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by Tim Beissmann

General Motors is said to be working overtime to launch a new version of its Malibu sedan as the current model continues to tank in the ultra-competitive medium-size segment.

Automotive News reports GM is aiming to release the next-generation Chevrolet/Holden Malibu “about a year from now”.

A late-2015/early-2016 introduction would cut the current eighth-generation car’s life short at less than five years, after it launched in the US in the second quarter of 2012. The average vehicle lifecycle lasts approximately seven years, though modular platforms and increased component sharing is cutting these lifespans shorter.

GM global product development executive vice president Mark Reuss showed an image of the next-generation Malibu at an investor presentation event in October and promised it would pack “ground-breaking design but also ground-breaking technology”.

“We’ve got our act together here on the mid-size car segment,” Reuss told investors.

“When is the last time you saw a [mid-size] car this distinctive and this dramatic from General Motors?”

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The eighth-generation Malibu has battled image problems for much of its life. Dealers said Chevrolet’s decision to stagger the launch of the Malibu – introducing a mild-hybrid Eco model six months before the volume-selling 2.5-litre petrol model – confused the market and killed the car’s momentum.

Chevrolet also rushed a facelift for the Malibu after just 18 months of the car being on sale on the back slow early sales and unfavourable reviews from North American automotive media.

Sales of the Chevrolet Malibu are down seven per cent in the US this year to 171,702 vehicles. It’s the only car in the top eight of the mid-size segment to lose ground this year, with the Toyota Camry leading the way at 396,988 sales (up five per cent) from the Honda Accord (356,785, up seven per cent), Nissan Altima (303,313, up three per cent), Ford Fusion (283,694, up five per cent), and the Hyundai Sonata (199,012, up five per cent).

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The Holden Malibu is also struggling in Australia. While the year-to-date increase of 38.4 per cent for 2014 looks impressive, that figure doesn’t give an accurate representation, given the Malibu has only been here since May last year.

Comparing the May-November period this year versus last year, sales are down 16.0 per cent, with just 950 sold during that time in 2014, at an average of 136 per month.

With 1567 sales to the end of November, the Malibu makes up just 3.5 per cent of Australia’s sub-$60,000 mid-size market, ranking 10th overall behind the Camry (19,670), Mazda 6 (5486), Ford Mondeo (2953), Volkswagen Passat (2815), Hyundai i40 (2535), Volkswagen Jetta (1664), Skoda Octavia (1655), Altima (1633) and the Honda Accord (1623).




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