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GMI Exclusive: Next-Gen Malibu Pushed Back
Another Epsilon II car gets the push-back...
www.gminsidenews.com
October 20, 2008
By: Nsap
[email protected]


Last week GMI reported that the launch of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse has been delayed by “a few months” mainly due to the panic mode now in place at GM due to the economic crisis. While the current LaCrosse is on the ancient W-Body platform, the new car is moving to Epsilon II to be built at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas plant where the Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn Aura are built. Fortunately the LaCrosse delay is not too terrible and it should have the car launch by the summer of 2009; saying no more delays take place. Well here we are a week later to report another product launch delay; only this one is not just a “few months.”

It seems odd to be discussing the next-generation Malibu considering the current car just launched in 2007 for the 2008 model-year. Currently the Malibu rides on the Epsilon I platform in long-wheel base form. It was the last major investment planned for the Epsilon I platform as GM is now beginning to migrate all of their midsize sedan offerings to the new Epsilon II platform. The first Epsilon II car for North America will be the new LaCrosse. The second was supposed to be the 2010 Saturn Aura (which was to be a rebadged Opel Insignia), however as reported, no one seems to know what is going on with the Aura. We’re fairly confident we will not be seeing the car anytime next year, as planned.

The initial (key word) plan was to have the current new Malibu be a short-run product; keeping it on the market for about two to three years. Then, after the current car had run its course, they were going to replace it with an all-new car based on the Epsilon II platform. Well GMI has now been told that the launch of the next-generation Malibu has been pushed back to fall 2011. We assume the car will be badged as a 2012 model-year vehicle. This would have the current car on the market for about four years, which is a more conventional product lifecycle in the midsize segment.

There has been conflicting reports as to when the initial planned launch of the next-generation was to take place. Some were saying fall 2010 while others suggested it was always to be later than that. However GMI has consistently heard (from multiple sources) that the car was supposed to launch in the fall 2010 as a 2011 model. That suggests the launch has been pushed back by a year (give or take). Regardless, the car is launching later than planned.

We have yet to hear of any chances that the launch will be moved back up; however we assume it will depend on GM’s financial situation and the current car’s performance on the market. Initially the new Malibu was doing well on the marketplace; conquest rates were steady, fleet rates were at about 9% and the take-rate on the high-end LTZ model was quite high. However, GMI has been told that GM is strapped with a near 100-day supply of new Malibus on dealership lots right now. Is that possibly a sign of the recessive times?

Stay tuned to GMI for any developments; we’re sure there will be some!
 

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From the August 25th issue of Automotive News:

Malibu: The scheduled restyling for the 2010 model year has been canceled because of cost constraints. Depending on the new fuel economy rules, the overall length and wheelbase of the next-generation Malibu might be trimmed. If so, the restyled and re-engineered car might debut for the 2012 model year.


In addition to the Malibu, AN reported these other delays (also on August 25th):


Silverado 2500, 3500: The re-engineering of the heavy-duty models has been pushed back, possibly to the 2011 model year.

Colorado: A redesign is on hold pending an analysis of new fuel economy regulations. The redesign had been scheduled for the 2012 model year on GM's GMT700 vehicle platform.

Tahoe, Suburban: The full-sized SUVs were scheduled to be restyled and re-engineered for the 2012 model year, but those plans are on hold.

Camaro: The convertible might be pushed back to the 2012 model year because of cost constraints.

Impala: The mid-sized car was scheduled to be redesigned as a rwd vehicle for the 2011 model year. But the high price of gasoline and stiffer U.S. fuel economy regulations have persuaded GM to leave the Impala fwd. The new plan: The Impala will be redesigned for the 2012 model year on GM's new global mid-sized vehicle architecture, previously known as Epsilon. The new Impala is expected to be slightly wider and longer than the 2008 model, with possibly shorter front and rear overhangs.

Cobalt: GM may keep a Cobalt coupe in production and shift assembly to Mexico.
 

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This I have no problem with. This Chi platform back as an Epsilon stretch on the other hand... um... GM don't do it. Take all of the engineering resources that you are going to put into this and spend them someplace more useful, like Alpha. Cadillac needed a 3 series size competitor yesterday.
 

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From the August 25th issue of Automotive News:

Malibu: The scheduled restyling for the 2010 model year has been canceled because of cost constraints. Depending on the new fuel economy rules, the overall length and wheelbase of the next-generation Malibu might be trimmed. If so, the restyled and re-engineered car might debut for the 2012 model year.
There was NEVER a planned restyle for 2010. They might have added a Sport model, but no redesign. The redesign was going to be a 2011. AutoNews was using information from suppliers apparently.
 

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I think an early replacement like was originally planned would have helped to continue the momentum of increased sales of the Malibu on the retail level. They can't settle for typical if they expect to regain ground in the mid-size segment. The car still has some short comings even if it is a great car overall and hopefully those are resolved in the next redesign (weight, tech features, rear arm rest, 3 head rests in back, etc.).

How big is the Saab 9-5 going to be? Larger than a Malibu?
 

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Yeah.. the current Malibu is CLASS leading.. Why would it be changed in just 2-3 years? I would think that they would do a few updates like give it a more powerful engine on the high end... like maybe a 280HP DI 3.6L mated to the 6spd.. but that would be about it on the drive-train. The styling is perfect IMO.. and most cars are developed to sat the same for 5 years with only minor augmentations along the way.
 

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The Impala plan sounds a little weak to me tho... I would think that even if they kept the majority of the current car for another 3 years.. .they would update the front clip to look more like the Malibu, Tahoe, Traverse, Aveo, and Cruze. Even the Cobalt should get this treatment.. it's just the FRONT clip 4GODSAKE...

It would also be nice to see the 3.6L put in the Impala as well. The 3.9L and 4speed are just in need of replacement. 233HP in a mid-level engine.. in a car this size is uncool. While the Fuel economy of the base 211HP 3.5L is competitive with that of teh 177HP Honda Accord's base engine (19/29 vs 21/31) considering the difference in power... the Impala could beat the Accord's fuel economy if it had a 6speed... Also displacing the 3.9L with the 3.6L would give them at least a higher HP engine wth same fuel economy... as a mid-level engine... making it a DI version like that which is in the Lambdas would give it higher HP than the Accord without having to get the 5.3L... and probably better fuel economy to boot
 

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Yeah.. the current Malibu is CLASS leading.. Why would it be changed in just 2-3 years? I would think that they would do a few updates like give it a more powerful engine on the high end... like maybe a 280HP DI 3.6L mated to the 6spd.. but that would be about it on the drive-train. The styling is perfect IMO.. and most cars are developed to sat the same for 5 years with only minor augmentations along the way.
I respectfully disagree. The Malibu is NEAR the top of its class, but I'm not sure it is the leader. Definite top 3. However, we have to remember that GM is facing companies that are much healthier and have the resources to improve their cars year by year. The Malibu is already lacking a few features that can be found in other cars, as has been discussed ad nauseum over the past few months. Who knows what it might be lacking in three years that the Japanese cars will have? While the Malibu has been somewhat successful in bringing import owners back to the fold, it has by no means won the war. And as the public's perception of GM continues to decline (rightfully or not), so will, by association, the Malibu's.

It is absolutely critical, IMO, for GM to dump every dollar needed into keeping the Malibu competitive. Scratch that, not competitive - class leading. It must remain that way year after year, or risk falling into the same trap the previous two versions did. Of course, GM probably doesn't have the money to do that - be it because of the poor economy, too many brands, etc. I'm hoping for the best regardless.
 

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This will keep the new Malibu from getting stale too quickly. What I don't understand with GM, eventhough I love their products, and will be loyal to them....why don't they make more significant "freshenings" throughout the model cycle? for example: TrailBlazer, 95-2000 Lumina/Monte Carlo, 95-2003 Cavalier (some updates, but not that significant), 97-2003 Malibu, etc. There are many more examples. Now for a foreign example: Hyundai Sonata seems to get updates quite regularly. Our neighbor has a 2006, which was a new design, and now the Sonata has a new dash, new front, and modified rear. Just seems to me that GM could keep their vehicles a little more fresh, with modest updates. However, would that make replacement parts more expensive?
 

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Yeah.. the current Malibu is CLASS leading
Um, not so much. It's much better than the previous GM offering but it's going up against a 3 great cars in the Altima, Accord and Camry. It is much more competitive.

Let's see if GM lets it wither on the vine for 6 years before they change the nose and rear end and call it all new.
 

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Saab 9-5 should be the longer eII in 4dr sports coupe. 9-3 normal eII in hatch and wagon models.
 

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Yes, I know the RWD Impala is dead, but it needs to be on a different chasis then the Malibu. If it stays FWD they should make the Malibu the volume model and the Impala a larger, sporty car. Look at the difference between the Nissan Altima and Maxima.

And if they really do kill Pontiac (they souldn't), the G8 sould become the Impala, no questions asked.

Anyway, the styling looks bland after the 06' redesign. It really needs some kind of update now.
 

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Who cares about the next Malibu. This one is just out of the gate.. How about a new G6? Its been out since 2004!!! I think Pontiac due for a new one. It should be totally different than the Malibu and Aura, maybe only a 4 door hatch version and a coupe/convertible. Smaller too. I would definitely trade my Aura to go back to a G6 if that happens!
 

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How often do we see complete redesigns after only 2-3 years?
Never. Anyone who thought GM would do this is fooling themselves. GM is lucky if it can keep pace with the competition and refresh its big sellers every 5 years. They've only very recently started to do this on select models. In the past, the refresh rates was about 7-10 years.

Mark
 
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