In what has to be a blow to Chevrolet’s contention that their recent new product offerings symbolize the revitalized Chevrolet, Automotive News’ Rick Kranz, in a recent posting, took exception to the bow-tie brand’s claim. In Kranz’ view, as with many astute industry onlookers, the Chevrolet Impala is a glaring old-timer in Chevy’s lineup.
In other words, Impala is seriously long in the tooth. It’s been around for five decades, since the first model rolled off the assembly line in 1958. During that time, the Impala has been a best-seller for Chevrolet and a popular family car for millions of American consumers.
What’s the big deal? Why pick on Chevrolet when it’s got several top-selling vehicles right now? Yes, the all-new compact 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is moving up fast, posting 25,160 sales for April and 75,365 year-to-date. In fact, the Cruze is the number four best-selling passenger car in the U.S. for April. The 2011 Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan is itself a winner, snagging fifth place in passenger car sales for the month with 24,701 units sold (and 73,446 for year-to-date). And the Malibu for 2013 is redesigned, so that will boost sales even more for the family sedan.
Yet the Chevrolet Impala, though it hasn’t been restyled since 2006 model year and its last major redesign was for the 2000 model year, still sells well. Admittedly, it’s mostly to fleet and/or heavily discounted, but the 2011 Chevrolet Impala still managed to capture the number 10 best selling passenger car spot for April with sales of 21,071 (and 70,612 year-to-date, up 29.8 percent year-over-year).
Chevy is reportedly going to refresh the Impala for the 2012 model year. That means, according to various media outlets, that the large sedan will receive a new 3.6-liter engine to replace the current choices of 3.5- or 3.9-liter engines. In addition, gone will be the old (and seriously outdated) four-speed transmission, replaced by a six-speed. Expect a few styling tweaks as well, including a new grille and dual exhaust pipes. Dressing up with a little cosmetic “enhancements” never hurt other models as carmakers eke out a year or so before redoing the line.
Actually, Impala’s re-do is long overdue, in more ways than one. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, but the whole bankruptcy thing got in the way of a planned redesign that was originally scheduled for the 2011 model year. Some say (including Automotive News) that the next-generation Impala will be rear-wheel drive and that it may include a hybrid version; it's more likely the new car will be front-wheel drive, possibly with an all-wheel-drive option.
As it is, there’s too much overlap between the full-size Impala and mid-size Malibu. Automotive News quotes Chevy dealers and executives who indicate the next-generation Impala will clearly separate the large sedan from its sibling. No more “big, budget-priced car” for the Impala, says Bryan Nesbitt, Chevrolet’s executive director for exterior design.
Cadillac XTS Platinum ConceptEnlarge Photo
2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist Live ShotsEnlarge Photo
While Chevy brass are tight-lipped on the details, the next complete re-do of the Impala will sit on the longer version of the GM Epsilon platform – the same one underpinning the current Buick LaCrosse and the upcoming Cadillac XTS.
Perhaps the most telling comment comes from Alan Batey, Chevrolet sales executive, quoted in Automotive News as saying, “When we do finally show the thing, I think it’ll blow the doors off.”
Hmm…must be impressive. But then, by the time the 2014 Chevrolet Impala (presumably introduced in 2013 as a 2014) goes on-sale, there’ll be a revamped Ford Taurus (getting its makeover for 2013) in the market, as well as a new Camry, Accord and Altima. FamilyCarGuide looks forward to the reveal of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. What Chevy needs is an elegant (dare we say near-luxury) six-passenger full-size family sedan – at an affordable price.
See Bengt Halvorson’s piece on the 2012 Chevrolet Impala in TheCarConnection.