DETROIT -- General Motors engineers are hurrying to complete a midcycle refresh of the Chevrolet Malibu for release by late next year, about 18 months after the redesigned sedan's launch, CEO Dan Akerson said.
The move comes amid soft early sales of the car and unflattering media reviews. Some dealers also have questioned whether the Malibu can stand out in the cutthroat mid-sized sedan market.
"We are going to do a midcycle enhancement, not dramatic, by this time next year," Akerson told Automotive News last week. He said the changes would include a new front fascia but declined to elaborate.
Such face-lifts typically come about three years after a car's launch. Akerson acknowledged the unflattering reviews and said that the refresh is taking place sooner than had been planned.
Honda Motor Co. recently pulled ahead a redo of the Civic after critics panned the compact's redesign, which debuted in spring 2011.
Through October, Malibu sales rose 4 percent to 189,094. But for most of the year, dealers were unloading the heavily discounted, outgoing 2012 models. In September and October, when the vast majority of Malibus delivered were 2013 models, sales slipped 3 percent.
Consumer Reports rated the 2013 Malibu Eco, which was launched last spring and has a mild hybrid powertrain, 21st of 28 sedans. In its February issue, the magazine will review the 2013 Malibu with the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, which was launched in August and will be the volume model.
"I think it's a good car. It'll do OK," Akerson said. "It is a tough segment and it's one we need to be successful in. We'll see how it plays out."