Motors is feeling pretty good about Chevrolet these
days, and not without reason. Not everythingís rosy,
brandís sales are up more than 6 percent this year. It
has a strong line of crossovers and traditional SUVs.
The new Silverado pickup that goes on sale shortly
promises better fuel economy and capability. Enthusiasts
are revved about its performance line, which includes
the upcoming 2014 Corvette, Camaro Z28 and SS sport
sedan. The Cruze compact, Sonic subcompact and Spark
minicar comprise by far the strongest small-car lineup
GMís biggest brand has ever offered.
that good news, thereís a new problem in an old
familiar sore spot: midsize cars.
Malibu, the midsize sedan that was a beacon of hope in
GMís darkest days, has gone adrift like a Carnival
last-generation Malibu, which debuted as a 2008 model,
was a triumph. It put Chevy back on a lot of shopping
lists with its value, looks, fuel economy and comfort.
It beat the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord to win North
American Car of the Year. The Malibu provided evidence
that GM could build great, affordable family cars.
new 2013 Malibu that went on sale a year ago has fallen
flat. Itís a nonfactor in arguably the most
competitive passenger car segment. The Ford Fusion and
Nissan Altima eclipsed the Malibu with surprising style
and fuel economy, respectively. The new Accord restored
Hondaís status as a leader.
sales are 12 percent below last yearís levels, despite
what Edmunds.com says are the highest incentives on any
midsize sedan. Overall U.S. vehicle sales are up nearly
7 percent. The Fusion is 25 percent ahead of last yearís
pace, the Accord, 26 percent. The Altima is down 3.2
percent, proving that Chevrolet isnít the only one
Malibu takes longer to sell than its competitors.
Malibus averaged 107 days on the dealership lot in
March, Edmunds said. The next-slowest turning midsize
sedan is the Volkswagen Passat at 57 days. VW just
dropped a shift at the Chattanooga, Tenn., plant that
builds the Passat.
spent a lot of money advertising the 2008 Malibu,"
said Edmunds senior analyst Michelle Krebs. "They
called it Ďthe car you canít ignore.í They didnít
advertise the new Malibu, and people are ignoring it.
The (Toyota) Camry and Accord are the best-selling cars
in America. That should be a Chevrolet."
surprised by the Malibuís struggles. Iíve tested
every version of the car, and I think itís at least as
good overall as the Fusion, Accord and Camry, and more
than a match for midsize sedans like the Hyundai Sonata,
Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat.
enough buyers are convinced of that.
suspect the problem, in addition to the lack of
advertising, is that the 2013 Malibu lacks any single,
outstanding characteristic that shoppers simply canít
ignore. The Fusion has drop-dead looks. The Altima
boasts a 38-mpg EPA highway rating. The Accord has a
nonpareil reputation and resale value.
is the Malibuís bragging point?
hopes to recapture the publicís attention with a 2014
Malibu, scheduled to reach showrooms this summer. Expect
minor changes to the exterior styling, improved interior
materials and some tweaks to rear passenger room. Itís
hard to make a first impression with an 18-month-old
car, but Honda performed successful surgery on the
see if Chevy can get the Malibu shipshape again.