Courtesy of Chevrolet

GM Will Pull The Plug On Chevy Malibu To Make Room For 2nd-Generation Bolt

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The Chevy Malibu is the Rodney Dangerfield of cars — it gets no respect. (Apologies to any readers who drive a Malibu.) For decades, the Malibu has been the automotive equivalent of Wonder Bread — a basic transportation device that was pretty good, fairly reliable, with the emotional appeal of vanilla ice cream. It moves forward when asked, stops when necessary, has windshield wipers that work, and comes standard with an AM/FM radio. What’s not to like? My mom had a Chevy Malibu in the ’70s — I think. There was absolutely nothing memorable about that car. People would look at it and yawn.

Since the car was introduced in the 1960s, GM has sold more than 10 million Malibus, but sales have slumped in recent years. General Motors said on May 9, 2024, that it would stop making the Chevrolet Malibu, the last affordable sedan in its US model lineup. In the past several years, Americans have turned a cold shoulder toward sedans, preferring SUVs and pickup trucks instead.

In fairness, the Big Three automakers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to convince consumers they really want bigger cars that can carry a family of five, two dogs, a pair of kayaks, and camping gear for a week. It is no coincidence that those SUVs and trucks happen to be the most profitable cars made. So, are customers demanding them or are manufacturers creating the demand to boost their profits? You decide.

Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota all sell hundreds of thousands of sedans a year. Although, sales of those cars are trending down. Last month, Subaru, a Japanese automaker, said it would stop making its Legacy sedan next year. Stellantis and Ford have trimmed virtually all sedans from their model lineups except high-performance sporty cars.

The Malibu is manufactured at GM’s Kansas City factory, but production is now scheduled to cease at the end of this year, when it plans to retool the factory to make the second-generation Chevy Bolt. That factory also assembles the Cadillac XT4 SUV.

The Malibu was introduced in 1964, but GM pulled the plug on the model in 1983 as the company was forced to downsize by growing foreign competition. It reintroduced the Malibu in 1997, but the model has almost always trailed the Camry and Accord in sales. In 2023, GM sold 130,000 Malibus, and deliveries fell 47 percent in the final three months of the year. A decade earlier, GM typically sold about 200,000 Malibus a year.

The Malibu could return someday, perhaps as an electric vehicle. Automakers often resurrect and repurpose old model names, especially those that buyers remember fondly. Ford has shamelessly leveraged the Mustang name for its Mach-E electric SUV, even though that car has about the same relationship to the original as velvet art does to a Rembrandt. That’s not to say the Mach-E isn’t a great car — it is. It’s just not a Mustang.

The Second-Generation Chevy Bolt Is Coming

Few people will lament the passing of the Chevrolet Malibu. Though, plenty of people were distressed when GM stopped selling the Chevy Bolt before its replacement was ready. My wife and I have a Bolt and a Model Y, and while the Tesla is a very polished vehicle, the Bolt has a certain charm that is very appealing. Just today, it gave us a visual and audible alert when two pedestrians walked behind our Bolt when we were getting ready to back out of a driveway. The Tesla wouldn’t do that.

What no one knows yet is what the second-generation Bolt will be or how much it will cost. The original was one of the most affordable electric cars available in America. If the successor is similarly priced, it could be the affordable electric car America needs and Tesla refuses to build. We are cautiously optimistic Chevrolet will make the new Bolt as inexpensive and appealing as the original. It created a lot of brand equity with the first edition. Let’s hope it builds on that foundation with the successor.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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