DETROIT -- Car executives typically don't talk about future models more than a year before they hit showrooms for fear of dampening enthusiasm for the current one. But in the case of the Chevrolet Malibu, there's not much enthusiasm to dampen.
Since its redesign for the 2013 model year, the Malibu's share of the competitive midsize car market has slid. Sales are down 7 percent this year, the only decline among the segment's top eight sellers. In the past two months it was outsold by the Chrysler 200 and Kia Optima, once distant also-rans.
Chevy is trying to revive Malibu sales with some screamin' deals this month. It's offering $3,500 in cash off the car and its $189-per-month, $1,369-down lease is the industry's hottest deal, Kelley Blue Book said last week.
But behind the scenes, General Motors is hustling to get the next-generation Malibu to market about a year from now in hopes of finally fixing a perennially weak link in Chevy's car lineup. That would be faster than the usual cycle for GM (the redesigned Cruze, due out around the same time, will have been on the road more than a year longer).
And departing from their close-to-the-vest posture on future products, GM executives are itching to talk about the next Malibu.
"We've got our act together here on the midsize-car segment," Mark Reuss, GM's product development chief, said as he showed an image of the next-gen Malibu at an investor presentation in October. He promised it would have "groundbreaking design but also groundbreaking technology."
"When is the last time you saw a [midsize] car this distinctive and this dramatic from General Motors?" Reuss said.
GM CFO Chuck Stevens said at the same conference that the next iterations of the Malibu and Cruze would cost less to produce but command higher transaction prices, which he said should lead to roughly $800 million in improved variable profit in 2016.