By on July 8, 2012

After a look at those (surprisingly few) models that sold over a million annual units, after traveling 20 years back to the year of the Taurus and the much-anticipated May World Roundup, today we’re going back to basics and put the spotlight on the good old US market.

Bored with home? That’s ok, because you can check out the best-selling cars in 167 additional countries and territories on my blog. They’re all there and they’re waiting for you so click away!

Back to the US.

In June the Chevrolet Malibu sold 31,402 units, the nameplate’s highest monthly volume in… 32 years!

2012 and 1980 Chevy Malibu. Spot the differences…

While General Motors delivers its highest monthly volume since September 2008 with 248,750 sales, the Malibu was up 32 percent year-on-year and indeed passed the 30,000 units mark, just 705 units short of becoming the country’s best-selling passenger car: the Toyota Camry kept that title in third place overall with 32,107 units.

Now I don’t have monthly figures going back that far but the last time the Chevrolet Malibu was at comparable levels it was in 1979-1980. Back then, the Malibu finished 1979 with 344,233 sales making it 4th overall behind the Chevy Impala/Caprice, the Oldsmobile Cutlass and the Chevy Chevette. In 1980 with 267,732 units, the Malibu was #4 again behind the Chevrolet Citation, Chevrolet Chevette and Ford Fairmont.

The Malibu must have sold over 30,000 monthly units at some stage during those 2 years, before falling below 250,000 annual sales ever since and never getting another chance at tickling these sales levels… until today.

So is the Malibu nameplate reborn?

Is this just a peak due to a one-off order from rental car companies? An exceptionally strong month for fleets?

Are Americans ready to buy American sedans again?

Yes that old chestnut… but really, what do you think?

Does the Chevrolet Malibu deserve to be the best-selling passenger car in its native country?

There. I have asked the Big Question.

I need your point of view dear readers, so take it away!

USA June 2012 Top 10 best-selling models:

Pos Model June /11 May 2012 /11 Pos 2011
1 Ford F-Series 55,025 11% 1 301,141 14% 1 1
2 Chevrolet Silverado 33,566 3% 3 194,508 6% 3 2
3 Toyota Camry 32,107 50% 2 213,903 45% 2 3
4 Chevrolet Malibu 31,402 32% 7 141,437 15% 9 14
5 Honda Accord 28,924 84% 6 155,178 22% 6 9
6 Ford Escape 28,500 28% 12 127,167 4% 13 5
7 Honda Civic 27,500 57% 4 162,582 27% 4 12
8 Toyota Corolla 26,647 41% 5 151,726 11% 7 8
9 Ford Fusion 24,433 17% 8 136,849 4% 11 6
10 Dodge Ram 23,951 12% 9 138,851 24% 10 7

You can see the US June 2012 Top 30 here

You can check out the US Full Year 1979 Top 10 here

You can check out the US Full Year 1980 Too 10 here 

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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20 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Is the Malibu Nameplate Reborn?...”

  • avatar

    $3000 rebate or 0% helps. At a price, apparently Malibu is a better value than Cruze or Impala.
    Perhaps the real story is GM’s insistence on too many brands and models, one stealing sales from the other, at any given period in time. Make too many, and heck, ONE has to be a hit (in its last year of production).

    • 0 avatar

      Too many brands? Models? Are you kidding? They dropped Saturn, Pontiac, Hummer, Saab and (a few years back) Oldsmobile. All they have left is Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC.
      What’s the going guesstimate for market share loss GM sustained from the cancelled brands? Maybe 3-5% in the U.S. Likely higher in Canada where Pontiacs outsold Chevrolet routinely. Could that be why GM Canada is in free-fall? (Ford and now Chrysler is outselling GM this year.)
      Rather than blaming GM for having too many models (again), perhaps the real issue is there are too many makes/models in North America at this time. The last real shake out was in 1955, and the marquees that were available then in North America were a lot less than what is available now.
      When I was in the ‘biz, I saw the shell shocked looks on people’s faces as they made the Saturday rounds, test driving all the vehicles on their list.

      1965: mid-size cars. AMC Rambler, Buick Special,Buick Wildcat, Chevelle Malibu, Dodge Coronet, Ford Fairlane, Olds Cutlass, Plymouth Belvedere, Pontiac Tempest. That is 9 mid-size cars available in the U.S. in 1965, from 4 different manufacturers. All domestic.
      Today? The mid-size market is so splintered, I’ll bet the product planners can’t keep them straight! Looking at the posted Top 30 list, I count 9 mid-size vehicles (not including CUVs!!) just from the Top 30: Camry, Malibu, Accord, Fusion, Altima, Sonata, Elantra (borderline), Optima, Jetta. Nine.
      By rolling BMW, Audi, Mazda and others, I am sure we’d hit 14 or 15 mid-size sedans only in this market.
      GM has 3 mid-size vehicles in the market now: a Chevy, a Buick and a Cadillac. Hardly competing with each other.

      There is a critical mass, below which if an auto manufacturer falls below they will likely never recover. This critical mass consists of enough models to satisfy the majority of customers who walk through the show room door. At GM, we never had that problem. If you went into a Honda store and hated the Accord – sorry, get out. Over at our store, we could have shown the Malibu, Intrigue, Impala and even the Epica for a short time. Salespeople are always clamoring for newer models, more models.
      The market has fragmented to the point where the average consumer is overwhelmed and is tuning out. North America’s market was nearly 20 Million just a few years ago. That made us a big target for every multinational out there. The Auto Pact guaranteed Canada’s participation; NAFTA destroyed that.
      There needs to be a flurry of mergers and buyouts, frankly. We don’t need 15 or 18 mid-sized cars in a market that is still in turmoil.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like you have complete and utter faith in the recently-bankrupt GM, and they are beyond scrutiny. From GM has: 13 sedans, 9 sport/convertible, 6 coupes, 3 hatchback/wagons, 7 crossovers, 20 SUVs, 14 pickup trucks, 3 vans, 6 hybrid/electrics. That’s for a 19% U.S. market share. But wait, it gets worse; 25-30% of that 19% amount sold to fleet and employees. So… that’s not too many? John Rock was the head of Oldsmobile, and after being forced to ‘run the corporate plan,’ he conceded to a journalist: “This isn’t going to work, and it will take them ten years to find out.”

      • 0 avatar

        On one hand, I”m not really sure that your argument is. It almost seems like you’re extremely pro domestic and want to return to the ways of a long forgotten auto industry. But maybe not.

        I agree that sales will be sales and continually demand new product. However, listening to the sales department is not the way to develop product in ANY industry. The industry itself probably has too many vehicles that would compete in the “mid-size” market. I don’t think it has anything to do with the number of automakers per se, but that it seems like everyone is attempting to jump on the same piece of pie. Small cars get bigger to appeal to someone who wants mid-size without the price. CUVs are marketed at mid-size buyers who long for the SUV they can’t afford.

        I would love to see a clearer line drawn between the small and mid-size cars. GM’s not the only one guilty of this (and GM is very guilty). Nissan is increasing the size of the Sentra and Versa, and seems to have a never ending onslaught of CUVs. I’ve lost count of the number of cars Chrysler has in this area. All of them I think.

        The fragmentation in the industry has always bugged me. Smaller automakers that don’t have the capacity to run any combination of 4 wheels, doors and mid-size practicality up a flag pole to see who salutes are forced to produce focused products – Mazda and Subaru being examples. I understand what the larger automakers are doing – keep the customer in their showroom and not someone else’s. I just can’t help but think that if each automaker built their best small car, and best mid-size car, the threat of competition would encourage investment in that one platform in an attempt to make it the best version in the market.

        Within GM, the Cruze is great competition for the Malibu. If not for incentives, there’s no reason to buy a Malibu over a Cruze. There’s nothing wrong with the Malibu. I had one as a rental last summer and it was fine. It may even be less boring than anything that Toyota has (I selected it over a Camry). This is a problem IMO. In my mind, only one of the Malibu and Cruze needs to exist with the full size Impala. Put a Malibu nameplate on a Cruze and you’re done (afterall, the Malibu is a better name, and Cruze the better car).

        I guess that was slightly off topic.

      • 0 avatar

        The Invicta/Wildcat was, in fact, a full-size. Perhaps you’re thinking of the Skylark?

        To an extent, this exercise proves the point of model proliferation in a nutshell.

  • avatar

    The 2013 Malibu is still only available in the compromised eco-model version. And very few are seen out on the streets here…in comparison, the new Camry is everywhere. Plus, GM reported large fleet sales for the month of June, so it’s a pretty easy guess to say they just dumped a boatload of 2012’s onto the rental fleets. Probably only a few thousand actual sales of the 2013 to retail customers, given lack of choice and availability.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, Chevy sold 18,983 Cruzes (down 24%, down 7% on the year) and a whopping 17,274 Impalas (up 6%, down 5% on the year). Smells like a mix of high incentives and fleet dumping. The Cruze probably got lower incentives because it has been selling well, thus it was the big loser during the fire sale.

    I’ve always been stunned that the superior Malibu only barely beats out the junky, fleet-queen Impala in sales. With a decent Impala finally coming, and the new Malibu being four-cylinder only, GM seems to have finally rationalized that part of the lineup. However, the Malibu and Cruze will continue to cannibalize each other.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Impala comes with that nice V6 and has more room, but that’s about it. The interior is dated, but I suspect will hold up better than the Malibu’s silver-painted bits.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. The more room would be a big reason, IMO. I went by a house yesterday that had 3 current gen Impalas in their driveway. One was a 2012, but the others probably had the 3.5 as they were single exhaust. For some people, space is the most important part. They don’t care if it’s the newest design out there.

      • 0 avatar

        Until this year, the Impala came with a terrible V6, made even more terrible by a four speed automatic; The Malibu’s had the 3.6/6-speed since ’08.

        The Impala has about four more inches of hip/shoulder room, which is largely academic unless you regularly carry 5 people around. Otherwise, the interior dimensions are basically identical.

        Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if scumbag dealers weren’t upselling unwitting Malibu customers to Impalas with vague claims about it being bigger and more powerful.

        I had an Impala rental with the 3.5 last week and it exceeded my expectations – It was an even bigger pile of garbage than I imagined. I’ve never driven a Malibu, but it seems infinitely more desirable.

      • 0 avatar

        Have you guys ever sat in an Impala? The Malibu has long been derided as too narrow, which is true, and the Impala is wider. That’s where the room comes into play. And the trunk is bigger in the Impala. But try to move the Impala’s seat to make yourself comfortable and then sit in the back seat if you’re over 5’10”. In my experience, not possible. I’m 6’3″ and absolutely cannot do it, but I could even in the old, boxy, SWB Epsilon I Malibu (’04-07). The W-Body is simply outclassed in packaging by newer designs, even from within GM.

        Yeah, you can carry three people in the back seat of an Impala, assuming they’re 5’5″, have no legs, and 3′ of them are torso.

    • 0 avatar

      I do not believe that the Malibu is gobbling up cruze sales it is the Sonic that has made a big impact on chevy

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Low entry price and the knowledge it will run until it’s a hooptie? Lots of GM products end up as hoopties, still running with probably little or no maintenance. Not that exciting, fairly reliable, and driven until it dies. Makes sense to me.

    • 0 avatar

      So the old “GM cars run bad longer than most cars run at all” adage is the best argument for purchasing these things? That’s pretty sad.

      It’s funny, too. I hear the GM fans regularly scoff at Toyotas and the boring, tasteless sheep that buy them. But selling bland Malibus and ancient Impalas to the lowest common denominator? Apparently that’s virtuous.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh but they can be exciting. You never know what will go wrong, and when it’ll go wrong! Keeps you on the edge of your seat… ;)
        Says the guy with the 05 Impala LS with 92k on it.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        The Malibu and Impalas are med-size price family sedans. Many people buy cars like these and then pass them on to their children. The GM/Toyota/Honda/Ford/WTFE family sedan is usually bought with a 10-12 year life expectancy in mind. This is a market segment that is extremely sensitive to pricing. The mid-price, mid-size family sedan market is a mean, nasty, and brutal market.
        As for the adage itself, GM should be damn proud to have their quality comparable to the Japanese. I went from a Vega to a Pinto to a Prelude. Guess which one I wish I had back. I think the Japanese and the Germans have slipped with their quality and US automakers have improved theirs so the playing fields are about even.
        Personally, I don’t want a family sedan; I drive a small SUV. I’m filled with anger and sadness GM is down to 2 1/2 brands and 1 car: Cadillac, Silverado/GMC and the Corvette.
        Here’s my personal complaint about GM: I’m 5’9 with stubby legs. A lot and I mean a lot of GM products don’t “fit” me; seat bottoms that are too long, have to raise the seat up high enough to dunk a basketball etc.
        On a lighter note; my cousin is married to a guy who used to own Buick-Olds-Pontiac dealership. Selling four door family sedans kept the dealership steadily profitable.

  • avatar

    1978-83 Malibus were a hit, since they were ‘smaller’ yet not ‘too small’ for former Land Yacht owners. Many 71-76 Impalas got traded in for Malibus during the 79-81 Gas Crisis.

    The g bodies were GM doing what it did best.

    And, Malibu was a trim level for 1964-77. I’ve seen articles and blogs referring to the classic 64-72 Chevelles as if “they were all Malibus”, not true!

    And regarding today’s Chevy sales, one could get a Malibu for same out the door price as a Cruze with the $3000 rebates. Chevy is clearing out the “old” ones. I’m sure there will be huge rebates for the 2013 “last of the W’s” Impala next year.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    my uncle had a 78, it was simple, ultra-reliable transportation, and RWD folks, everything went down the drain with the god awful FWD configuration.

  • avatar

    Back to the original question…
    Does the Chevrolet Malibu deserve to be the best-selling passenger car in its native country? 2012 Malibus in this area are 3-8k discounted, increasing sales.
    The 2013 Fusion should be the one. New design and engines will win.

    • 0 avatar

      How many of these are the new Epsilon II 2013 Malibu (as mentioned above only available in Eco trim now), and how many are the old Epsilon I 2012 Malibu-soon-to-be-Malibu-Classic fleet-centric model? I can’t imagine there are many non-fleet consumers clamoring for the older bodystyle, unless GM is offering very deep discounts. Of course, the new one won’t be available with a V6, so the old body is the only way to get a Malibu V6. Too bad it’s the old non-DI 3.6. Again, I can’t believe there are many of those being sold.

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