Back in September I called attention to a new Chevrolet Malibu ad campaign with the pithy lead “WE’RE TIRED OF BEING A FOREIGN CAR IN OUR OWN COUNTRY.” The bow-tie bunch isn’t giving up, either: the newest installment says “IT’S EVERYTHING YOU NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD BE,” a shot at all those folks a group which on occasion has included me who wouldn’t be caught dead in a domestic automobile. (The ‘Bu is built at the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas.)
Motor Trend, meanwhile, has declared the Malibu “the most important new Chevy sedan in decades,” though what makes it important to them might sound a mite unusual:
More important than anything is what Malibu can do for the Impala. Chevy sold 290,000 front-drive Impalas and 164,000 Malibus last year. If it can reverse those numbers, there’s a better business case for a RWD Impala.
I’d like to see a rear-wheel-drive Impala myself, but I can’t imagine GM wanting to cannibalize its own sales. Besides, the biggest problem with a rear-drive Impala is not the Malibu, but GM’s need to crank up its Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers, which a full-sized two-ton sedan will presumably not enhance. And the Malibu can probably sell well enough on its own, given MT’s declaration that it “makes segment-leader Camry and the just-launched Accord look decidedly lumpen.”
If I seem to be harping on the Malibu a lot these days, it’s simply because I think we’re better off with an American auto industry that actually sells cars. And GM, after years of wandering in the desert, might actually be starting to find a path that leads somewhere: the General is cutting production on the hot-selling Buick Enclave in an effort to keep demand high and incentives out of the picture, a trick the imports have long known. “Nothing destroys the value of a new product faster than overproducing,” says GM car czar Bob Lutz. If the Malibu is a big hit, you can probably expect more artificial scarcity.