The early returns have been impressive for General Motors (NYSE:GM) and its 2014 Chevrolet Impala sedan. The new model, which got some of its design specs from more premium GM brands, passes the eyeball test with flying colors. Any model above the base LS model ($26,860) comes with a 3.6L V6 that generates 306 horsepower (these models start at $29,110). In fact, several factors point to the large sedan being a game-changer for the venerable automaker.
Turning Heads and Impressing Reviewers
The car-buying public may profess to shrugging off the opinions of reviewers, but the fact is that high ratings from Consumer Reports and other respected publications give a boost to automobiles, most notably the Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S. On this count, the 2014 Impala hit a home run for GM, which won top sedan honors as an American car for the first time in over 20 years.
Consumer Reports was genuinely raving about the new Impala when it scored it at 95 out of 100. For all time, only the Tesla Model S and BMW (BAMXF.PK) 135i have scored better than 95. Considering these two are luxury cars (i.e. much more expensive), the non-luxury Impala’s score is quite an achievement.GM’s new approach to the Impala included design elements from Cadillac and Buick. That’s a great place to start, and the chief reason the style and performance were upgraded without breaking the automaker’s bank on the investment. Consumer Reports rated the 2013 Impala at 63, and remarked the 2014 model’s rise to 95 was “phoenixlike.”
A Foundation Car
There are certain show ponies in every automaker’s stable — for Ford (NYSE:F), it’s a Mustang GT; for GM, the Corvette — but the key is having a workhorse that stands out from the pack. After all, many more drivers will be motoring these cars to work than they will a sports car built to comfortably seat two. GM may have that in the 2014 Impala.
In the case of Ford, the automaker received effusive praise for its redesigned Ford Fusion, a mid-size sedan that’s a winner on styling and performance. GM is hearing the same good cheer for the 2014 Impala. One auto industry analyst told The Globe and Mail that the car does exactly what Chevy needs in a crowd-pleaser: “It’s the vehicle that’s going to make your brand statement, which historically was affordable quality,” said Joe Phillippi of Auto Trends Consulting.
No Longer a Rental Fleet Dud
For much of its recent history (after the golden age and before mid-2013), the Impala was relegated to rental-car fleet status. GM simply could not count on the public going after a car that had little more than a powerful engine. The new model is turning that idea on its head as well.
GM corporate officials announced earlier in September that the new Impala was posting huge gains on its 2012 figures. Sales of the Impala were up 76 percent in August, with 80 percent of that lot being the 2014 model. The better confirmation was the transaction price. Customers are paying an average of $8,000 more for the 2014 Impala than they did for the 2013 version, according to The Globe and Mail.
The industry has learned from countless new cars — most recently the Tesla Model S — that customers will save and pay extra for quality. In the 2014 Impala, that rule of thumb is being proven once again. GM has two sparkling new Chevy cars coming out at the same time in the 2014 Corvette Stingray and the 2014 Impala. In the latter, the automaker may have a game-changer.