Chevy pushes up date to replace Malibu

Chevrolet plans to replace its aging Malibu in 2004, one year ahead of schedule. The division also plans to develop a performance car off its Impala/Monte Carlo platform.

"We're trying very hard to pull (the Malibu) forward at least a year, and I would fully expect that we're going to get that done," said a GM executive.

In addition, Chevrolet Impala/Mon- te Carlo Brand Manager Don Parkinson said the division will offer a performance version of at least one of its mid-sized cars, within the next year or two to fill the void left by the Ford Taurus SHO.

These plans are intended to protect market share in the critical mid-sized car segment.

"There's a chunk of the market that still loves to go fast, even in the mid-sized category," Parkinson said. "There's a big chunk of business, and we're going after it."

The Malibu, which was redesigned for the 1997 model year, will ride on GM's Epsilon platform.

That platform also will carry the Pontiac Grand Am, Saturn L series, Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra, Signum and Omega.

It was not clear whether any of the other car programs will be brought forward with the Malibu. The Vectra is scheduled to debut in Europe in early 2002.

The Impala and Malibu are the No. 2 and No. 4 best-selling nameplates at GM and the second and third best-selling cars for GM's top-selling Chevrolet Division.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner has said that to reverse GM's car market-share slide, he wants to cut and freshen the company's mid-range cars to get higher sales from fewer vehicles.

But some of the company's mid-sized cars, particularly the Malibu and Grand Am, are aging amid all-new competitors such as the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima, which arrived this fall. And Japan is set to unleash another slew of new mid-sized cars in 2002 when the Honda Accord and Mazda 626 go on sale.

You can reach Laura Clark Geist at autonews@crain.com

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