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Chevy Malibu: A Good (Selling) Car For Tough Times

2008 Chevy Malibu
Source: chevorlet.com
2008 Chevy Malibu

There's an old adage in the car business that even in tough times, good cars will still sell. That might explain why certain models continue to fly off dealer lots and even sell at a higher price, even though the overall auto market is down. Perhaps the most interesting example is the new Chevy Malibu.

Since going on sale last fall, the Malibu has been everything GMpromised, and more. According to J.D.Power's Power Information Network, the average transaction price ($21,941) is $5,071 higher than the previous Malibu. And 56% of the Malibu's being bought by people who previously owned non-Chevy models. That's 10% more than the rest of the Chevy line-up.

It also has a higher conquest rate against Toyota , Honda , and Nissan than the rest of Chevy. On top of that Malibu sales were up 55% in April while GM, and the whole industry slumped. You get the picture. Malibu is turning heads.

It's hard to find cars that sell well in tough times. Yes, Toyota's Prius is a winner right now (up 22.6% this year). In large part because high gas prices make the gas/electric hybrid more attractive. Among other cars welling well, there's the Ford Focus (up 29.1% in '08) and Honda Civic (up 14.8% this year). They all share the common trait of being smaller, more fuel efficient cars. But on top of that, they are also well designed.

With its cars in demand and production pressured by higher costs, Toyota is raising the sticker on some of it's models. The Yaris and Camry will go up $200, and the hybrid Camry will soon cost $300 more. It says something about the success of these models that Toyota can raise prices in the midst of a struggling economy. All three are in demand, and I doubt the modest price increases will have much of an effect on sales.

So while the overall state of auto sales is not pretty, don't forget the age old truth. Good cars will sell even in tough times.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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