The financial collapse in 2008 threw a wrench into the plans of Detroit automakers, and the subsequent drastic decline in auto sales forced bankruptcies upon General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Chrysler, while Ford (NYSE:F) scraped by after taking out loans that totaled more than $23 billion. Reality immediately changed for executives of Detroit's Big Three automakers; they realized that vehicle development couldn't revolve only around SUVs and trucks. Since then, Ford has produced several successful small vehicles: the Fiesta, Focus, and Fusion.
Finally, GM has the beginning of a big success story of its own in the 2014 Impala.
Consumer Reports magazine has been praising domestic automakers recently, which is a big improvement from decades past. It recently named GM's 2014 Chevrolet Impala its top-ranking sedan; it's the first time an American vehicle has held that spot in 20 years. Only the Tesla Model S and BMW 135i coupe have scored higher -- and both come at a much higher cost than the Impala.
"The Impala's performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance," Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing, said in a statement, according to Detroit News.
GM's Impala also received the highest possible five-star overall vehicle score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's new-car assessment program.
"Safety is a key consideration for all car buyers, and Impala sets a new benchmark for Chevrolet's flagship sedan," said Gay Kent, GM general director of vehicle safety and crashworthiness, in a GM press release. "The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is designed to provide excellent crash safety, and offers customers several safety technologies not previously available in Chevrolets."
The 2014 Impala has an all new interior and exterior and packs enough technology and options with a competitive price to make a splash in the market. The interior has more front and rear legroom and hosts an 8-inch touchscreen with the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. The Impala also has three powertrains that can deliver a range between performance and efficiency with a quieter ride on the interior to boot.
The all-new exterior has a bolder design, with a sleeker frame and body, HID headlamps, and LED daytime running lamps -- on LTZ models. Additional features available include:
- Remote start.
- Keyless starting.
- Heated steering wheel.
- Power tilting steering column with memory.
- Dual-zone climate control.
- Heated and ventilated front seats.
- Extra storage options.
- Bose surround-sound audio system.
The 2014 Impala is going to be a game-changer for GM for a couple of reasons. Last year the bulk of Impala sales -- nearly 70%, according to Automotive News -- went to rental and fleet customers, which aren't as profitable and lower the resale value of the vehicle. The new Impala, which launched in April, is going to reverse that trend and was designed for the retail market, which means that GM will improve its profitability and resale value going forward.
GM also expects the large sedan to steal some sales from the luxury and mid-size segments. GM desperately needs successful small and large sedans, because the Malibu and Impala saw the two largest declines in U.S. sales out of the 20 top vehicles sold. Sales of the Malibu are down 21.4% through June, and the Impala is down 15.3%. It's even worse for GM, as crosstown rival Ford has churned out popular fuel-efficient rides in the Focus, Fusion, and Fiesta.
The Impala looks to change that in the second half of 2013 and will probaby surge up the ranks next year -- much to the delight of GM investors anticipating that new vehicles will bring sales and market share back.
Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford, General Motors, and Tesla Motors and owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors . Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.