When Chevrolet debuted the redesigned 2013 Malibu mid-year in 2012, it wasn’t quite the home run that General Motors hopefuls has wished. Sure, it was competitive, but Chevrolet needed something stronger. Chevrolet ushered a refresh for 2014 that addressed some of the criticisms (especially the interior), but being simply “a fine sedan” is not enough in the segment. Hence, it is no surprise that Chevrolet is trying to bring a revamped Malibu to the public a year from now.
“We’ve got our act together here on the midsize-car segment,” GM’s product development chief Mark Reuss told Automotive News in October. Showing an image of the next-gen Malibu, Reuss pointed out the “groundbreaking design but also groundbreaking technology. When is the last time you saw a [midsize] car this distinctive and this dramatic from General Motors?”
Most recently, GM global design chief Ed Welburn has spoken about the upcoming mid-size sedan, stating earlier this month that the new-gen Malibu’s design will “make a significant statement” with “a very passionate design.”
One of the important aspects of the segment is that Chevrolet needs a bridge between its small and large sedans, the Cruze and Impala, respectively. When a Cruze (or even a Sonic) owner is ready to move up to a bigger vehicle, Chevrolet wants to keep owners within the brand’s fold. For that to happen, Chevrolet needs a standout 2016 Malibu.
Yet for all its inherent goodness, the Malibu’s launch didn’t help things either, as Chevrolet initially offered the mild-hybrid Eco in recession-era 2012, while the volume-focused 2.5L four-cylinder debuted six months later. AN says the “staggered launch confused customers and stalled momentum.” Even GM has hinted at the misstep, with then-CEO Dan Akerson saying, “I don’t know if I want to wash my laundry in public.”
But dealers are still relatively upbeat for the current version despite the fact that sales are down. “It’s a great car. We see a lot of Chevy-loyal people buying it,” said the general manager of Minnesotta-based Rosedale Chevrolet, Jeff Krapu, in the AN report. “But we don’t really get people coming from competitor brands. I wish we did.”