When Chevrolet first rolled the Malibu off the production line in 1964, it was a petrol-guzzler with a V8 engine that produced 300 horsepower. Finally, after 47 years, numerous versions of this popular sedan and a whole lot of miles, Chevrolet has decided to make the Malibu green.
Eco Model with e-assist
As part of its effort to build vehicles that compete equally well in Europe and Asia as they do in North America, General Motors has released a slick new version of the Malibu that includes an ‘Eco’ model with e-assist. This is designed to cut out the engine when the vehicle comes to a standstill, an increasingly common feature these days and a straightforward way to make a real improvement in fuel efficiency. This works in a familiar way – the engine restarts when the driver presses the accelerator again to get moving.
Miles Per Gallon
The above improvements mean that the new Malibu achieves 25 miles to the gallon in the city and a respectable 39 miles per gallon during highway driving. No, it’s not a revelation in terms of fuel efficiency but it’s another major step for a North American car producer that has generally made its name from vehicles that devour fuel – the type of vehicle that has traditionally been typical in the USA.
It’s a sign that government legislation in the US is having an effect on how carmakers produce vehicles as they target coming into line with rules under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy. From 2011, these rules have changed. Previously vehicles were required to meet MPG targets as part of a manufacturer’s fleet of cars, but now there is a new equation based on footprint. That means a smaller car has to produce greater fuel efficiency. While this means investing in new technology, adapting vehicles over time to raise their fuel economy and the possibility of alienating consumers in the US that go for large, gas guzzling vehicles, there are commercial benefits.
Closer to EU and Japan standards
As Chevrolet has clearly realised with the Malibu Eco, delivering a vehicle that gets closer to European and Japanese standards of fuel consumption automatically means it becomes more appealing in those markets. After all, American cars, on average, consume about 40 per cent more fuel than their counterparts in the European Union. This is down to design – big SUVs with large engines and little thought for the environment. By building vehicles that conforms to CAFE regulations in the US, these car manufacturers are saving themselves Federal fines and producing cars which hold greater appeal to consumers outside the US. This means that there is less of a need for an alternative model to be developed for these markets and more money is saved on design, R&D and courtesy of economies of scale. This is exactly what has happened with the new Malibu Eco.
For environmentalists, it’s business like this that again serves to undermine arguments that suggest going green makes little business sense. This is simply not true on so many levels and the Malibu Eco proves that. And, more to the point, it’s also a great drive.