Here's a new one: Chevrolet announced that it reduced the MSRP on the 2013 Malibu mid-size sedan, but not for the obvious reason of making it more affordable. Instead, General Motors says that the new prices are a ploy to shake up how the Malibu appears on popular car-buying websites.
Chevrolet says that it's reduced the price across the board, including the LS, 1LT, 2LT, 3LT, LTZ, and Eco. The price drops range from $300 for the 2LT and 3LT to $345 for the base LS model, $415 for the LTZ, and $770 for the 1LT. With the price drop factored in, the Malibu now starts at $22,805 (including destination).
The interesting thing to note here is that this isn't an incentive spend--Automotive News reports that GM's incentive spend on the Malibu is currently $0--and the stated reason wasn't the obvious one, that GM wanted to make its cars marginally more affordable. It's likely that with high inventories of the new car (129 days-supply as of January 1 and 94 days-supply as of February 1, well above the standard 60 days), a shrewd car salesman could knock that amount of money off the list price in no time.
Instead, General Motors says it's changing the prices to go after customers who research online on sites like Automotive.com. Most sites of this nature allow users to filter segments of car by starting price, and until recently, the Malibu was dead last in those rankings. It now rings in at just $225 less than the segment leader Toyota Camry (which starts at $23,030, including destination), making the Malibu the second-most-expensive in the MSRP rankings. On the off chance consumers tell a car-buying site they want something that starts at less than $22,000, they'll see photos of the Malibu and none of the Camry. Of course, varying trim levels and standard features/optional extras change the numbers game (a Honda Accord with alloy wheels and an automatic transmission is actually $23,270), but GM is betting that it needs to win the price war online before it can win the war at the dealer.
Will a price shave save the Chevrolet Malibu, whose recent blunders (like a cramped back seat and dowdy front end) reportedly earned it a Honda Civic-esque emergency refresh? It's unlikely that any one thing will be the American midsizer's saving grace, but GM is obviously showing initiative and working hard to keep the Malibu competitive in one of the toughest segments on the market. We should also note that Chevrolet hopes to boost sales a healthy seven percent this year--a feat it can't do without selling more Malibus.
Sources: General Motors, Automotive News (subscription required)