New Car Development Races Ahead at GM

Now that bankruptcy is in the past, General Motors is ramping up the new car development programs that were put off during more difficult times.

For example, the newest generation of the Chevrolet Malibu is in development and will be available in 2011. In August, the company said the car wouldn’t make its debut until 2012.

Vice chairman Bob Lutz says, Once we got out of the bankruptcy and started having money available, we were able to pull a lot of our programs forward. He also commented that a bunch of cars would be pulled forward but did not mention specific dates or vehicles. These comments were made when Lutz was interviewed at a recent press preview highlighting future Chevy vehicles and marketing strategy. During the interview, Lutz made mentioned of the timetable for the new Malibu.

Over 142,000 Malibus were sold by Chevrolet through November of this year; accounting for one quarter of its U.S. car volume. Malibu sales dropped 11%, while sales of the automaker’s top selling Impala dropped 38%.

The new generation Malibu, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse and the 2011 Regal share the same front-drive vehicle platform. On the Malibu design it is as wide as the LaCrosse, but is a little shorter than the current Malibu design. The new Malibu will also have more interior space than the current model and a slightly shorter wheelbase than the LaCrosse.

Lutz said, We are going through the whole portfolio and pulling forward as much as we can. It is not forward from where it should have been. It is forward from back where we had deferred in bankruptcy.

At the press preview, a mockup of the next generation Malibu was on display. The sheet metal is all new. Lutz commented that he likes the chrome strip that surrounds the side glass. He said, Nothing adds perceived value to a car faster than that chrome surround around the side glass, because it is a hallmark of German and Japanese luxury products. The top of the line model will have chrome door handles and other similar details.

If you skimp on $50 of chrome, you are reducing the customer’s perceived value of the car by $500 or $600, said Lutz.

In the future, Lutz says, all GM’s cars will have the chrome strip around the side window glass, with the exception of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze; the product plan for that model was already too far ahead to allow for a change.

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