GM rushes to refresh the freshest Chevy Malibu
Might Honda's successful quick-change artistry prompt other automakers to follow suit?
In another case of an automaker scrambling to accelerate a midcycle enhancement when the ink is barely dry on the launch advertising, General Motors is pulling ahead a refresh of the Chevrolet Malibu. The redesigned mid-sized sedan was launched in earnest in August, after a limited spring rollout of the Eco mild-hybrid version.
It's unclear whether the accelerated changes are being made in response to spotty reviews and sluggish early sales. The most consistent gripe about the car is the claustrophobic rear seat, a structural problem that can't be fixed with a freshening.
GM’s Akerson: Changes coming in late 2013
In November, GM CEO Dan Akerson acknowledged the mixed press reviews and told Automotive News that a "midcycle enhancement" would arrive in late 2013, earlier than planned. Similar to Honda, a GM minor model change would normally land three years after a redesign. Akerson said the refresh would include a new front fascia, but he wouldn't elaborate.
GM could be planning to incorporate the wider grille featured on the redesigned 2014 Chevy Impala due out this spring, a new, more-premium-looking face that is expected to spread across much of Chevy's lineup. Even so, pulling ahead such a cosmetic update marks a departure from GM's past, when even widely panned vehicles would be left untouched until the next scheduled revamp.
But Honda's pull-ahead has set a standard for rescuing a car that floundered at launch. Whether GM's changes will measure up won't be seen until late this year.
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