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GM exec: Chevrolet Malibu is a great car but sales disappoint

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GM exec: Chevrolet Malibu is a great car but sales disappoint

When the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu went on sale a couple of years ago, General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz couldn't have been prouder. This was a breakthrough car to him -- yet today he says he's disappointed with its flagging sales.

Malibu was a car that was supposed to matter:

Lutz would walk reporters, dignitaries and just about anyone else around the car to point out how GM had figured out the hard details of tight fits on body panels and class-leading interiors. When it was first introduced, the Malibu sold much better than the outgoing model.

Yet GM's top family sedan, the Malibu, finished 11th among top-selling vehicles last year, according to Autodata. It was behind a lot of its major competition, including Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion.

Lutz doesn't think the problem is with the car. Rather, it's with the marketing. The Malibu was introduced to lots of fanfare, then largely ignored in GM's marketing plan as it moved to other products and began its financial free fall. "It was fire and forget," Lutz says of the marketing. GM North America chief Mark Reuss says plans are being changed to keep supporting vehicles after their launch.

link:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/02/malibu/1

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The Malibu was introduced to lots of fanfare, then largely ignored in GM's marketing plan as it moved to other products and began its financial free fall. "It was fire and forget," Lutz says of the marketing.

Step 1. Admit that you have a problem.

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Every GM car of the past 20 years was "fire and forget" marketing. The Silverado is the only thing they actually advertise throughout its life cycle. This was a huge problem, which hopefully will be corrected with having fewer brands.

Malibu has other issues besides marketing. It is the heaviest car in the class, has the worst turning circle, has less interior room than others in the class, doesn't have rear armrest, AWD or a Nav Screen, doesn't have a hybrid model. The engines are weakest too, the Malibu gives up 10-20 hp to most competitors. Overall, it is just an average entrant into that class, and Chevy/GM's brand image is not so great right now. Other brands have better cars, or equally good cars with a better brand image.

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Every GM car of the past 20 years was "fire and forget" marketing.

:yes:

The question I was going to as you guys in the US was exactly that: how many consistent marketing efforts from GM have you seen after the 1st year on the market? Once the 1st or 2nd model year novelty effect wears off, USD must be pumped into marketing to keep a car visible to the consumer.

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Every GM car of the past 20 years was "fire and forget" marketing. The Silverado is the only thing they actually advertise throughout its life cycle. This was a huge problem, which hopefully will be corrected with having fewer brands.

Malibu has other issues besides marketing. It is the heaviest car in the class, has the worst turning circle, has less interior room than others in the class, doesn't have rear armrest, AWD or a Nav Screen, doesn't have a hybrid model. The engines are weakest too, the Malibu gives up 10-20 hp to most competitors. Overall, it is just an average entrant into that class, and Chevy/GM's brand image is not so great right now. Other brands have better cars, or equally good cars with a better brand image.

+2. As far as family sedans go, GM's pattern has been to put out a car that competes with (but doesn't beat) everyone else, and then let it rot. Kinda funny considering Chrysler has never stopped advertising the Charger and 300, cars that are three years older.

LOL, I can remember a time that I would get into debates with people who saw nav screens as useless (and, as one poster put it, for "poseurs") and that Onstar was far superior. While I can't speak on the effectiveness of Turn-By-Turn, I do know that once they started putting such systems in Corollas and Mazda3s, GM's interior appointments would quickly pale in comparison. And to quote VW, "it's what the people want!"

I guess we have the next one to look forward to, but that's still two or three model years out.

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Every GM car of the past 20 years was "fire and forget" marketing. The Silverado is the only thing they actually advertise throughout its life cycle. This was a huge problem, which hopefully will be corrected with having fewer brands.

Malibu has other issues besides marketing. It is the heaviest car in the class, has the worst turning circle, has less interior room than others in the class, doesn't have rear armrest, AWD or a Nav Screen, doesn't have a hybrid model. The engines are weakest too, the Malibu gives up 10-20 hp to most competitors. Overall, it is just an average entrant into that class, and Chevy/GM's brand image is not so great right now. Other brands have better cars, or equally good cars with a better brand image.

plain and simple, the interior, while having a great design theme, the plastics, cloths and leathers and amenities are not up to par. Just look at the door panel, or the burlap quality of the seats. No NAV, no armrest in back. Actually too, the low slung driving position and slightly scrunched cabin do not help either.

Trunk could be more useful and larger.

Until the new Sonata hit this month, Bu was ok on powertrains. Exterior styling aside from looking too narrow is ok and quite good, but GM puts cheap looking wheel covers and miserable looking chrome on too many of the wheels. Electronic amenities are either missing or require option packages which boost the price up too much.

An interior fix / complete new interior, hp upgrades on the four, and making more standard features and available tech would help the car a lot. Std 4 should have 200hp and the turbo 4 should be made an option. v6, keep it. This is one GM car where powertrains cannot be faulted that much.

I would tighten up the suspension and steering on the car some as well. I think there is a little bit left they can do with NVH on this car to keep it fresh. Personally I think its a mistake to have the all new shorter bu in 2012. i would make over this model completely for 2012, 13, and 14. New grille and tail end....new interior, powertrain upgrades. The fusion approach.

Advertising is only part of it.

After seeing the 2011 Sonata yesterday and seeing what it brings in presentation to the table for the price it does.........the bar is raised and the Malibu gets pushed down the pack even more.

I actually think the hybrid offering hurt this car, too. Getting rid of that made sense, although in concept BAS makes sense. Refine it first.

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BTW, have you also noticed the huge rebates on the Bu right now?........bu will be cheaper than the cruze when that comes out practically in some trims...... conversely that is why i might consider a bu as my next car.

Edited by regfootball
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As much as I like the current Bu, it is getting long in the tooth quickly.....

look at what they did with the fusion, though. a near complete makeover without a whole new design.

This malibu's shape is iconic enough that i think it has 6 year legs, and to be honest i fear the next one will be a styling dud like the previous one.

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look at what they did with the fusion, though. a near complete makeover without a whole new design.

This malibu's shape is iconic enough that i think it has 6 year legs, and to be honest i fear the next one will be a styling dud like the previous one.

They're probably trying to get it moved over to EpII SWB as soon as possible. Hence the short life.

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regfootball - >>"plain and simple, the interior, while having a great design theme, the plastics, cloths and leathers and amenities are not up to par. Just look at the door panel, or the burlap quality of the seats. No NAV, no armrest in back. Actually too, the low slung driving position and slightly scrunched cabin do not help either. Trunk could be more useful and larger."<<

That certainly hits a lot of 'points'. My take : the suede/ leather material has zero faults & I seriously doubt anyone is supplying anything better. I can't comment on the cloth material. I have no issue w/ the driving position, but the high beltline & industry-wide thick A-pillars can tend to give that impression. The bulk of 'driving position' is largely sourced with the rearward visibility. NAV, door panel & RR armrest are nitpicks, IMO. Overall, it's far more upscale than the last camry I was in.

>>"...GM puts cheap looking wheel covers and miserable looking chrome on too many of the wheels."<<

The plastic hubcaps on the very base model aren't the greatest, no one's base hubcaps are. The chrome-clad rims are in no way miserable tho, IMO, and I looked at them specifically. Wife's Malibu has the alloys, which frankly -aside from finish- look just as good as the chrome-clad ones.

>>"An interior fix / complete new interior..."<<

C'mon, now the complete interior needs to be tossed ??

>>"hp upgrades on the four"<<

4-cyl / 6-spd has excellent response for a 4. "Needs" no upgrade in reality... except for spec sheet junkies.

>>"I would tighten up the suspension and steering on the car some as well."<<

Starting to come off as a disingenuous appraisal. This is a fully-competitive little car, IMO- it certainly does not need to be scrapped & clean-sheeted, which is what you seem to suggest.

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Having spent a lot of miles in a loaded V6 8 Bu LS with swede and leather interior I find few issues.

The interior is fine. While the door panels are plastic and could use a little more it is as good as most in this class. Now if you buy the cheaper car yes the cloth seats suffer the cheap feel. It is very quiet and solid feeling inside.

The Styling is clean and while it is not a hey look at me car it is miles better than the Honda I can make a worst looking Saturn styling.

The engine and tranny in the V6 are great. It may be the smoothest and best drivetrain in any Chevy I have owned. Good power and MPG.

Suspension. The V6 comes with the 18" wheels and better suspension. IT is neither harsh nor rolls too much in the corners. For the most I ike to drive this car more than my 04 GTP.

Is there room for improvment? Yes But at the price I can buy this for it is a winner.

The poor marketing is the king issue add in the fact GM's Chapter 11 has impacted many of their sales. Also add in the economy that did not help. The truth is I see more marketing since the Chapter 11 for this car than before.

The Bu is in a very tough class with Honda and Toyota already a facorite. Hyundia has offered a great value and marketed it. Then the Ford has marketed their way to the top with the Fusion.

The new car is not far off and will change many of the needed things.

The bottom line is this is a very good car and a great value. It just came at a very bad time in the life of GM and they failed in marketing it past the intro as was the norm in the past.

A few new options like a and some flasier wheels and stand out items could really perk this back up till the new car arrives.

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As much as I like the current Bu, it is getting long in the tooth quickly.....

I agree, it needs some refreshing already. It doesn't have to be much, but something to make people take notice again. It really has not had anything done to it since it has come out. The next-gen Malibu is still a ways off right?

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regfootball - >>"plain and simple, the interior, while having a great design theme, the plastics, cloths and leathers and amenities are not up to par. Just look at the door panel, or the burlap quality of the seats. No NAV, no armrest in back. Actually too, the low slung driving position and slightly scrunched cabin do not help either. Trunk could be more useful and larger."<<

That certainly hits a lot of 'points'. My take : the suede/ leather material has zero faults & I seriously doubt anyone is supplying anything better. I can't comment on the cloth material. I have no issue w/ the driving position, but the high beltline & industry-wide thick A-pillars can tend to give that impression. The bulk of 'driving position' is largely sourced with the rearward visibility. NAV, door panel & RR armrest are nitpicks, IMO. Overall, it's far more upscale than the last camry I was in.

>>"...GM puts cheap looking wheel covers and miserable looking chrome on too many of the wheels."<<

The plastic hubcaps on the very base model aren't the greatest, no one's base hubcaps are. The chrome-clad rims are in no way miserable tho, IMO, and I looked at them specifically. Wife's Malibu has the alloys, which frankly -aside from finish- look just as good as the chrome-clad ones.

>>"An interior fix / complete new interior..."<<

C'mon, now the complete interior needs to be tossed ??

>>"hp upgrades on the four"<<

4-cyl / 6-spd has excellent response for a 4. "Needs" no upgrade in reality... except for spec sheet junkies.

>>"I would tighten up the suspension and steering on the car some as well."<<

Starting to come off as a disingenuous appraisal. This is a fully-competitive little car, IMO- it certainly does not need to be scrapped & clean-sheeted, which is what you seem to suggest.

denial is a river......

most bus are sold with cloth interior. which looks drab and like cheap burlap. where is the rear seat armrest? doors are rubbermaid and reprehensible. the interior as a whole does not need tossing but dash and door plastic spec, leather, and cloth and steering wheel upgrades are needed. nav needs to be added as well as a new nicer looking radio. bluetooth and usb should be standard like on a kia forte.

169hp is not enough now. hyundai sonata hits with 200hp and many competitors pushing the 180 mark.

the optional alum multispoke wheels are nice to look at, but are only on like 10% of the cars. the cheap chrome hub caps look like someone used that 'chrome paint' you paint on toy models.

interiors is where many folks form most of their impression of a car and unfortunately the Bu while kind of nice, is not up to snuff. Most bus are sold in lower trims and with drab gray or black interior and so the terrible aspects of it stand out like a sore thumb in that regard to most buyers. Very few loaded v6 2LT or LTZ bus are sold.

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Having spent a lot of miles in a loaded V6 8 Bu LS with swede and leather interior I find few issues.

The interior is fine. While the door panels are plastic and could use a little more it is as good as most in this class. Now if you buy the cheaper car yes the cloth seats suffer the cheap feel. It is very quiet and solid feeling inside.

The Styling is clean and while it is not a hey look at me car it is miles better than the Honda I can make a worst looking Saturn styling.

The engine and tranny in the V6 are great. It may be the smoothest and best drivetrain in any Chevy I have owned. Good power and MPG.

Suspension. The V6 comes with the 18" wheels and better suspension. IT is neither harsh nor rolls too much in the corners. For the most I ike to drive this car more than my 04 GTP.

Is there room for improvment? Yes But at the price I can buy this for it is a winner.

The poor marketing is the king issue add in the fact GM's Chapter 11 has impacted many of their sales. Also add in the economy that did not help. The truth is I see more marketing since the Chapter 11 for this car than before.

The Bu is in a very tough class with Honda and Toyota already a facorite. Hyundia has offered a great value and marketed it. Then the Ford has marketed their way to the top with the Fusion.

The new car is not far off and will change many of the needed things.

The bottom line is this is a very good car and a great value. It just came at a very bad time in the life of GM and they failed in marketing it past the intro as was the norm in the past.

A few new options like a and some flasier wheels and stand out items could really perk this back up till the new car arrives.

most BUS are sold int he lower price tiers and their flaws are more apparent to the comparison shoppers. Just because the car is inexpensive, doesn't mean it needs to have burlapp seats, and rubbermaid door panels, and such. It only takes about 5 seconds inside the car for a newbie shopper to decide if they like it or not.

And most of those cheap Bus do not have the nicer suspension and 18 inch wheels.

The Malibu has been GM's most marketed car the last couple years. I hardly believe the marketing has been dreadful. Part of the problem is also GM's option packaging and chevy in particular has always needed repair. Chevy needs to rethink its option packaging.

Edited by regfootball
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I think the Blue Tooth and USB are now standard.

The car needs a little but not a lot at this point. I would not want a big investment into this car with so little time left. I think this is also GM's outlook.

Tail lights or some aspect like that.

The spoked wheels should be standard!

My biggest gripe would be the base cars just look so base. GM would do much better to make the base cars look like they are no just off the Enterprise lot. Small things like better seat fabric, standard Aluminum wheels and other small things like this add up to a better image.

As for the plastic the next model will take care of that. My 08 Bu is so much better on the inside than the 04 GTP it is crazy. I know it still has some catching up to do with the other cars but the next gen will solve that.

I just wish I could have gotten the LTZ wheels with the LT2 V6. My Bu has the same wheel like a Impala SS with the big spokes. At least they are easy to clean.

The think I can't believe is how many people keep buing the Impala. I know it is just a little larger but with the prices on the Bu it is a steal. My 08 Bu was stickered at $27K and out the door for under $20K. We bought it for my mom to drive and it has it all but the sun roof since she did not want it.

If I paid more than $25K for this car I could find more fault but for under $20K I can't complain too much as it is as good or better than most other cars I could have gotten for that price. A V6 Honda or Toyota would have been much more and they are not that much better.

Either way it is much better than a 4 speed push rod V5 Impala.

Edited by hyperv6
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Overall, the Malibu is just an average car. It isn't necessarily a bad car, it just doesn't have any wow-factor in a rather crowded and competitive segment. Combine an average car with an average brand reputation and the results are not surprising. Brand image is still a problem at GM.

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It's also hampered by the old Epsilon LWB platform, which is too narrow and doesn't handle all that well.

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the impala is part of the reason the bu does not sell as well as they want, too.

i don't think bluetooth or usb is standard on the LS or LT1. but i can check that.

every vehicle for sale these days should have bluetooth and USB standard. Nav should be optional. by 2013 or so, Nav should be a standard feature. Enhanced NAV would be a good upsell.

a little fabric in the doors and substantial comfortable armrests would be a nice way to spruce up the bu, as would new seat fabrics. even if they just did that it would help tremendously.

I am fine with the base model hubcaps, but alum wheels on the LS should be an inexpensive option. Alum wheels should be standard on LT.

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by 2013 or so, Nav should be a standard feature. Enhanced NAV would be a good upsell.

My god no! I find NAV screens to be hugely distracting.

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I doubt NAV will be standard by 2013 because GPS through smartphones like the DROID and iPhone is much more practical for day-to-day use.

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>>"most bus are sold with cloth interior. which looks drab and like cheap burlap. where is the rear seat armrest? doors are rubbermaid and reprehensible. the interior as a whole does not need tossing but dash and door plastic spec, leather, and cloth and steering wheel upgrades are needed. nav needs to be added as well as a new nicer looking radio. bluetooth and usb should be standard like on a kia forte.

Most bus are sold in lower trims and with drab gray or black interior and so the terrible aspects of it stand out like a sore thumb in that regard to most buyers."<<

Door panels are hard plastic, but nothing on the dash is, so I don't see "dash plastic spec" being legitimate. Leather is very good. Steering wheel is clean, sporty & functional (tho it's distressing to also see it in the Corvette). IMO, RR armrest is immaterial. My sons had one in the '03 GP, it was very infrequently used. No mention of there not being one in the Malibu. This is not a factor in 95% of sales in this class and harping on it will not increase that percentage. Radio is quite excellent in both function, feature & style. 2LT has Bluetooth- been used twice in 8500 miles for the novelty of it. No desire to own NAV here- would chose a car without it over one with. Our car has the all-black suede interior- looks upscale & has more style & flair than the competition- there are no "terrible" aspects of it whatsoever.

All I can say in closing is; my dealer had a full compliment of model trims available. If 'most are sold w/ cloth interiors & chrome hubcaps', it must be because most buyers chose that, because the price tiers are not far apart.

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+1 on the USB port though.... actually I'd like to see multiple USB ports. All of my devices charge on USB. Give me one that's hooked up for data and two more for power only and I'm set.

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I think the Blue Tooth and USB are now standard.

The car needs a little but not a lot at this point. I would not want a big investment into this car with so little time left. I think this is also GM's outlook.

Tail lights or some aspect like that.

The spoked wheels should be standard!

My biggest gripe would be the base cars just look so base. GM would do much better to make the base cars look like they are no just off the Enterprise lot. Small things like better seat fabric, standard Aluminum wheels and other small things like this add up to a better image.

As for the plastic the next model will take care of that. My 08 Bu is so much better on the inside than the 04 GTP it is crazy. I know it still has some catching up to do with the other cars but the next gen will solve that.

I just wish I could have gotten the LTZ wheels with the LT2 V6. My Bu has the same wheel like a Impala SS with the big spokes. At least they are easy to clean.

The think I can't believe is how many people keep buing the Impala. I know it is just a little larger but with the prices on the Bu it is a steal. My 08 Bu was stickered at $27K and out the door for under $20K. We bought it for my mom to drive and it has it all but the sun roof since she did not want it.

If I paid more than $25K for this car I could find more fault but for under $20K I can't complain too much as it is as good or better than most other cars I could have gotten for that price. A V6 Honda or Toyota would have been much more and they are not that much better.

Either way it is much better than a 4 speed push rod V5 Impala.

+1

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My god no! I find NAV screens to be hugely distracting.

the market will demand them, just like every car has a radio.

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