DETROIT -- General Motors' rushed restyling of the Chevrolet Malibu spotlights a more assertive approach to product development, GM North America President Mark Reuss says.
Reuss last week unveiled a roomier and more fuel-efficient Malibu for 2014, aimed at reversing the car's sales slide in the critical mid-sized sedan market.
He acknowledged that much of the 2013 Malibu's development happened before GM's mid-2009 bankruptcy and that the company was "not aggressive enough" with its styling. He said product developers knew even before the spring 2012 launch that the car would need an accelerated update.
GM's so-called midcycle enhancements typically come three or four years after a vehicle hits the market. This time, the changes are appearing about a year after the August launch of the 2013 Malibu's highest-volume trim level, which has a base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine.
Reuss said the speedy restyling reflected a changed mind-set at the post-bankruptcy GM. Historically, he said, "we would have defended it, justified it and waited."
The 2014 Malibu, which goes on sale this fall, will get a revised front end with a bolder grille resembling that of the recently launched Impala. GM also is adding an engine shut-off system for stop-start traffic, which should boost fuel economy 5 percent in city driving.
And to address a key complaint about the 2013 Malibu, GM used several tricks to squeeze an extra 1.25 inches of knee space for back seat passengers.
The Malibu redo follows a similar express update for the Honda Civic compact car after early media reviews panned it for what critics called a cheap interior and bland exterior styling.