better than the old, did nothing to bring in conquest customers, and managed to alienate the traditional Olds buyers. Same has happened to Cadillac and Buick, and now Chevy. That the Impala outsells the new Malibu at retail shows that there are few conquest buyers coming in and that the traditional buyer prefer cheap space to up to date style and tech.

    Good luck GM…

  • avatar

    mikey: Geo I think the motors come from StKitts.

    The OHV 3.5 and 3.9L sixes do not come from St. Catharines, but the 5.3L V8 does. The other two are built somewhere in the continental US, though I can’t recall where.

    Remember the GM powertrain rule of thumb: if it sucks, or if it’s available in a Corvette, it wasn’t built in St. Catharines.

    Geo: I think you’re confusing this with the 3.4L in the Torrent/Equinox. That is, indeed, a Chinese-built engine, though a derivative of the, ahem, classic American 3400 V6.

  • avatar

    Regarding the Impala, let me admit that I own one. 2006 LT silver currently 53,000 miles. I don’t need a car to stroke my ego or be an extension of my being. I don’t drive like an a hole either. I need sound, reliable competent transportation to the tune of 22,000 miles per year. The Impala fits the bill tremendously. Huge trunk, good mpg (avg 24). I respect the car and rely on it. Pleased so far. No problems. One set of front tires and 1 set of cut rotors (warranty). Thats it. Knock on wood.

  • avatar

    Thanks Ed for the link to the Colbert Report. That was the funniest thing I’ve seen in at least a couple of weeks. Well worth the time.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “I can say that I would pick the Taurus as a company car over the Malibu or the Imbala hands down”

    Having put some significant seat time in both Taurus and Impala rentals I can say without a doubt that the Taurus is a much, much better vehicle than the Impala. Comfort, ride, handling, interior quality … the works. Ford kicks Chevy’s butt in this contest.

    I’ve also spent too much time riding in the back seat of an Impala. Short seat bottoms, a badly angled seat back and a short distance from the seat to the floor add up to a ride which quickly becomes uncomfortable for any distance.

  • avatar

    If my next ride didn’t need a hatch back for three dogs, I’d consider a used SS or LTZ, but only a used one. Like a previous poster said, it’s easy-to-clean and reliable. Parts are cheap. It’s bland but it’s not offensive.
    Living in gunning-for-pot-hole-capital-of-the-Us Pittsburgh, a decent sized car with cheap tires and suspension components is a plus. (My current Mini Cooper S is fun, but expensive. Don’t even ask about reliability.)
    Some of the sentiment might be nostalgia from learning to drive on my parent’s ’87 Crown Vic. Driving that car was like piloting a Winnebago with a chopped roof, but it was fun.
    The local Chevy dealer three blcoks away always has a full compliment of Impalas, and they seem to go through them. Practically all LS’s and LT’s too boot. They don’t keep as many Malibu’s in stock.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    Thanks to all for putting me straight on the Impala engines! Mikey have you ever considered writing a Book on your work experience? I think it could become a Best seller around the Auto World! and great on you becoming a “Cook” I learned to cook many years ago when I was single for a period of time, now I too am retired with a wife who is handicaped, so I still get to cook all the time, I enjoy looking at Vehicles and also these great blogs!

  • avatar

    You know, I think I have a solution that will significantly reduce the number of cars that GM sells while still maintaining its brands.

    Sell identical cars under different nameplates. Remember when Chrysler did this with the Dodge and Plymouth Neon? You’d have a Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Malibu, Buick Malibu, Saturn Malibu, Saab Malibu. There would be no difference among the Malibus, save for a different badge on the trunk to denote that it was sold at a Buick or Saab dealer.

    Think of the complexity reduction in GM’s manufacturing when they basically have to worry about making a few different models instead of the huge number (80?) of models they offer now.

    Every dealer gets a car, so they can’t sue GM. Sounds legit.

  • avatar

    PCH101: The transplants could hardly have ” pretty much invented” the mid size car segment when that was done with the 1960 Mercury Comet, the second wave Buick Special, Olds F85 and Pontiac Tempest GM triplets of 61 and the Ford Fairlane in 62.

    The domestic industry created that segment, and technically the redesigned Rambler for 1956 was the very first “mid-size”. Decades before the “transplants” even thought about it.

  • avatar

    I think a major reason more Impalas are sold are simply because the majority of the people buying them are trading from an older Impala or Caprice (maybe two trades previous), or are cross-shopping with Buick.

    Second, Impalas are cheap to buy used. If someone likes their used Impala, chances are, they’ll buy a new one later.

    Lastly, I think a lot of people who buy Impalas are looking for a full-size sedan, which means they’re looking at the Impala, Crown Vic/Grand Marquis, and Chrysler 300… but how many non-gangsters want to buy a 300?

    When I purchased my Impala, I test drove many different cars, from many different manufacturers. Hondas were about 3 years older than the Impala, the Sebring I drove sucked, and the two Malibus I drove (an 04 and an 07) were only okay – they were much smaller inside than the Impala (or seemed to be, anyway.) The fact is, I do a lot of highway driving, and not much racing or corner-carving. For the majority of people, myself included, the Impala is a good option for the majority of driving modern Canadians (and Americans) have to do.

  • avatar

    The transplants could hardly have ” pretty much invented” the mid size car segment when that was done with the 1960 Mercury Comet, the second wave Buick Special, Olds F85 and Pontiac Tempest GM triplets of 61 and the Ford Fairlane in 62.

    Not really a comparison. The concept of a four-cylinder all-purpose sedan that was sold for its own sake, and not as a cheap compromise to a “better” larger car, was created by the transplants.

    The transplants have avoided the temptation to stuff eight-cylinder engines into everything, a Detroit practice that defeats the purpose of selling a smaller car in the first place. The transplants know how to do more with less. Car buyers who aren’t Detroit fan boys appreciate that difference enough to pay for it.

  • avatar

    Another reason the Impala sells better is the relative roominess on the inside.

    Why should that be a factor? I see everybody talks about family and kids but anybody who lives here in the heart of Flyover County (and a GM sales bastion) will tell you, there’s another reason my fellow ‘Murkins want a roomier sedan:

    They’re fat.

    Fly to either coast, then fly back to someplace like St Louis. The first thing you’re struck with when you get off the plane is how FAT everybody is.

    So, what’s easier? Loosing 50-100 pounds or deciding between buying and Impala or Malibu?

  • avatar

    Pch101: The transplants have avoided the temptation to stuff eight-cylinder engines into everything, a Detroit practice that defeats the purpose of selling a smaller car in the first place.

    They did stuff V-6s in them, though, and in these cars, the V-6 is the new V-8. The difference is that one didn’t have to buy the V-6 version to get a decent, competitive vehicle. (With the Accord, for example, the four-cylinder version is probably the better all-around vehicle.)

    With the domestics, until the most recent Malibu and upcoming 2010 Fusion, it was necessary to get the V-6 version to get the best car. That was where Detroit kept shooting itself in the foot.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian :
    The OHV 3.5 and 3.9L sixes do not come from St. Catharines, but the 5.3L V8 does. The other two are built somewhere in the continental US, though I can’t recall where.

    According to GMI’s engine guide the 3.5L comes from Ramos Arizpe, Mexico or Tonawanda, New York while the 3.9L comes from Tonawanda, New York.

    If the 3.9L is anything like the old 3.8L then it should be a reliable performer with a nice torque curve, perfectly suited to the “large, cheap car”.

  • avatar

    I’m always amused at all the hate by the younger generation on cars like the Impala. They are so stuck in another world sitting behind there monitor screens texting each other, upgrading to the latest Ipod, driving there Toyotas because Consumer Reports says so, having to get the latest computer because it’s faster and constantly griping about how outdated that 2 or 3 year old car model is going to be compared to the far superior new one, or in other words the throw away generation. Then there are the folks out there that could give a rats ass what CR says about cars(that would be me)want a practical nice looking, reliable car that doesn’t require hurting your head to get into and that fits more than a few bags of grocerys. One that doesn’t cost 30-40K actual transaction price and one that doesn’t require a degree to operate. Every 2006-2009 Impala I have driven has been rock solid and rattle free, offers plenty of smooth quick performance, even with the base 211 HP 3500 V6, outstanding highway gas mileage, usually well over 30 in most cases, has never ever broke down or experienced any failures and the interiors while being a bit bland in spots were very well put together with tight fits, tight consoles and lids, smooth controls and no broken pieces anywhere. I would love to see every Prius owner say that. Most 2005-2007 Prius cars that I have seen in used cars lots have wobbly center consoles, silver paint worn off the glovebox knob, interor pieces falling apart and pretty well worn cloth seats. Also note that when comparing the Malibu to the Impala, the Malibu comes with a 169 Hp 4 cylinder std vs a 211 HP V6 for the Imapla, has less interior and trunk space, no rear seat center armrest or overhead assist handles, no dual zone climate controls, lacks the Imapalas flip and fold rear seat, costs about the same similarly equipped, lacks the V8 SS model, has much more difficult to clean cheap fake cloth seat material comapred to the Impalas far superior cloth and from the rear the Impala looks nicer than the bland looking Malibu tail. Styling is subjective and I think both cars look pretty good equipped with bodyside moldings, mud guards, rear spoiler for the Impala and that sweet red jewel tincoat paint. The Malibu does have the edge in interior styling and materials in the dash, offering a 6 speed tranny and the sweet 3.6 DOHC V6. Trouble is both Impala V6 engines outshine the Malibus one V6 in fuel economy. There now maybe some folks out there can understand why not everybody is wrapped up in current fads or whats the latest and greatest or packs the most technology or useless gadgets.

  • avatar

    I can’t comment on the Impala. But having briefly driven both the new 4 cylinder ‘Bu and Accord, I think the Malibu is a better car.

  • avatar

    I’m always amused at all the hate by the younger generation on cars like the Impala. They are so stuck in another world sitting behind there monitor screens texting each other, upgrading to the latest Ipod,

    Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!

  • avatar

    psharjinian: Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!

    For that response, psharjinian, you may just get an award for post of the week!

  • avatar
    blue 9

    “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”

    Aren’t stereotypes fun? I’ve always assumed psharjinian lives in university residence with a che guevara poster on the wall.

  • avatar

    This was fun! Next topic: A Tale of Two Caddies. Cadillac’s prehistoric K-Body DTS vs. Sigma 2.0 CTS. I vote for the DOHC V8 FWD sleeper sedan. In a class by itself. (cuz nobody dares try that combo) Everybody loves a good front wheel drive burnout. In their rental.

  • avatar

    DTS>CTS by far, ride and room beat “enthusiast performance” every day for real peoples cars

    I think people here miss the real reason why the Impala outsells the Malibu
    Dale Jr. drives one! Yahooooo! Go 88!!!

    The weird part about the interior dimensions;
    The Impala has considerably more shoulder/hip room
    The Malibu has slightly more head/leg room
    I’d rather have the width.
    It also might be that Impalas are bought by commercial buyers who don’t have the clout to go through the fleet division. Like they only buy 1 or 2 cars.
    BTW, The Toyota Avalon is competition for the Impala, though ultimately the Avalon would cost more.

  • avatar

    BTW the car at the start of the video is an Olds Cutlass not a Malibu.

  • avatar

    Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!

    The best part is i’m only 38 and can get this.

  • avatar

    ponchoman49: “I’m always amused at all the hate by the younger generation on cars like the Impala. They are so stuck in another world sitting behind there monitor screens texting each other, upgrading to the latest Ipod,…”

    The challenge to GM is to sell a car to that kid.

    By the way, I have two iPods. iPods rock.

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