NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

GM clings to its one - and newly rediscovered - salvation.

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GM clings to its one - and newly rediscovered - salvation.

Detroit. Unless you've been living in a cave for a while, by now you've heard about the new Chevrolet Malibu. The new mid-size Chevrolet that finally - according to advance hype - finally has the stones to meet the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord head-on, the Malibu is not just another new car from General Motors - no, it's easily the most significant mainstream American car of the last 25 years. That's a lot to put on any one vehicle, but that's how GM has set the table for the Malibu in the market, with the public and with the circling sharks in the media. Given that weighty entrance, can any car live up to that double-barreled burden of promise and hype?

After experiencing the new Malibu, I can say unequivocally, "Yes."

But before I get into the Malibu, let's go back to when GM's comeback actually started. Seven years ago, when CEO Rick Wagoner had the novel idea that 1. GM couldn't be saved by accounting wizardry alone (a realization that has since been proven to be more obvious and ominous than even he realized at the time) and that 2. He should entrust the corporation's future product development offensive - and future of the company, period, to the King of the Car Guys, Bob Lutz, little did he know that it would turn out the way it has.

For a classically-trained finance guy like Wagoner, his admission that the number crunchers couldn't lead GM out of the wilderness alone was eye-opening. And that, at the end of the day, his stark realization that the only thing that could possibly save GM was great product was a seismic shift for a corporation that had been mired in bureaucratic mediocrity and held hostage by misguided marketers for years.

A hint of what could happen because of a singularly-focused product vision was already beginning to take shape at Cadillac, but Wagoner knew that the entire corporation needed a much-deserved kick in the ass.

And now, even the most casual observers can see the Lutzian product transformation that has kick-started GM. We are now experiencing a GM the likes of which hasn't been seen since the company's glorious heyday, from the mid-50s to the early 70s. It's not just an occasional product hit here and there coming from GM, either - no, every new vehicle from GM seems to bristle with a newly found swagger and competitive feistiness.

When Bob Lutz arrived at GM, it was an organization literally and figuratively on the ropes. The once-vaunted Design Staff was a mere shadow of itself. And the product development function - the behind-the-curtain aspect of the business that few outsiders understand but that truly determines the fate of a car company - was out of sync and at odds with itself. With any car company, Lutz would have been facing a daunting challenge, but with GM's notoriously entrenched bureaucracy and vacuous "go along to get along" culture, the odds for success were stacked high against him.

Fortunately for Lutz, he combined his carte blanche marching orders with an uncanny ability to focus on the things that would deliver the most results quickly, as well as the fundamental structural improvements to the organization that would pay dividends for years to come. And his ability to inspire the True Believers at GM, the men and women who were toiling away in an almost forced anonymity - due to the reign of terror brought on by the Smale/Zarella "marketing by winging it" years - and who were hanging on to a shred of hope that somehow, some way this company would finally "get it" has paid off handsomely.

Today's GM is now such a dramatically different company that for someone like myself - who was the company's harshest critic by far in the formative years of this publication and who still doesn't hesitate to point out any pockets of festering stupidity threatening to rear its ugly head and derail the progress of the company - it's almost hard to believe.

But after 25 years of wandering around wondering what the question was, GM is providing convincing evidence that in fact they finally do get it and that they not only understand the question, they're delivering outstanding answers like the sensational second-generation Cadillac CTS, desirable full-size crossovers like the Buick Enclave, a resurrected Saturn, which is finally bringing some of GM's global reach to American consumers in the form of a distinctive (and long overdue) product array, the heavily credentialed, world-class Corvette and now their latest entry into the market, the new Malibu.

I was fortunate to get into a standard Malibu recently, because I wanted to experience the car without all of the extra curricular add-ons that come with the higher level models. And frankly the car was a revelation. I kept looking for fault and was hard-pressed to find one (okay, the steering is a little vague "on-center" but it seems to be only slightly off so I would assume it could be addressed quickly). The crisp body panel fits (a favorite Lutz point of pride with the "new" GM) were noticeable, the interior fit and finish was polished and tasteful, and the handsome and attractive exterior design and overall detailing suggest a much more substantial car in terms of price and one that has real presence on the road. Combine that with decent performance and excellent fuel economy from its standard 4-cylinder engine, and I found the new Malibu to be exemplary in every respect.

The Malibu is the first mainstream American car in 25 years that needs no "buts..." or "almost as good as..." disclaimers of any kind, and it's more than a worthy competitor to the Camry and the Accord. In fact, after driving the three entries I consider it to be the best mid-size car on the market right now.

I don't care for some of the advertising (the Internet ads are excellent, but the launch TV not so much), but other than that, I consider the Malibu to be a grand slam home run - the kind that GM has so desperately needed for so long - in the mainstream passenger car market.

The rest here at link:

http://www.autoextremist.com/index.shtml

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For a classically-trained finance guy like Wagoner, his admission that the number crunchers couldn't lead GM out of the wilderness alone was eye-opening.

No, no, no... Dead wrong All finance people suck, destroy car companies, and should be shot...

Now......... where's a 'sarcasm' smiley for me? :P

Edited by ZL-1
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>>"...it's easily the most significant mainstream American car of the last 25 years. That's a lot to put on any one vehicle..."<<

God, I've been reading this proclamation seemingly for decades now,... yet never have I ever read it in a GM press release. Illustrates pointedly the perception gap between the Corporation and the 'all-knowning' "journalist".

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GM is alot more than JUST the upcoming new Malibu.

Seems to me the press is TRYING to set the car up to be a disappointment in ways.

:scratchchin:

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No, no, no... Dead wrong All finance people suck, destroy car companies, and should be shot...

Now......... where's a 'sarcasm' smiley for me? :P

Agreed, it was another finance guy (Roger B. Smith) that gave GM the reputation of poor quality, all to save a penny per car! Finance guys should never be in charge of a car company. Roger's creed, "make it cheaper, make it common", which meant, use the cheaper part instead of the quality part and make that part as common as you can thoughout all platforms. :nono:

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>>"...it's easily the most significant mainstream American car of the last 25 years. That's a lot to put on any one vehicle..."<<

God, I've been reading this proclamation seemingly for decades now,... yet never have I ever read it in a GM press release. Illustrates pointedly the perception gap between the Corporation and the 'all-knowning' "journalist".

Yup.... remmeber the '97 Malibu? (MT Car of the Year, BTW)

and then the '03 Malibu?

not to mention the Contour/Mystique which failed miserably like Kosher Bacon.

...how about the Mopar cloud cars?

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Agreed, it was another finance guy (Roger B. Smith) that gave GM the reputation of poor quality, all to save a penny per car! Finance guys should never be in charge of a car company. Roger's creed, "make it cheaper, make it common", which meant, use the cheaper part instead of the quality part and make that part as common as you can thoughout all platforms. :nono:

I think that's something Rick Wagoner got right: bringing in Bob Lutz as a way to giving the engineering and product development people the front seat, even when there's a Finance guy as CEO.
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It takes two to tango or run a auto company anymore.

Rick was smart enough and willing enough to admit he could not do it all himself unlike Roger and some others.

Like Fred and Ginger or Cheech and Chong and Abbot and Costello, Rick and Bob are good partners as one could not do this with out the other.

I just hope they plan for those to come after them to work in the same fashion and let those who know product to plan product and let those who can figure out how to pay for it crunch the numbers.

If you look at the auto industry history there have been few who could do it all themselves.

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Say what you will about the 1997 Malibu but it was a huge improvment over the car it was meant to replace. The Chevrolet Corsica. The 2004 model was an improvment over the 1997-2003 models.

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Say what you will about the 1997 Malibu but it was a huge improvment over the car it was meant to replace. The Chevrolet Corsica. The 2004 model was an improvment over the 1997-2003 models.

Oh hell yes it was, however on a trip a few years ago to the People's Republic of China, I saw a red Corsica driving around it had an engine that used leaded gas and the radio had been deleted in the original order.

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The new Malibu should help change the face of Chevy. Toyota should be very scared!

I seriously doubt Toyota is scared. They're trained to be paranoid... which is a good thing... but not scared. One good product does not an empire conquer. GM needs to make every product they release be the say quality and caliber as the Malibu, CTS and Enclave products. Only through consistent quality product delivery can they hope to beat Toyota at their own game.

The *other* thing they need to do is GET RID OF THAT 2ND RATE MARKETING ORGANIZATION! Those people couldn't sell a float to a drowning man!

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The cost cutting GM did in the 80s, seems to be what toyota is doing today.

Edited by Dsuupr
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