CHICAGO -- Chevrolet will upgrade the Impala's image with a vehicle that's bigger and more stylish when the next-generation car arrives in about three years.
"I don't see us doing just kind of benign, nice family cars anymore," said John Cafaro, director of design for Chevrolet and Buick. "They have to be expressive. They have to be executed with a high level of content."
Cafaro said the surging Hyundai brand is a key competitor for the Impala.
In an interview last week at the Chicago Auto Show, Cafaro said the Hyundai Genesis and Sonata and the Ford Taurus have "taken that segment to a next level."
GM has just started working on the Impala's design, he said.
The Impala remains a high-volume seller for Chevrolet. Last year, 165,565 Impalas were sold, down 38 percent from the previous year.
But the car is getting long in the tooth. The Impala went on sale for the 2000 model year and was re-engineered and restyled for the 2006 model year.
The redesigned car will be developed on GM's Epsilon vehicle platform, which is shared by vehicles such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Buick LaCrosse and the upcoming 2012 Cadillac XTS sedan.
Industry sources say the next-generation Impala is expected in about three years and will be about the same size as the XTS. The Cadillac, at 203.5 inches long, is about three inches longer than the current Impala. The XTS wheelbase, at 115 inches, is 4.5 inches longer than the Impala.
Cafaro said the next generation of the Impala "has to be bold, make a statement."
"It will be a flagship only if it goes toe-to-toe and beats out the best -- Hyundai Equus, Genesis, Sonata, whatever they got.
"I think our biggest competitor is definitely the Hyundai guys because they are contenting their cars. They are built well. The metal is perfect, and they are moving right into the heart of our territory."