After years of ceding ground to its Japanese rivals, GM plans an aggressive offensive back into the midsize sedan segment with its new, redesigned Chevrolet Malibu. The automaker plans a $100 million marketing blitz in an effort to re-awaken interest in its midsize offering and chip away at Toyota Camry and Honda Accord dominance.
Although the front-drive Malibu of recent years bears scant relation to the venerable musclecar of the mid–late '60s, the badge remains an icon of the brand. But whether the new Malibu impacts the specialty-equipment market remains to be seen. Certainly the car is in a promising segment. A SEMA Market Research survey conducted May through July of this year revealed that 19% of respondents who planned to accessorize their vehicle owned a midsize sedan.
SEMA research also shows that in the first seven months of 2007, GM sold approximately 77,000 Malibus, making it the 15th most purchased car in the United States. That’s a 29% drop from the same period last year, however.
In 1990, domestic automakers dominated the segment, controlling almost 70% due largely to the popularity of cars like the Ford Taurus, according to Ward’s Automotive Group data sourced in an Associated Press report. Since then, Honda, Toyota and Nissan have chipped away at Big Three market share, taking the lead in 2005 with 47% of the market. Of that piece of the pie, the Toyota Camry comprises 16%, the Accord, 13%.
Perhaps most significant, the new Malibu also marks a dramatic shift away from the automaker’s dependence on the truck/SUV sales that carried them to wild profitability in the last decade. GM Vice Chairman of Global Product Development Bob Lutz told the AP that the Malibu is the best mid-market, front-drive car that the company has ever produced.
"The new Malibu will be a pivotal car for GM," says Carl Sheffer, SEMA vice president of OEM relations. "It's a historic nameplate, and GM is counting on it to be a big success. And it will lend itself to customization, especially when we can get CAD data and a measuring session for our members."