In 2000, Chevy brought the iconic Impala nameplate back after a 15-year hiatus (not counting the Caprice-based 1994-96 Impala SS) as it sought to jump into the white-hot midsize sedan market. Business boomed, and within a few years, the bland-looking Impala had seemingly made its way into every police force and suburban neighborhood in America. An equally nondescript second-generation Impala bowed for 2005, proving to be so popular that Chevy still makes the damn thing for police and rental fleets as the Impala Limited.
For the rest of us, the Impala was redesigned for 2014, and unlike the last two, it more than holds its own as an upmarket mid-sizer. Spacious and contemporary, it’s a stylish alternative to competitors like the Toyota Avalon, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, and Chrysler 300.
In short, this Impala is a modern interpretation of the classic American highway cruiser, and with goodies like Chevy’s vastly-improved MyLink infotainment system and 4G LTE Wi-Fi, it’s in no danger of falling behind the pack. It’s the best-case scenario if your company announces that it’s getting new company cars. It ain’t a Lexus, but you wouldn’t be embarrassed taking a client to lunch in it either.
And that’s all well and good for now, but times are changing quickly. We’ve covered the uncertain future of the midsize sedan before, and as SUVs and crossovers continue to gain popularity, the end of the segment may be coming surprisingly soon.
Case in point: America’s two best-selling sedans are the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. In August, Camry sales were down 15% compared to 2014, while the Accord’s dipped nearly 20%. If those are the segment leaders, you can imagine how the rest of the pack is faring. And to show that even General Motors can read the writing on the wall, there’s new evidence that the once-mighty Impala could be among the first to go.
In a recent Automotive News article, GM CEO, Mary Barra, discussed GM’s future, and she predicts the ubiquitous automaker will become much more discriminating in the future. “We have a broad portfolio. But how are we going to look at what are the right vehicles to put in the marketplace?” Barra said, adding “We’ll look at what makes sense and what will generate a return.”
Barra’s remarks come at a time when GM has largely pulled out of the Russian, Indonesian, and Thai markets, and has begun scaling back some of its product lineups in South America due to recent shifts in the global economy. Echoing Barra — and seemingly going against the stubborn ethos of GM’s past — President, Dan Ammann, said, “We don’t need to be all things to all people in all places all the time. If there’s no long-term path to be profitable in a particular segment, we will look at that.”
Which brings us to the Impala. When asked about the future of the storied nameplate, Barra said, “That’s a hard one because the Impala is such a great vehicle…But we can’t look at where the market’s been. We’ve got to look at where the market’s going.”
And she has a point: Through September, Chevy has sold 85,466 Impalas in the U.S. In 2014, it had moved 107,162 of them in the same timeframe. With the segment contracting, it’s not likely that the Impala is going to make a roaring comeback anytime soon.
Summing up the car’s fate, Barra said, “The Impala has a role today…But we’re going to be looking over the future and asking, ‘What is its role in the future?’ and making that decision.” With words like that, it looks like this current-generation model may be the last.
Introduced in 1958, the first Impala was a car that brought Space Age style and modernity to the average American. Today’s Impala may not be the sales success the original was, but it’s the first one in a long time to embody the spirit of it. If this is the final iteration of the Impala, at least it’s going out on a high note.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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