- The popularity of the new Chevrolet Malibu is good news for General Motors Corp. and for the workers in its Orion Township Assembly plant, according to the Detroit Free Press
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Mark LaNeve, GM's head of sales, service and marketing in North America, said the automaker has expanded production of the redesigned midsize sedan to a second plant -- its Orion Township plant -- because it is not able to meet demand for the vehicle.
The big complaint from dealers about the Malibu so far, LaNeve said, is that they can't get them in showrooms fast enough.
The Malibu was named the Free Press Car of the Year and is a finalist for North American Car of the Year, an award that will be presented at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center this month, according to the Detroit Free Press
The automaker continues to produce the Malibu at its longtime home in Fairfax, Kan., but added it to the Orion assembly line -- which also makes the Pontiac G6 - on Dec. 3. The Malibu and the G6 are built on the same vehicle platform.
The company wouldn't say what percentage of the vehicles produced in Orion are Malibus, but Chevrolet spokeswoman Nancy Libby said the plant is producing 60 vehicles an hour with two shifts a day.
Fairfax is also operating with two shifts per day.
Workers in Orion Township told the Free Press in August that they expected to win production of the new hot-selling vehicle after a few practice Malibu’s rolled down the assembly line.
GM launched the new Malibu with the hope that it would give the Detroit automaker a sedan that can compete with - and win customers from -- the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the two top-selling cars in the country.
"We feel we've made tremendous progress in vehicle design," not just with the Malibu, but throughout the automaker's changing lineup, LaNeve said. "More and more consumers are waking up to the fact that they don't have to choose a Japanese brand to get fuel efficiency, quality or design."
And while he says the automaker is headed in the right direction with its new products, its work is not done: When GM announces its North American sales results today, GM's share of December retail sales should be up, while fleet sales will be down 15,000 to 20,000 for the month.
But, for the year, LaNeve said, GM's retail share will be "really flat."
"In a market where we're shifting from trucks and SUVs to passenger cars, that's not too bad because we're just starting to launch our new passenger car lineup and small-utility lineup," LaNeve said. "We think that this year coming up we'll certainly have an opportunity to grow our share and compete."
GM will showcase its popular new cars and expanding line of crossovers at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, LaNeve said.
The automaker also plans to highlight fuel efficiency and energy diversity in its Chevrolet display, and will celebrate its 100-year history and share its vision of the future of the automobile in a display in the center of the GM section of the auto show.