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DETROIT -- Chevrolet is launching a full-blown marketing campaign for the re-engineered 2014 Malibu, a bid to jump-start sales after the previous model year's major redesign failed to resonate with shoppers.
"We're looking at this as an all-new launch," Chevy U.S. marketing chief Chris Perry told reporters at a media drive here today. "We need to put our investment behind it to make sure we're successful."
It's unusual for automakers to launch a broad marketing campaign for a so-called mid-cycle enhancement, which typically comes about three years after the introduction of a redesigned model.
For the Malibu, General Motors pushed through the re-engineering two years early, because sales of the mid-sized sedan sagged following its major overhaul in six years.
Perry declined to say how much General Motors will spend on the campaign, but said it would be on par with a typical marketing rollout for a next-generation product.
GM launched the redesigned 2013 Malibu with an Eco mild-hybrid model in early 2012, followed by the volume 2.5-liter version in late summer of last year. The car was panned for its scrunched rear seat, mediocre fuel economy and ho-hum styling.
The re-engineered 2014 that arrives in dealerships this week features a new front fascia and improved interior, including revisions to make the back seat roomier.
GM also added a stop-start system and other powertrain improvements to boost fuel economy on the base 2.5-liter engine to 25 mpg city and 36 highway, up from 22/34 on the 2013 model.
GM has dropped the eAssist version on the 2014 Malibu.
The start-stop system uses a lead-acid battery to improve fuel economy and deliver the same fuel economy as the outgoing model with eAssist, which used lithium ion battery-based technology to enhance mileage.
GM says it remains committed to using eAssist, a $1,500 option on the 2013 Malibu, in other vehicles where it provides a bigger boost to fuel economy.
The updated Malibu includes a "text to voice" feature that converts incoming text messages and reads them over the car's audio system, which Chevy says is a first for a mid-sized sedan. The driver can respond from a list of preset list of responses, such as "I'm driving and will contact you later."
The first commercials for the '14 Malibu were broadcast Monday during coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs. The spots use an emotional, family-centered theme that features moms and dads getting their kids off to school, with the tag line: "The car for the richest guys on earth."
Perry said the launch campaign will run for at least six months.
He said he expects the sedan's improvements to boost the Malibu's market share in the highly competitive mid-sized sedan segment. Through September, Malibu sales fell 14 percent to 154,950, far behind the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima.