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GM Boosts Chevrolet Malibu Fuel Efficiency to Top Camry

General Motors Co., updating the Chevrolet Malibu after disappointing sales, said the 2014 model’s estimated fuel economy for city and highway driving will increase 12 percent, beating the Toyota Camry.

The base 2014 Malibu, which reaches U.S. showrooms later this year, will get 29 miles (47 kilometers) per gallon in combined city and highway use, Detroit-based GM said today in a statement. The 2013 base model was rated at 26 mpg, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Toyota Motor Corp.’s 2014 base Camry gets a combined 28 mpg, according to the EPA.

“In this competitive mid-size segment, there is no standing still,” Chris Perry, Chevrolet’s marketing vice president, said in the statement. U.S. sales of the Malibu fell 20 percent through July to 123,573, while deliveries of the top-selling Camry decreased 0.6 percent to 242,406, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

GM announced changes for the 2014 model in May, including a sportier front end and roomier back seat intended to address criticisms of the totally redesigned sedan introduced last year. Today’s fuel-economy estimates are better than what GM had previously said the updated Malibu would get. The company said in May that city performance would increase 5 percent. In fact, the base model’s city rating rose about 14 percent to 25 mpg.

Nissan Motor Co.’s 2014 Altima is rated at a combined 31 mpg with a four-cylinder engine. Honda Motor Co.’s 2014 Accord with a four-cylinder engine is rated at 29 mpg in combined driving as is Ford Motor Co.’s front-wheel-drive Fusion when equipped with a manual transmission.

Stop-Start System

The Malibu’s fuel savings in the 2014 base model are being achieved, in part, by including so-called stop-start technology to a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, GM said. The technology, which had been included in the higher-end Malibu, conserves fuel by automatically shutting off the engine when the car comes to a complete stop. The engine restarts when the driver’s foot is taken off the brake.

The design of the outgoing Malibu needed to be changed, Mark Reuss, president of GM’s North American division, told reporters today in Hawthorne, California.

“Since I’ve been here, the only thing I really didn’t feel good about in our portfolio was the design of the front end of the Malibu,” Reuss said. “We’re fixing that. We’re not going to deny it. The old company would have stood around and defended it.”

Production Begun

Production of the revamped car has begun and cars begin arriving in showrooms as soon as next month, Reuss said. The 2014 base Malibu’s price, excluding destination fees, increases by $145 to $22,140, GM said.

Separately, sales of the company’s plug-in Volt sedan will be a record in August, Reuss said, without elaborating. The high-tech Chevrolet model’s best month of sales in the U.S. was 2,851 last September.

GM rose 0.7 percent to $33.92 at the close in New York. The shares gained 18 percent this year, compared with 15 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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