LAS VEGAS – In a world gone mad for crossovers, SUVs and pickups, Chevrolet is updating much of its ’19 car lineup with fresh grilles and fascias, new infotainment systems, a sporty RS trim version of the Malibu and 4-cyl. track-intended Turbo 1LE Camaro.
General Motors’ bowtie brand unveiled the updated models here in a wide-ranging event for journalists and Chevrolet dealers focused on everything from test-driving competitive electric vehicles and outfitting next-generation heavy-duty commercial trucks to better connecting with consumers via a new online chat service.
Chevrolet has 3,000 U.S. dealers, and 2,900 of them attended the event, representing about 80% of the brand’s retail sales volume, says Brian Sweeney, U.S. vice president of Chevrolet, who is pleased with the brand’s “health trends,” source of sales and customer satisfaction.
“Average transaction prices are up, we’re seeing some of our best residual values in the last three years, and we think we have a great story in terms of retail market share,” Sweeney says of the growth from 10.2% in 2014 to 11.2% last year.
“Over the last three years, no one has grown retail share more than Chevrolet,” he says. “We think we have the freshest lineup of any full-line brand: 11 new or refreshed models since 2016 and we cover over 76% of the market.”
The ’19 model year will bring a “restyled face of Chevy cars,” with signature lighting, sculpted grilles, dual-element taillamps and redesigned front ends for a more premium look for the Spark, Cruze and Malibu. All of them go on sale later this year.
For the first time, the Malibu will offer a sporty RS trim with blacked-out styling cues such as the grille and bowtie emblem, as well as a rear spoiler, 18-in. machined wheels and dual-outlet exhaust.
Inside, the Malibu RS will feature a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, black cloth seats and standard 8-in. (20-cm) diagonal touchscreen for the new Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system. A new CVT is standard on models with the 1.5L turbocharged 4-cyl.
The Cruze compact car gets new interior color options, expanded availability of remote start and the new infotainment system paired with a standard 7-in. (18-cm) color touchscreen.
Also new, the LS trim is added to the Cruze Hatch line. In its first full year of production, the hatchback claimed 20% of Cruze volume.
Front-end styling cues for the Cruze and Malibu carry over to the Spark minicar, along with new exterior color options, revised interior trim and an active-safety feature newly available: low-speed forward automatic braking.
“The investments we have made in Spark, Cruze and Malibu will help position the brand for success in competitive segments that still make up a significant part of the total industry,” Sweeney says.
But not all the signs are positive for Chevrolet’s car lineup. Through the first quarter, every Chevrolet car lost volume compared with first-quarter 2017, from the Malibu and Spark (down 2.4% and 2.7%, respectively) to the Sonic (-21%), 38% (Volt), Camaro (-23%), Corvette (-23%), Cruze (-26%) and Impala (-36%), according to Wards Intelligence data.
With trucks and utility vehicles factored in, Chevrolet deliveries for the month were up 11.5% (versus 2.6% for the overall industry) to 199,212 vehicles. For the year, Chevy sales grew 4.1% (versus 2.1% for the industry) to 490,531 units.
The Wall Street Journal reports GM will end production of the subcompact Sonic and is planning to discontinue the Impala in the next few years.
Neither the Sonic nor Impala were featured here in Chevy’s presentation of product enhancements, and the automaker declined to comment on the reports. Speculation about the Impala’s future comes as Toyota is preparing to launch a redesigned rival, the Avalon.
Steve Majoros, Chevrolet marketing director for Cars and Crossovers, calls the Impala an important part of the Chevy portfolio and “part of our future, no doubt about that.”
On the performance front, the ’19 Camaro Turbo 1LE achieves a nearly 50/50 weight distribution, thanks to the lighter 2.0L turbo-4 rated at 275 hp, and comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission. Recaro seats are available.
A track-capable chassis package includes an FE3 suspension with larger diameter front and rear stabilizer bars, specifically tuned dampers, stiffer rear cradle bushings and cross-axis ball joints in the rear tow links that enhance lateral stiffness.
Standard are summer-only tires (P245/40R20 in front and P275/35R20 at the rear), Brembo brakes with low-metallic performance pads and a Driver Mode Selector with a new Track Mode and Competition Mode that integrate performance instrument readouts, launch control and shift lights.
Trailing the rival Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger in sales, the Camaro range gets a number of enhancements for ’19, including available rear camera mirror and forward collision alert, as well as a 10L80 10-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission with custom launch control and line lock in the SS.
On the outside, the Camaro gets a refreshed grille, hood and fascia vents optimized for air flow, either to cool components or help minimize drag or lift.
Majoros points to industry data suggesting cars make up between 34% and 45% of the retail market.
“The car market today still is very vibrant… and we’re bullish on the car market,” he says. “Four million people bought a traditional passenger car in 2017, and our projections show that 4 million more will be sold in 2018.”
Many consumers don’t need a truck or utility vehicle and instead are shopping for the best price for reliable transportation, often leading them to a car purchase.
“There is volume to be had,” Majoros says. “And we intend to go out and get more than our fair share.”