06-05-2008, 11:47 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
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Best midsize car ranking shows GM on right track
BY MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS AUTO CRITIC
June 5, 2008
GM's strategic shift to build more fuel-efficient cars got an early endorsement Wednesday when the hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu was recognized as the highest-quality midsize sedan on the market.
The highly regarded J. D. Power Initial Quality Study held other good news for GM, but also shows how far the automaker must go to challenge leading cars from other automakers.
The good: Cadillac and Chevrolet moved into the top 10 among all brands, and GM's Pontiac and Buick brands joined them in the upper half of the industry. Those four beat Acura, BMW, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen, Volvo and other highly regarded brands.
The bad: GM can't even sniff leadership in compact and subcompact cars -- market segments where it desperately needs to improve and just announced two new cars for Chevrolet.
Beyond that, GMC and Saturn ranked in the bottom half of the industry, and the number of problems owners reported in new Saturns rose dramatically.
The Malibu's achievement is most significant. GM has been an also-ran in midsize cars for years. The fact that the Malibu rolled straight out of the factory into first place -- and an even more impressive fourth-best among all vehicles of all prices -- validates GM's new emphasis on cars.
GM plans to reduce its reliance on trucks, but the Chevrolet Silverado's status as the highest quality full-size pickup is another big win for the brand. Even as Americans switch to smaller vehicles, pickups and midsize sedans are likely to remain the best-selling vehicles. Chevrolet needs a strong position in both.
GM topped three car segments in the survey and tied with Toyota for the most by any automaker.
Saturn's drop is a major disappointment, but J.D. Power's chief of research blamed it on a hectic 18 months in which the brand replaced all its vehicles with new models.
"I'd be very surprised if we don't see both brands improve rapidly," Dave Sargent told the Automotive Press Association about Saturn and GMC on Wednesday.
GM will then have to prove the new compact and subcompact cars it just announced Chevrolet will get in 2010 can match the Malibu's appeal and quality.
A full line of cars as good as the Malibu could put GM on the road to success it hasn't known in decades.
The 2008 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study shows that GM has at least started in the right direction.
Detroit Free Press
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