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Chev Malibu gives Camry a scare in US
US car market up 22 per cent as mid-sizers slug it out for sales leadership
5 Jul 2012
CHEVROLET Malibu – the global model that will carry Holden’s hopes in the Australian mid-sized sedan segment from next year – came perilously close to topping the passenger car sales charts in the United States last month.
A mix of new and runout Malibu models achieved 31,402 sales in June – just 698 vehicles short of long-time sales champion Toyota Camry’s 32,100 units.
General Motors was clearing the decks of the old model in readiness for the new Malibu that is being progressively rolled out in the US, starting with the mild-hybrid Eco variant that is already in showrooms.
Malibu’s main thrust will come over the next two months with release of the mainstream 2.5-litre petrol Malibu and a 2.0-litre turbo sports variant, setting the scene for a major battle for sales leadership bragging rights in the top-selling mid-sized sedan market.
The latest Camry is already bedded down since its North American launch last year, but it faces its toughest test over the next year or so with the introduction of the new Malibu, latest Ford Fusion, forthcoming Nissan Altima and a still-to-be-seen Honda Accord.
Last month, Malibu sales jumped 32 per cent over the corresponding period last year, while Toyota Camry sales climbed even more, soaring 50 per cent over last June’s paltry 21,375 sales when Toyota production was crippled by parts shortages as a result of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
From top: US Toyota Camry US Nissan Altima.
US vehicle sales rose almost across the board in June, powering the overall car and light truck market to 1,285,499 vehicles – a 22 per cent jump over June 2011.
The result was well above expectation, and puts the US industry on track for a 14 million-unit year - its best since 2007’s 16.1 million.
Led by Malibu’s strong showing, GM comfortably topped the sales charts with 248,750 sales, up 16 per cent year on year.
Cross-town rival Ford could not quite manage that level of growth, up just seven per cent to 207,759 sales, ahead of Toyota’s 177,795 units, up 60 per cent over last year’s disaster-affected June.
Chrysler Group’s comeback rolled on with a 20 per cent sales increase, to 144,811 million vehicles.
Like Toyota, Honda rebounded strongly in June, recording a 49 per cent lift in volume to 124,808 sales.
The Australian car industry will be watching with interest the impending battle in the US medium car segment, as most of the contenders are due to go head-to-head in this market too from 2013.
Holden has confirmed that will introduce the Malibu to finally fill a gaping hole in its product range and take the battle up to Toyota’s segment-leading Camry.
While Toyota’s Camry is locally built, Holden is most likely to import its mid-sized from South Korea.
The Malibu is built on the same platform as the Opel Insignia that is also due for Australian release soon, but gets GM’s new 147kW 2.5-litre Ecotec normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, as well as a turbocharged 2.0-litre 193kW 2.0-litre high-performance version.
Like Holden, Nissan Australia plans to get back into the mid-sized car market with its Altima in the second half of next year, with marketing supported by the company’s plunge into V8 Supercar racing with Kelly Racing in the 2013 season.
The Altima is likely to be built in Thailand rather than the US.
A new Honda Accord is also expected from Thailand by 2013, employing Honda’s new Earth Dreams range of engines and an alternative hybrid powertrain that will follow in 2014.
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