By on June 16, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Fairfax, Kansas - Image: General MotorsIn September 2017, General Motors will be forced to lay off a large number of workers at its Kansas City, Kansas assembly plant where the Chevrolet Malibu is built.

Only two days ago we learned General Motors would stretch the Fairfax assembly plant’s summer shutdown by an additional three weeks — from two to five in 2017 — because of excessive Malibu inventory. But as GM seeks to maintain a more reasonable grip on incentives than in the past, the only remaining way of reducing an inventory glut is to stop building so many cars.

Unfortunately for some of GM’s Kansas employees, the announcement of a temporary shutdown — the third this year according to the Kansas City Business Journal — will be an insufficient means of reducing stock. The Kansas City Star reports the number of shifts at the plant will be reduced to two in late September.

After Chevrolet’s U.S. midsize sales rapidly elevated to a 36-year high in calendar year 2016 during the ninth-generation Malibu’s launch, volume has declined hard and fast in early 2017.

Through the first five months of 2017, Malibu sales are down 30 percent, falling nearly three times faster than the segment overall. Already this year, GM has lost more than 31,000 Malibu sales. Heading into June, Automotive News reported a 67-day supply of Malibus, down significantly from 91 days one month earlier.

“People are choosing crossovers and trucks over passenger cars,” GM spokesperson Mary Padilla told the Kansas City Star. “People are changing the kind of car they want to drive.” Indeed, passenger car market share — at 41 percent in early 2016 — is down four points to 37 percent through the first five months of 2017.2016 Chevrolet Malibu white - Image: GMMeanwhile, thanks to a 7-percent year-over-year sales jump, the U.S. SUV/crossover sector has seen its share of the overall industry’s volume rise to 41 percent from 38 percent in 2016’s first five months, essentially swapping positions with the passenger car market.

GM’s Fairfax facility was building more than just Malibus until last year. But when production of the second-generation Buick LaCrosse came to an end, the third-generation Buick LaCrosse’s production moved to Hamtramck, Michigan.

“It’s not a good place for us to be to have just the one product,” Vicky Hale, president of United Auto Workers Local 31, told the Kansas City Star. “Most plants have two or three products.”

Of all the locations in which General Motors builds vehicles in North America, only Bowling Green, Kentucky (Corvette); Lordstown, Ohio (Cruze); and the Malibu’s Kansas City factory serve a single nameplate.

[Images: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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26 Comments on “Temporary Shutdowns Insufficient; GM Eliminates Shift at Chevrolet Malibu’s Kansas Assembly Plant...”

  • avatar

    I was going to make a flippant remark that they could sell these if they cut the price, but I don’t know if that is true.

    Checking the local dealership, the only acceptable model with the 2.0L turbo engine (because a Malibu is only cheap fun if it has a peppy engine, otherwise it is a dog that encourages you to ponder suicide every morning on your commute) is the Premier, and they are offering them $8k below sticker.

    I suppose the real answer is – maybe cut to $16k below sticker.

    The Accord has a smallest engine of 2.4L in base trim – I still wouldn’t trust a GM 1.5L engine that has to rev pretty high to reach its 163 hp to motivate a 3100 lb car.

  • avatar

    There’s unfortunately just not enough stand out features or performance or value in the Malibu that make it a compelling buy in the marketplace. My rental LT 1.5 was adequate but no more, with a few small ergonomic and interior quirks that were offputting. Any number of other midsizer rentals were just a bit better in most respects (fuel economy, power, features). If I could get a lightly used one for a cut race price to simple use as a disposable commuter, it’d be a decent choice (again, assuming it beat other options on price).

  • avatar

    What happened to all the crap GM was saying about having just enough inventory to get through the “retooling” of plants for all-new models?

    Now they have a choice of drastic rebates or shipping the “unsolds” back to their assembly plants (including Mexico). Which do you think will happen??

  • avatar

    Well, GM only has $1500 cash on the hood of the ‘bu last I looked (a few days ago).

    Sonata has $6000 on the hood.
    Fusion has $5650 on the hood in a TV ad I saw last night (Ford ad, not dealer ad)
    Camry has $2750 on the hood

    I can lease an Accord for $189 a month and $2700 down according to the Honda site.

    A stripper ‘bu is $209 a month and $3100 down.

    I’d rather see GM not play the incentive game, sell less, and make more profit, than go to unnatural acts like Ford and Hyundai have. If you said 2 years ago that Toyota would have to put $3K on the hood from the factory to move Camry, you’d been called a nut.

  • avatar

    My experience with a 2015 Malibu rental left a negative impression—terrible visibility, mushy handling (on the plus side very quiet)—such that I would never give the new generation of Malibu a shot.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a 2016 that was a rental fleet special (old platform like your 2015) and it was – AWFUL. Just awful. I was so thrilled and it ate a tire and I got to swap it out.


  • avatar

    The whole segment is down. Business is business sometimes, and GM is doing the right thing, this time.

  • avatar

    This is making Sergio’s previously much criticised decision to prematurely pull the plug on the Chrysler 200/Dodge Dart look rather smart in hindsight.

    • 0 avatar

      He built the Dart only to fulfill the purchase of Chrysler, but he put a lot of money into the new 200, and pulled the plug before he could recoup the investment. That’s poor planning, and you have to call it poor design work since it didn’t sell.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, but the 200 was sadly something which could have been done well. 28 would have spun up two models, a 200 Coupe/CONV only and an LWB Avenger FWD only in between 200 and a CUV in terms of height with *no* trans hump and a huge backseat (rear carseat size). Something akin to when you’ve seen an LWB XJ8 or 750 with that much longer rear door. I’m not sure if the platform would have allowed for the latter though.

    • 0 avatar

      The 200 had a much better interior than the Malibu.

      Sergio and Bara will be remembered as two failed CEO’s. At this point their reputation cannot be repaired. In this respect they are in the same position as NJ governor Chris Christie. Matter what they do from now on they will still be considered a failure.

      What a disgrace!!!!!

  • avatar

    GM needs to learn how to make interiors. Because of interior design and quality I did not even consider Malibu so have no idea how it drives. But exterior looks nice better than Camry, Huinday and Altima combined.

    • 0 avatar

      GM knew how to make interiors, but the price of quality vinyl and crushed velour got out of hand. Seriously, it’s all about molded plastic at a low price, with speed of assembly dictating design. In the past the beancounters cut stuff like engine mounts (GM), or paper gaskets (Chrysler), but now it’s obvious where they’re cutting expense.

      • 0 avatar

        Phenomena is well described in “Car” by Mary Walton how Dick Landgraff tries to cut price on interior parts by replacing plastic parts by lower grade ones. Ironically it was Toyota who after overengineered ’92 Camry introduced cutrate Camry so overpriced Taurus did not sell. After that Ford started cutting price on Taurus turning it into rental grade vehicle. But GMs interior quality of the period was simply horrible. I was shocked when came to US in 2000 – there was nothing like that in European market.

  • avatar

    It is only a matter of time until Bara loses her job. How much more of a decline do we have to accept from GM. To her it is profits over everything else. Wait until Ford beat GM in marketshare again in the coming months.

  • avatar

    Read this old Truth about Cars article about GM interior woes. This eight year old article is still somewhat relevant today.

    • 0 avatar

      It is a BS. I do not believe for a second that GM exec had no idea about what kind of crap their company makes. It was a business decision, you have to make compromise to keep plants running. GM and other union shops were in deep disadvantage and only resolution for that was to declare bankruptcy what eventually happened. Ford simply had more organic relationship with unions to resolve problem by peaceful means after things get scary enough.

  • avatar

    once more the marketing kills a car.

    • 0 avatar

      The “real people” ads are horrible. They do make for some fun spoofs though:

      But I’d say it has more to do with the Malibu being “okay” in terms of features and performance (and in my experience a bit of a laggard in fuel economy) in a field of cars with stronger reputations for resale and reliability.

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