Chevrolet Malibu: Longest-Running Midsize Auto Nameplate


From hot rod to main street midsize sedan, Malibu spans 35 years, eight generations

DETROIT – From hot rod to police cruiser to convertible to America’s main street sedan, few midsize cars have appealed to so many, for so long, as the Chevrolet Malibu.


The Malibu is the auto industry’s longest-running midsize nameplate, spanning 35 years, six decades, and eight iterations.  Chevrolet has produced more than 8.5 million Malibus in the United States since its debut in 1964.

Introduced as the top model of the Chevrolet Chevelle midsize car line, Malibu’s combination of sporty design, enhanced trim and high level of standard equipment quickly established Malibu with 200,000 total sales in its first year. From 1964 to 1967, Malibu was available in a full range of body styles including two-door hardtops, two-door convertibles, four-door sedans and station wagons.

In its debut year, the Malibu lineup included the now legendary 300-horsepower, 327 cubic-inch V8 Malibu SS coupe and convertible; the following year introduced a more powerful 350-horsepower 327 cubic-inch small block. The Malibu SS Z16 package – available only in the hardtop model – featured Malibu’s first big block engine – a 396 cubic-inch 375 horsepower powerplant.

For the 1966 model year, the Malibu SS was replaced by the SS396. This model came with a heavy-duty suspension and other performance upgrades. The 396 V8 was available in 325, 360 and 375 horsepower versions.

The Malibu was significantly redesigned for the 1968 model year as fastback styling overtook the industry. This second generation of Malibus continued with the front engine and rear-wheel-drive layout, but used different wheelbases for two-door and four-door models.

Chevrolet introduced a third generation of Chevelles, including a Malibu, in 1973 that would continue through 1977. The Malibu was available in coupe, sedan and wagon configurations. The Malibu SS package was available on all body styles including the wagon. In 1974, the Malibu became the entry-level Chevelle model.

The third-generation Malibu also was successful in NASCAR. The 1973-1977 body was aerodynamic and amassed 25 winner’s circle appearances for Chevrolet drivers Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Benny Parsons.

A smaller Malibu debuted in 1978, responding to a rise in fuel economy demands, yet retained contemporary styling and features. The Malibu’s first era of rear-wheel-drive cars ended after the 1983 model year when an all-new generation of front-wheel-drive midsize cars was introduced in 1997 following a 14-year production hiatus.

Malibu was reborn as a four-door sedan with a four-cylinder 150 horsepower and a V6 with 155 horsepower. Malibu quickly earned a reputation as a well-built, value-driven sedan designed to take on established midsize leaders. It also earned Motor Trend magazine’s Car-of-the-Year award for 1997.

A sixth-generation Malibu debuted for the 2004 model year in four-door sedan and extended sedan versions with Ecotec 4-cylinder and V6 engines. It again garnered awards and recommendations from automotive media, independent research groups and safety advocates. The Malibu topped its segment in the 2005 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study.  In 2006, the Malibu SS model was reintroduced with a 240-horsepower V6 with more aggressive front and rear clips, 18” wheels, and sport bucket seats.

In 2007, Chevrolet launched a seventh-generation for the 2008 model year. It became one of the division’s most highly decorated vehicles, earning more than 40 automotive industry honors, including the 2008 North American Car of the Year.

The Malibu was Chevrolet’s – and General Motors – best-selling passenger car in 2010, with nearly 200,000 cars (198,770) sold. The Malibu is the industry’s only midsize car to win the Consumers Digest Automotive “Best Buy” award the past three years – 2011, 2010 and 2009. It has also been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the past two years (2010 and 2011). Malibu helped Chevrolet increase market share by 2 percentage points within the mid-car segment from just under 7 percent in 2008 to nearly 9 percent in 2010.

The all-new 2013 Malibu is Chevrolet’s eighth-generation Malibu and first global midsize for customers in nearly 100 markets on six continents. It will serve as Chevrolet’s flagship vehicle in many parts of the world including China, Korea, Europe, Australia and more.  The Malibu is designed to stand out around the world with a roomy, quiet and upscale interior. Its ride and handling is expected to challenge the best cars in the midsize category. The new Malibu will be built in China, Korea and two locations in the United States. It is scheduled to start production in Fairfax, Kan., in early 2012 and at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly next summer.

Highlights in Malibu history: (model years)

  • 1964 – Introduced as the top model of Chevrolet’s new midsize lineup, it sold more than 200,000 in its first year.
  • 1968 – Significant redesign delivered a smoother, more rounded Malibu; sales increased to more than 260,000 units.
  • 1973 – All-new Malibu introduced, with a “Colonnade” hardtop design developed to support increased safety requirements.
  • 1978 – Smaller, trimmer Malibu with significant advances in component weight reduction is introduced.
  • 1983 – Last year for rear-wheel-drive configuration.
  • 1997 – Malibu reborn as a midsize, front-wheel-drive sedan, attracting accolades for value, safety and quality.
  • 2004 – Redesigned on new vehicle platform, Malibu enhanced its reputation as a high-quality, safe and value-driven competitor in the midsize segment.
  • 2008 – Seventh  generation Malibu is launched with distinctive design,  longer wheelbase and exclusive features such as a fuel-saving, four-cylinder/six-speed automatic powertrain. This current generation Malibu has sold more than 700,000 units since 2008.
  • 2013 – All-new Malibu designed to deliver high levels of content and features, interior craftsmanship, a line-up of fuel efficient four cylinder engines with dynamic capabilities rivaling high-end sedans set to launch in early 2012. The 2013 Malibu is Chevrolet’s most aerodynamic and fuel efficient midsize ever.

When the Chevrolet Malibu nameplate was first introduced in 1964:

  • Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States
  • The Rolling Stones released their debut album, “The Rolling Stones”
  • The Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show
  • The Civil Rights Act – one of the most important piece of legislation in American history – became law
  • The average price for a new home in the United States was just over $13,000
  • Gasoline was 30 cents per gallon, postage stamps were 5 cents and a movie ticket was $1.25
  • Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight championship
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Bubble wrap was invented by Marc A Chavannes.