DETROIT -- The Impala Limited won't be so limited after all.
General Motors will continue to sell the fleet-only version of the Chevrolet sedan until 2016, about two years longer than the company previously had indicated.
When the redesigned 2014 Impala was launched in April, GM executives said the outgoing model, in service since the 2006 model year, would live on as the Impala Limited for sale to rental operators and corporate and government buyers. But they wouldn't say whether it would be produced beyond mid-2014, when the Oshawa, Ontario, production line that makes the sedan was scheduled to close.
Now GM plans to keep that line operating until sometime in 2016, giving the old Impala a longer life.
"The Impala Limited has done extremely well. Our fleet customers know the car and like it," GM spokesman Chad Lyons said last week. "It's a business opportunity that we want to continue to fulfill."
The 2014 Impala was redesigned with a flashier exterior and more refined cabin in a bid to attract more retail buyers. GM wants individual buyers to account for around 70 percent of Impala sales, up from about one-third of sales in recent years, as the nameplate became a mainstay of rental lots.
The '14 Impala has received accolades from auto critics and from Consumer Reports, which rated it as the best sedan on the market, the first Detroit 3 car ever to win that distinction. But the new car also runs $1,000 to $5,000 more than comparable models of the previous generation.
By continuing to produce the older model, GM can offer a less expensive, high-volume car to fleet buyers without harming the Impala's residual value, says John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto analyst in Boston.
"They're able to keep the old one around at a really low price because all of the tooling was paid for long ago," Wolkonowicz says.
There is precedent for the move. When Chevy rolled out a redesigned Malibu in 2007, it continued to sell the previous generation as the 2008 Malibu Classic, mostly to fleet buyers. GM did the same thing when it introduced a redesigned Malibu in 2004, selling the outgoing model as the Chevrolet Classic.
Impala sales have slipped this year, down 14 percent to 121,033 through September. GM does not break out Impala Limited sales from those of the mainstream model.