GM's problems in the "D-Segment"

General Motors Is Headed For Bankruptcy -- Again

To help understand why GM keeps losing market share, let’s look at the saga of the Chevy Malibu. The Malibu is GM’s entry in the automobile market’s “D-Segment”.

The D-Segment comprises mid-size, popularly priced, family sedans, like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The D-Segment accounted for 14.7% of the total U.S. vehicle market in 2011, and 21.3% during the first 7 months of 2012.

Because the D-Segment is the highest volume single vehicle class in the U.S., and the U.S. is GM’s home market, it is difficult to imagine how GM could survive long term unless it can profitably develop, manufacture, and market a vehicle that can hold its own in the D-Segment. This is true not only because of the revenue potential of the D-Segment, but also because of what an also-ran Malibu would say about GM’s ability to execute at this time in its history.

GM is in the process of introducing a totally redesigned 2013 Chevy Malibu. It will compete in the D-Segment with, among others, the following: the Ford Fusion (totally redesigned for 2013); the Honda Accord (totally redesigned for 2013); the Hyundai Sonata (totally redesigned for 2011); the Nissan Altima (totally redesigned for 2013); the Toyota Camry (refreshed for 2013); and the Volkswagen Passat (totally redesigned for 2012).

... In a recent speech, Dan Akerson admitted that GM’s powertrain technology had fallen behind that of competitors in some cases. This is illustrated by the Malibu Eco’s EPA gas mileage ratings. At 25 MPG City/37 MPG Highway, the Malibu Eco is not as fuel-efficient as the conventionally-powered 2013 Nissan Altima (27 MPG City/38 MPG Highway).

... In developing the 2013 Malibu, GM decided to shorten the wheelbase by 4.5 inches from that of the previous-generation Malibu, from 112.3 inches to 107.5 inches. This gave the 2013 Malibu the shortest wheelbase in the entire D-Segment.

The Car and Driver comparison-test-winning Passat has a wheelbase of 110.4 inches, which gives it a “unique selling proposition”, the roomiest back seat in the D-Segment. The Passat has combined front and rear legroom totaling 81.5 inches, 3.5 inches more than the Malibu. This may not sound like a lot, but, like baseball, automobile design is “a game of inches”.

... “The game isn’t over until it’s over”, but if President Obama wins reelection, he should probably start giving some serious thought to how he is going to justify bailing out GM, and its unionized UAW workforce, yet again. And, during the current campaign, Obama might want to be a little more modest about what he actually achieved by bailing out GM the first time.
Comment: Image source. Article is a very good read about auto design and also about the government bailout of GM. I'm not in a market for a car (and don't think I will be for 5+ years) but my own take in the D-Segment is that the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima are very nice. We were at the Plymouth Ford dealer this past Spring. I looked at the Taurus (which I would compare in size to my Buick) and the Fusion. Three years ago I rented an Altima and it road well and was comfortable.


  1. Interesting WIKI describing the various segments: Category:Car classifications.

    My Buick Lucerne would be an "F-class" (same size as the Cadillac DTS)

  2. I would say that GM hasn't fallen behind in the engine technology, but has rather been behind for years. How long did it take them to get a credible set of DOHC engines, when the Japanese and Europeans have been doing this since the 1970s?

    And the policy I've seen hunting for jobs of hiring engineers on contract probably helps a lot of them find Marysville OH and Lexington KY on the map, if you catch my drift.

  3. The one very nice plus about GM (for me) is Lupient GMC in Golden Valley. Great customer service.

    My guess is my next car will be a Ford (perhaps a Taurus class car). But I am not planning on buying another car for many years. Currently saving $ 100 per week ... and i want to buy the next car cash.

  4. Not a fan of the Fusion. Blind spots in the back.


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