Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do you think I'm Pretty?

While I love our new Suburban, SUV's are not going to save the Big Three. Ford, Chevy and Dodge have dominated the market for trucks and SUV's, their most profitable segment, since they invented it. Ostensibly with high gas prices and the prospect of even higher prices possible, the Big Three will need to find a way to make money selling cars again. Mainstream, efficient cars.

Detroit has been fending off the Japanese encroachment into the full size truck market but have long since ceded the family sedan segment.

I give you the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima. For years, the General has sent the homely and poorly equipped Malibu onto the field of battle and despite every rebate and financing gimmick in the book, the Malibu got its taillights handed to it.

Despite the disadvantage of a much larger per-unit allocation of future retirement and benefit obligations, the Big Three have shown serious commitment to winning back their fair share of the segment with higher-quality materials and improved design. I give you the 300C, the new Taurus, and now the new Chevy Malibu.

I haven't seen a Chevrolet look this good in...well...forever. And this time Chevy is serious, spending over $150 Million on the advertising campaign, which is as much as they spend on Chevy trucks...and we all see those ads everywhere we look.

The Malibu will come standard with a 169HP four cylinder and front-wheel drive, with an available 252HP V6, which matches up well with the Japanese V6 options. With the four cylinder the Malibu will get 30MPG Highway.

But that's not what caught my attention. Its the styling. General Motors appears to finally be committed to winning designs in the mainstream, as evidenced by this car as well as the Saturn Aura, also a very nicely penned shape.

I'm not saying that you'll see me driving one of these any time soon. I prefer the weight distribution and handling of a rear-driver but I will say that it bodes well to see General Motors getting serious about their bread-and-butter family sedans.


Jeff Kouba said...

You'll have to pry my cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel of my Toyota Tacoma.

Bike Bubba said...

Sedans don't work for my family right now, but I've driven both domestic and imported cars while traveling (low end, Mazda/Toyota/Chevy), and I think that the domestics have gotten a bad rap. Sometimes it's deserved; the "tuned" exhaust note on the old Grand Ams was just annoying, as was the plastic cladding.

On the other hand, I had the opportunity to compare the Mazda 3 with a Malibu, and the difference was night & day. It was work to get the Mazda up to highway speeds, and it got about 25mpg. On the other hand, the Malibu accelerated nicely with a tap of the pedal and got closer to 30.

So I have to wonder at times whether the difference is perception, or perchance looking at the numbers instead of driving. After all, it was the Japanese cars that had to de-rate their motor horsepower by up to 10% or so when SAE closed a loophole in the ratings system.