GM 4-Banger Boosts Malibu, ATS

Chevrolet has taken a giant leap forward with refreshings of three body styles-2013 Cruze, Camaro and Malibu.

The Cruze has been recast in the subcompact segment in interior trim, but still trails the global Honda Fit and Jazz in performance. The Fit has benefited from GM’s belated decision to replace GM’s venerable Malibu four-cylinder engine with its ‘Eco e Assist’ 4-banger, which boasts direct fuel injection and was directly ordered to be the base engine on the high-profile Cadillac ATS base model by none other than GM CEO Dan Akerson, who also mandated a No. 1 segment target for the midsize Malibu.

Priced from $23,150, the new Malibu challenges Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Dodge Dart and erstwhile segment leaders Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. That’s tough company, and one in which Akerson will demand No. 1 results for Malibu worldwide. – First in a series of 2013-14 Evaluations

CPAs in the Auto Team America group disagree-rightly so-on whether dealers should merely strive to catch up to previous statements as they give their operating departments targets for the balance of 2012 and 2013.

However, domestic automakers are spreading wet blankets over dealer efforts, backed by CPAs, to catch up to their statements of 2010 and 2011. Asserts the ATA, in a sharp departure from automaker commandments: “By tracking what really brings in people, you should be able to revise your ad dollar budget…resulting in reduced ad expense as a % of sales/gross profit.”

But there’s the rub! Cadillacs new ATS and XTS sedans, streamlined to a fare-thee-well, have won autowriter accolades, but early distribution plans channel allotments to Cadillac-Buick dealers in privately-owned and publicly-owned groups, despite the fact that profits are greater at GM dealers who lost their Saturn and Pontiac franchises in the bankruptcy period.

It’s shameful that Buick-Cadillac-GMC dealers should be under-allotted when hot cars like the Buick Verano and the gorgeous XTS Cadillac car are on sale. Their ought to be a law penalizing factories for allocation misdirection. Well, there is! But it has been anything but enforced, alas!

The 2013-model XTS competes directly with BMW’s high-range M-series and the sibling V models, making the first time since 1914 that the premier Caddy sedan body style lacks a V-8 engine.

Yes, the NorthStar V-8 used in Cadillac’s departed Seville and DTS models is gone, supplanted by a tweaked 3.6-liter direct injection 24-valve V-6 rated at a cool 304 hp and equipped with a new ‘Standard of the World’ rarity, front-wheel drive.

Changes wrought in the XTS by the succession of GM CEOs and designed to restore Cadillac’s historic status as kingpin of the GM brands.

Check out these XTS add-ons long overdue for the century-old Cadillac/La Salle brand- a 6-speed automatic transaxle; MacPherson struts and coil springs in front; independent rear suspension H-arms with air springs; shock absorbers with magnetic ride-control technology, and a top-quality Brembo brake system. Adding frosting to the cake are 19-inch wheels and tires (20-inch optional).