GM product boss vows Malibu will outsell Camry – USA TODAY
NEW YORK — General Motors global product boss Mark Reuss vows that Chevrolet’s new Malibu will outsell Toyota Camry, which dominates the midsize sedan segment.
“If we don’t we shouldn’t have done the car,” Reuss told USA TODAY during an interview at the New York auto show. “We’re not here to be competitive. We’re here to win,” he said.
The car goes on sale the fourth quarter this year, and keeping Reuss’ promise will be a tall order.
GM would have to more than double Malibu production at the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kans., that builds the car. It would have to crank up even more than that to build enough Malibus without throwing out the Buick LaCrosse sedan also built there.
The plant’s theoretical capacity is about 435,000 per year, working 24 hours a day, six days a week, three shifts per day. Required maintenance at the factory would have to be done on Sundays.
That’s calculated using GM data dated February this year on the factory’s output. Malibu and LaCrosse are the only two models built there. LaCrosse, at about 51,000 sales last year, is the No. 2-selling Buick, behind the Enclave big SUV and ahead of the Encore mini-SUV.
GM notes that it committed $600,000 million in 2013 to update the paint shop and tooling at Fairfax. The paint shop often is a bottleneck at an auto assembly plant.
“First we’ll get the demand up, double the demand, then figure out how to meet it,” GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview here.
Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, says the new Malibu “has all the right ingredients,” but that’s not enough.
“Chevrolet needs an aggressive marketing and awareness campaign to highlight the new Malibu’s upgraded quality and advanced technology. It sounds like GM is preparing to unleash just such a campaign, with the specific goal of unseating Camry’s top sales ranking.
“It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight,” he says, but he acknowledges that the the 2016 Malibu “could alter the pecking order in this segment.”
Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell says, “While Reuss’ statement reinforces the confidence GM has in its new product, outselling Camry seems like an event that isn’t likely to happen in the immediate future.”
Malibu sales last year were 188,519, according to Autodata. Camry’s were 428,606, or 2.27 times the Chevy model’s.
Honda Accord, consistently the No. 2 seller among midsize sedans, was 388,374, or slightly more than 2 times Malibu sales.
Other midsize, mainstream sedans that outsold Malibu in 2014: Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata.
The 2016 Malibu is a full redesign, using a chassis not yet shared with any other GM model, Reuss said.
The car uses some of the sleek styling of the Chevy Impala and it has a longer wheelbase than the current Malibu. Those moves address complaints that Malibu’s been too plain-looking and too cramped.