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GM’s Malibu starts to roll – but sedan only

Geared up: The Chevrolet Malbu has commenced production in South Korea ahead of its debut in Holden badges in 12 months.

Coupe and wagon ruled out for new Malibu that arrives as a Holden in 12 months

19 Oct 2011

GENERAL Motors’ all-new mid-size Malibu has started rolling down the South Korean production line ahead of its global roll-out under Chevrolet and Holden badges.

But do not expect a range of body styles when the new nameplate arrives in Holden showrooms in 12 months, as the car will be built only as a sedan in this generation.

Reports from Detroit suggest GM vice-president of global design Ed Welburn showed journalists a sketch of a coupe version of the Malibu this week, but then said GM had no plans to proceed with that variant.

“A Malibu coupe could be a pretty nice car,” he was quoted as telling Edmunds Inside Line. “But it is not in the plan right now.”

In Melbourne today, GMIO Design executive director Michael Simcoe told GoAuto that GM considered all sorts of interpretations for Malibu, as it did with all models.

“But you have to look at it in terms of the life of the architecture and is there another one coming along,” he said.

Mr Simcoe said the Malibu was one of the last new GM models to come off the Epsilon II architecture that spawned cars such as the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia – which will be launched in Australia next year as an Opel – Buick LaCrosse and Saab 9-5.

The comments by Mr Welburn and Mr Simcoe could be interpreted as suggesting that GM is still thinking about expanding the Malibu range, but not until the next-generation platform arrives, probably under the next Insignia.

13 center imageLeft: GMIO Design executive director Michael Simcoe. Below: Chevrolet Malibu.

The current Insignia comes in three body styles – sedan, wagon and five-door hatch.

Asked about the potential for a Malibu wagon for Australia to go up against Ford’s Mondeo wagon and Hyundai’s new i40 Touring, Mr Simcoe said that was unlikely in the Holden line-up even if it did become available, as it would crowd Holden’s existing Commodore Sportwagon.

“If you considered a Malibu wagon alongside our current Sportwagon, that’s just one too many in the showroom,” he said.

Although the Malibu will be new to the Holden range when it arrives in the second half of next year, the nameplate is one of GM’s longest-running models, now entering its eighth generation in the Chevrolet range.

The car will be launched first in South Korea next month, before being rolled out to other markets.

North America will get it in the first quarter of 2012, but Australia will have to wait a full 12 months for the replacement of its slow-selling Epica, which is now all but run out.

When it arrives, it is expected to get GM’s new 136kW/245Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder direct-injected Ecotec engine for the Australian market, although 2.4 and 2.0-litre engines are to be offered in Korea.

Some of the engine calibration is being done by Holden powertrain engineers.

A new six-speed automatic transmission will be standard.

There is no word yet on whether Australia will get a diesel or the mild-hybrid Malibu Eco petrol-electric variant that would target Toyota’s Camry Hybrid.

GM Korea held a line-off ceremony for the first Malibu to roll down the line at its Bupyeong 2 plant in Incheon this week.

GM Korea president and CEO Mike Arcamone said the new Malibu was GM Korea’s most important product introduction of the year.

“It will play a significant role in enabling us to attain our goals in the domestic market while ensuring that GM Korea becomes an important part of Chevrolet’s success in its second century,” he said.

The start of Malibu production marks a major turnaround for the former Daewoo, with three manufacturing plants now flat-out building new-generation, GM-based vehicles such as the Cruze and Captiva.

GM says the new Malibu will offer the quietest ride in its segment, with items such as noise-reducing exterior mirrors, acoustic laminated front glass and noise-absorption pads to prevent tyre, wind and road noise.

The Malibu will go on sale in about 100 countries, making it one of GM’s most critical models.

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