In a bid to reverse declining sales of the Malibu, Chevrolet has unveiled the 2014 Malibu that will go on sale this fall.
This is a quick turn for GM: a revised Malibu was introduced as a 2013 model but the new car hasn’t made the grade with consumers. Despite reductions in price, sales of the mid-size sedan were down 11.9% for the first four months of 2013.
The big changes include new sheet metal that uses some of the styling themes of the new Impala. The 2013′s exterior design was not one of its strong points. Another change was to increase rear leg room, a serious deficiency, especially in the Malibu Eco hybrid.
There’s also a new standard 2.5-liter four with start-stop feature to improve fuel efficiency and some suspension tweaks. GM estimates the new engine will provide 23 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
“The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu builds on the strengths established by the all-new 2013 Malibu to make it a stronger choice for customers,” said Mark Reuss, president, General Motors North America. “The midsize sedan segment is the most contested in the industry and we’re not sitting still with the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu.”
Chevy made room for adults in the rear by redesigning the front seat backs, resculpting the rear seat back cushions to allow passengers to sit farther back and trimming a half-inch from the front of the rear seat cushion. In the 2013 model, adjusting the front seat for a tall driver left hardly any leg room for those in the back seat.
The redesigned center console has a longer armrest and a pair of cup holders and a couple of bins to stow cell phones.
“We made changes within 18 months, demonstrating an unprecedented commitment to make the Malibu the best car it can be,” said Ken Kelzer, executive chief engineer, global full-size and midsize cars. “The 2014 Malibu has been engineered to deliver more precise ride and handling that is on par with more expensive sports sedans.”
Our experience with the 2013 Malibu was generally positive and it appears Chevy has fixed the major problems that would have kept the car off our short list for new car buyers. What remains to be seen is how it can stack up against its rivals in a very competitive segment.
Coming to theaters on July 17, “Turbo is the latest animated feature from Dreamworks Animation SKG (Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda). It’s a 3D comedy about a snail who acquires the power of super-speed and dreams of running in the Indianapolis 500 – with a little help from Chevrolet.
Chevrolet plays an integral part in two of the film’s key moments. Turbo receives his speed after an encounter with a Chevrolet Camaro. Later the Chevrolet “bowtie” is featured in scenes set at the Indianapolis 500, just as it will be this weekend for the running of the real thing.
In an unusual collaboration, Chevrolet design worked with DreamWorks on the animated versions of the Camaro and the Chevrolet-powered Indy cars that appear in the film. Turbo marks the first time DreamWorks Animation has worked with a brand in this way.
Chevy says the partnership not only serves a promotional purpose, it will engage fans and enhance the authenticity of the film’s racing environment.
“Turbo is one of the most anticipated films of the summer, and we couldn’t be more excited about this collaboration, which aligns perfectly with Chevrolet’s renewed presence in INDYCAR,” said Tim Mahoney, chief marketing officer, Chevrolet. “Millions of future drivers will be inspired by Turbo to realize their dreams both big and small.”
To go with other advertising and promotions, Chevrolet has built a full-size replica of a custom Camaro featured in Turbo. The car has appeared at auto shows and events across the U.S. Chevy will also feature Turbo in advertising leading up to the film’s release.
Said DreamWorks Animation’s Chief Marketing Officer Anne Globe: “In a film about a slow snail who dreams of being fast, who better than Chevrolet to give our hero his first taste of high-speed driving on the open road? Our relationship with Chevrolet both onscreen and at the Indy 500 is a natural fit that adds a layer of authenticity to this wild ride of a story.”
Chevrolet has announced a special 36-month lease program for the new 2014 Spark EV (electric vehicle) due to begin appearing on dealer lots in California and Oregon next month. Qualified buyers will be able to lease the Spark EV for $199/month with a $999 security deposit due at signing. Taxes and title, license and dealer fees are additional.
The lease includes 12,000 miles per year or 36,000 total miles over the life of the lease. Any miles beyond that will cost you a quarter apiece.
If you’re more interested in buying your first electric car, the MSRP will be $27,495 including an $810 destination charge. This compares to $15,520, including destination charge, for a conventional Chevy Spark 1LT with automatic transmission.
Depending on the individual buyer’s tax situation, they could be eligible for a nonrefundable tax credit of up to $7,500, knocking the effective price of the Spark EV to just under $20K. Various state incentives could trim that number even more, though it still won’t be very close to the regular Spark’s price. In California, Spark EV drivers will be able to use HOV lanes.
What makes the lease more attractive is Chevrolet’s estimate that the average driver will save $150/month on fuel costs, bringing the net, out-of-pocket expense down to about $50 plus insurance and routine maintenance items, such as windshield wiper blades.
Spark EV’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price starts at $27,495 – as low as $19,995 net of the full federal tax credit which ranges from $0 to $7,500 – and includes $810 destination freight charge. The compares to $15,520 for a conventional Spark 1LT with automatic transmission and destination charge.
“The Chevrolet Spark EV is the most efficient – and now one of the most affordable – EVs you can buy” said Chris Perry, vice president, Chevrolet Marketing. “Combined with outstanding infotainment and great design, the fun-to-drive Spark EV is engineered to impress.”
The downside is that, unlike the plug-in hybrid Volt, the Spark EV is a pure electric with an estimated combined city/highway range of 82 miles, according to the EPA.
Chevy says the Spark EV be available with an option that makes it compatible with the new SAE combo charger for DC Fast Charging. The capability will allow an 80% recharge in 20 minutes if there is a Fast DC charging station available. Unlike most of its competition, the Spark EV’s battery system is capable of handling multiple compatible DC Fast Charges daily, once again assuming the availability of a DC Fast Charging system. A more typical 240V system will juice up the 21-kilowatt lithium-ion battery in about seven hours. Charging can also be completed in less than seven hours using a dedicated 240V charger. A 120V charge cord set comes standard, but recharge times increase dramatically. Charging can be managed and monitored remotely using the Spark EV’s smart phone application, provided by OnStar, which is standard for three years. More on that in a minute…
Despite what some might think of an electric car’s performance, especially one that carries the Spark EV’s price, the little car can go from 0-60 in 7.6 seconds and run all the way up to 90 miles per hour. Drivers won’t want to hit that top speed very often, though: high speeds will suck the charge down rapidly. In fact, Chevrolet says Spark EV owners should always have a good idea where the closed recharge station is, especially for trips that might be pushing the battery’s range.
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV will offer all sorts of in-vehicle connectivity, including GM’s MyLink infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen and integration with optional third-party smart phone apps like Siri Eyes Free, Pandora and BringGo navigation. The user does have to have a smart phone and purchase the various apps.
This brings us to RemoteLink. Chevrolet says, “The Spark EV RemoteLink application is designed to enhance the overall ownership experience with fingertip interaction and control.”
The app requires a compatible smart phone and an active OnStar subscription. Among its useful features are a charge status display, telling you whether the car is plugged in or not, and the voltage. At first glance, this might sound idiotic but in the coming days, when there are enough electrics running around trying to get a charge, the app could let you know when somebody unhooked your car to plug theirs in. The same app allows the Spark to send you an e-mail or text to remind you to recharge, of an interruption in charging and when a charge is completed.
Another handy function is the display of battery charge level and total range: you might need to make a run to a meeting or the airport and it’s handy to know if your Spark will make it. The system also allows you to remotely start the car for heating or cooling the interior.
Potentially one of the most useful of RemoteLink’s features is the Spark EV Waypoint tab. It can quickly plot a waypoint route with recommended charging stations if the route is beyond the vehicle’s remaining range. This could be a lifesaver in unfamiliar territory.
The Spark is a tiny car but as an electric, it comes into its own. For commuting; for the everyday errands and so many of the things we do by ourselves, the Spark is perfect. Easy to park, agile and with enough power that getting on a freeway isn’t a life-or-death decision, it’s a truly practical car for what we really do and how we really drive. Add in a very competitive lease and the freedom to ignore what’s happening in the crazy world of oil prices and it might be worth a look.
General Motors has inked a deal with Nissan for a small commercial van to be sold in the U.S. and Canada starting late next year.
The 2015 Chevrolet City Express will be cloned from Nissan’s NV200, which has been on sale in various world markets since 2009 and in the U.S. since earlier this year. If the name rings a bell, it might be because a passenger version of the NV200 was selected as the replacement for the Ford Crown Victoria as the next standard New York City taxicab.
Both vans will be built at the Nissan plant in Aguascaliente, Mexico.
“Our fleet customers have asked us for an entry in the commercial small van segment, so this addition to the Chevrolet portfolio will strengthen our position with fleets and our commercial customers,” said Ed Peper, GM’s U.S. v-p of Fleet and Commercial Sales.
While customers may have asked for a junior Chevy van, a more likely rationale for the Chevy-san is the success of Ford’s imported-from-Turkey Transit Connect, which has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the segment with only minor competition from Chrysler’s Ram Cargo Van. Ford sold 35,216 Transit Connects in 2012. As of April this year, Transit Connect sales are up 27.6% while sales of GM’s full-size G-Series vans (Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna) are down 6%.
In addition, Chrysler Group will start selling a Ram version of the Fiat Doblo, which is also built in Turkey, early next year, leaving GM as the sole Detroit automaker without an entry in the field. GM hasn’t had a small commercial van since the Astro was dropped in 2005.
The tie-up with Nissan seems unusual, considering that General Motors already has a small van, the Opel/Vauxhall Combo, which is sold in Europe and other markets. However, the Nissan van is already federalized, which will get the City Express to market more quickly and save GM the cost of certifying the Combo with the EPA. There’s also the potentially embarrassing fact the newest Combo is itself a clone: of the Fiat Doblo. Surprisingly, GM Korea (formerly Daewoo), which supplies the Spark and components for the the Sonic and Cruze, does not produce commercial vehicles.
Whatever the reason, Nissan is quite happy with the arrangement. Joe Castelli, Nissan v-p for commercial vehicles and fleet said, “Working with partners to expand markets for our innovative products enhances Nissan’s growth and manufacturing efficiency by leveraging our capacity to meet growing demand in this space.”
General Motors has unveiled what might be its most important new product in years: the 2014 Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 full-size pickups.
GM says the trucks are “new from hood to hitch” and are engineered to be fully competitive with pickups from Ford, Ram and Toyota.
The styling revisions are evolutionary with a more aggressive grille giving the truck a more massive appearance. But the big bucks, estimated to be between $3 billion and $4 billion, were spent on improvements underneath the sheet metal.
“Our customers rely on their trucks to meet the day-to-day challenges of earning a living, running a business and taking care of their families,” said Mark Reuss, president, GM North America, during the presentation. “Chevrolet is committed to giving truck customers the most-refined, best-engineered pickups in the market.”
Among the improvements are three new, naturally aspirated EcoTec3 engines, a 4.3-liter V-6, 5.3-liter V-8 and a 6.2-liter V-8, all of which have standard cylinder deactivation. Horsepower and torque figures weren’t released but the new engines are expected to be very capable: GM believes pickup customers prefer better performance to better fuel economy and isn’t going to try to match Ford’s EcoBoost engines.
All three engines will be matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. An eight-speed gearbox is scheduled to go into production in 2014.
GM’s slow-selling hybrid trucks will disappear with the introduction of the new series.
A nifty addition is the CornerStep bumper, a foothold stamped into the rear bumper. Combined with handholds built into the box rail protectors, the Cornerstep bumper makes it easier to access the box, which is a good thing as the top of the box is even higher than it is on the current models. The bed is also available with new upper tie-down hooks, under-rail light-emitting diode lighting, and an EZ Lift and Lower tailgate.
Buyers of the 2014 Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 crew cab will be able to opt for a longer six-foot, six-inch box instead of the five-foot, eight-inch box. Extended cab trucks will offer only the six-foot, six-inch box while regular cab pickups will be available with the six-foot, six-inch box or the eight-foot bed.
New interiors feature a revised instrument panel and a six-gauge instrument cluster. GM says the controls are functional, logically placed and easily operated while wearing work gloves. The rear doors on extended-cab trucks are now hinged at the front and those on crew cabs are larger, making entry and exit easier.
Chevy and GMC will retain their steering-column-mounted shifters but add a tap-up/tap-down mode for those wanted to do their own shifting.
The bodies and frames have been improved with more high-strength steel in the bodies and hydroformed frame members. The chassis and body have been tweaked for a better ride and reduced wind noise. GM says millions of hours of computational time were used in the development of the new pickups.
The new Silverado and Sierra will go into production at GM plants in Flint, Michigan, Fort Wayne, Indiana and Silao, Mexico in the second quarter of 2013, starting with the crew cab. Extended and regular cab trucks will follow later in the year.
Pricing will be announced closer to start of sales.
The folks at General Motors say they have the truck that can outsell the F-Series. At the beginning of the unveil, Reuss said, “Our competitors may think they have smooth sailing ahead. But let me tell you, the weather is about to change.”
THe folks at General Motors clearly think they finally have the truck that can outsell the F-Series. The last time the Chevy outsold the Ford, Jimmy Carter was President and everyone was complaining about gas at 64 cents per gallon.
These trucks are vital to GM’s bottom line, bringing in as much as $10,000 to $12,000 profit each, depending on trim and options. However, GM has neglected the lines since the last overhaul for the 2007 model year. As a result, the GM pickups are now the oldest in the segment and have lost market share to Ford and Ram. From 2008 to the end of November 2012, the gap between Silverado sales and those of the Ford F-Series has more than quadrupled. The gap between the GMC Sierra and Ram pickup has also grown, nearly doubling since 2009.
Since brand loyalty in the pickup segment is higher than any other light vehicle segment, the new GM pickups should do well with current owners of GM light trucks. However, the lack of significant exterior change combined with the possibly risky call on fuel economy could hamper conquest sales to owners of other brands.
Ford has already announced plans to rain on GM’s parade and the official introductions of the new pickups at the North American International Auto Show next month. Ford will display a sneak peek at the 2015 Ford F-Series pickup, hoping to give the Ford faithful reason to hold on to their truck another year.
Furthermore, Ford has won high praise for its EcoBoost engine and the Ram’s Pentastar V-6 was a repeat winner in the Ward’s Auto best engine list. Even though gasoline prices have fallen significantly in recent weeks, nobody, especially fleet buyers, believe they will remain low. Chevy’s power vs. economy may play well among consumers, but it may hamper sales to the fleets that help truck makers roll up the big numbers.
In addition, GM will have just one model year to be the freshest face on the block. With the 2014 debut of the next generation F-Series, FOrd can play to its far larger base: since the pickup segment began to recover in 2010, Ford has sold nearly 120,000 more pickups than Chevrolet and GMC combined. The three-year gap between the Silverado and the F-series is over 537,000 units, which is more pickups than Chevy has sold in any year since 2007.
Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results and GM has done well with its Cruze and otehr new cars, but it remains to be seen if GM is going to see a billion bucks worth of bang for its hefty investments.
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