General Motors Co., seeking to revive sales of its new Chevrolet Malibu, is working on speedy design changes to the sedan to make it more competitive with other midsize models, two people familiar with the effort said.
Updates will make the back seat feel roomier and the front end will gain some styling cues from the new Chevrolet Impala, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The revamped version would reach showrooms in the third quarter, the people said. Swift improvements are needed to compete in the segment that includes five of the 20 most popular vehicles in the U.S.
While Mary Barra, GM senior vice president of global product development, said that some consumers were complaining about the back seats, she declined to comment on what’s being changed with the Malibu. Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson told Automotive News in an interview late last year that changes were being made without elaborating.
"We’ve got some tweaks that we’ve made, that we already had planned, that will be coming out in the not-too-distant future that I think will assist,” Barra said this week in an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The new Malibu arrived last year facing competition from revamped midsize models by Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. Malibu’s U.S. deliveries totaled 210,951 last year. Toyota sold 404,886 of its Camry midsize sedan, the top-selling car in the U.S. Malibu also trailed other midsize models, including Honda’s Accord, Nissan’s Altima, Ford’s Fusion and Hyundai Motor Co.’s Sonata.
“It’s a challenging segment,” Chris Perry, head of Chevrolet U.S. marketing, said earlier this week in an interview. “That is the toughest, probably, car segment in the industry and everyone is coming out at the same time with a new product.”
The current Malibu was introduced over several months in 2012, beginning with the pricier Eco version followed by the higher volume versions in October. U.S. sales declined 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2011, according to information compiled by researcher Autodata Corp. Malibu deliveries for the year rose 3 percent.