When the eighth generation Chevy Malibu was released in February this year, a vice general manager of Shanghai-GM reportedly forecast 150,000 deliveries before the end of the year, which would made it an equal of Toyota Camry and VW Passat in the local mid-size market. Yet, from February to July, only 14,263 sales were recorded by China Passenger Car Association. Although Malibu was priced notably lower than its siblings carrying the Buick logo, the Regal and LaCrosse, Chinese consumers seemed to find it overly expensive for a Chevy. They were unmoved even by Tony Leung, who worked as Malibu’s spokesman in China (as shown below).
As sales were set to drop below 2,000 in July, Shanghai-GM announced deep price cuts towards the end of the month. The entire Malibu lineup (including the newly launched 1.6T model), originally selling for 162,900-229,900 Yuan, received 20,000-30,000 Yuan (US$3,165-4,748) cash back plus free upgrades worth 4,000 Yuan. Immediate effects were seen as buyers quickly crowded Chevy showrooms. Sales shot up 300% from 1,578 in July to 6,443 in August, approaching those of Regal (7,186) and LaCrosse (6,818) (while still lagging far behind those of VW Passat at 17,790 and Toyota Camry at 14,583 in August).
Dealers say Malibu faces a branding difficulty. While local consumers associate the Chevy logo with affordable but fashionable cars for the young, Malibu has been perceived as a suitable ride for the middle aged and established.