Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

GM Sets Midsize Hopes on Malibu

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

GM Sets Midsize Hopes on Malibu

Article excerpt

DETROIT -- Chevrolet, the biggest division of the world's No. 1 automaker, has lagged for years in one of the largest segments of the car market: small midsize sedans.

It's a segment long dominated by the Japanese with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Until recently, Chevy's entry against those two well-built kings of the road was the lowbrow, uninspired Corsica.

This past weekend, the General Motors Corp. division launched its television campaign to introduce what many analysts say may be GM's most important new car this decade: the Malibu . Manufactured at the GM assembly plant in Oklahoma City, Chevrolet expects it to become its top-seller. "It's positioned to get Chevrolet back into the biggest segment of the industry," said analyst Chris Cedergren of Nextrend. "From that standpoint, it's critical that the Malibu be successful." Priced starting at $15,995, the Malibu fits in Chevrolet's lineup between the compact Cavalier and the larger midsize Lumina, which competes more directly with the top-selling Ford Taurus. The car the Malibu replaces, the Corsica, was a large-volume model only because of low-profit sales to rental fleets. "About 75 percent of its sales were to fleets," Cedergren said. "So from a retail standpoint, Chevrolet really hasn't been in that segment." Chevrolet is targeting the Malibu for buyers of compact and midsize cars, segments that combined account for sales of nearly 4 million cars annually. "It's been a long time since we've had a product in this segment that we could do well with," said James Heckert, a Chevrolet brand manager. The Malibu will have to lure the loyal owners of some of Japan's most popular, reliable and best-designed models. Chevrolet obviously was targeting them when it designed the Malibu. The Malibu offers all the standard convenience features, the quiet ride and room for a family of five that midsize-import buyers have come to expect. …

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