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Impala chief engineer Todd Pawlik focused on costs for the 2014 Impala. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Impala chief engineer Todd Pawlik focused on costs for the 2014 Impala. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

GM’s 2014 Impala: A transformed model guiding the auto maker’s future Add to ...

Mr. Pawlik believes times have changed and large sedans such as the Impala and its competitors’ Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and others are no longer family vehicles, but tend to be the cars of choice for empty-nesters.

That meant the Impala team didn’t need to spend money developing a rear entertainment system or put a storage cabinet in the armrest in the middle of the rear seat.

But they did make one change that added space in the rear for those occasions when empty nesters drive somewhere with their friends.

The mechanism for the door lock causes the door to bulge out. Mr. Pawlik and his team moved it 2.5 centimetres to the rear to provide more shoulder space for rear-seat passengers.

Engineers initially resisted the move, saying “ ‘It’s got to be here,’ ” he recalled. “Why does it have to be here?” was his reply.

They did want storage in the front seat and there was some dead space in the middle of the instrument panel behind the entertainment and information screen.

Then the issue of access to the storage compartment arose. But someone remembered that the Cadillac SRX has a screen that rises to open up space. So they borrowed that idea from Cadillac.

One of the competitor vehicles uses a light ring to illuminate a USB port in its storage compartment. Duplicating that would have cost more than $1 per vehicle, so there’s a ring of paint around the Impala’s USB port that is illuminated by the ambient light in the front seat.

The prime goal of all this effort is to turn around the equation so that at least 70 per cent of Impala sales go to retail customers and 30 per cent to fleet. The ratio for the 2013 model was the opposite.

To capture more retail buyers and those in their 50s and 40s instead of their 60s, Chevrolet held the price increase for the new model with the added features to about $1,000 in the U.S. market and $145 (Canadian) in Canada.

“This audience, they do their research,” said Chris Perry, Chevrolet’s vice-president of marketing. “They’re not looking for the latest, great thing, but they do want something that they can believe in.”

Impala now represents about 10 per cent of the full-sized sedan market, Mr. Perry said.

“Obviously, 30-year-olds are not going to buy this car,” said Mr. Phillippi, the analyst. “But if they can get the 40-to-60 crowd into the showroom and get the chequebooks out, they’ll do just fine.”

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