Chevrolet General Manager John Middlebrook says dealers should start receiving greater numbers of Malibus this week. Dealers around the country say their lots are virtually empty due to a seven-week strike at the Oklahoma City plant that ended May 26.
'I'd say it's a good car,' says Nicholas Shammas, owner of Felix Chevrolet in Los Angeles. 'It's a step in the right direction if they ever get the show on the road.'
Malibu is a critical car in California because Chevrolet depends on Malibu to lead import buyers into Chevrolet dealerships.
Despite the strike, Malibu sales were up slightly in May over April.
The supply of cars never dried up because the company was still producing 500 Malibus daily at a plant in Wilmington, Del.
Oldsmobile dealers, however, did not receive the Cutlass during the strike because Oklahoma City is the sole source for the car. Cutlasses are starting to flow to Oldsmobile dealerships, which had 4,300 units on hand nationwide on May 31.
Olds spokesman Gus Buenz says the division needs 5,000 to 6,000 units before it will begin advertising the car, and that will take a few weeks.
Middlebrook says Malibu is the best-selling Chevrolet in Los Angeles. Dealers there had a 22-day supply on June 1, compared to 52 days nationwide. Cutlass was at a 25-day supply nationally.
Los Angeles dealers say Honda and Toyota models still dominate in the mid-sized market, but Malibu is starting to make some noise.
'More import buyers are switching to Malibu because of the price, and the style is good,' says Dai Lee, owner of Vermont Chevrolet-Buick in Los Angeles. Lee says he was lucky to sell one Corsica or Beretta (Malibu's predecessors) a month, but he is selling about 10 Malibus a month.
'That's a significant number,' Lee says, 'because most Chevy sales in L.A. are trucks.'