General Motors is deploying an array of engine choices to help its next-generation Chevrolet Malibu stand out in the crowded market for mid-sized sedans.
The Eco version of the 2013 Malibu is scheduled to go on sale in February or March. It will have a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and GM's mild hybrid system. That trim level will be sold alongside the 2012 Malibu for about six months.
At that point GM will begin offering more engine choices for the 2013 Malibu, and the old car will be phased out.
By late summer GM will offer a new 2.5-liter Ecotec four-cylinder as the base engine for the 2013 Malibu. And last week GM said it eventually will offer a new 2.0-liter turbo engine.
GM wouldn't discuss the specifications or timing for the turbo. But the engine is expected to be available as an option by the end of 2012.
The turbo engine will offer a more powerful option to Malibu buyers who might miss the six banger, which is offered in the current Malibu but is being phased out for the redesign.
The Malibu will join the Hyundai Sonata as the only other entry among top-selling mid-sized sedans to offer a turbo.
The staggered launch comes at the urging of GM CEO Dan Akerson, who pressed product developers to accelerate the introduction of the redesigned Malibu. The engine in the Eco version was ready for production earlier than the others.
The first-quarter launch of the Eco trim level allows GM to debut the sedan ahead of a few key rivals. Redesigns of the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima are scheduled to be introduced later in 2012. New generations of the top-selling Toyota Camry and the Volkswagen Passat debuted this fall.
"It gives us the opportunity to launch the car in a little bit of clear space as a technology and fuel economy story," said Russ Clark, Chevy's director of marketing for mid-sized and performance cars and compact crossovers, during a Chevy event here.
The Malibu Eco uses a small electric motor, a lithium ion battery and a stop-start system to boost fuel economy by about 12 percent, to 25 mpg in city driv-ing and 37 mpg on the highway, GM estimates. It's priced at $25,995, including a $760 destination charge.
The current Chevy Malibu, launched in 2007, played a major role in the comeback of the brand's sedan lineup. The next-generation Malibu has a bolder, more muscular design that GM executives hope will set it apart from rivals in the segment.
GM sold 191,774 Malibus through the first 11 months of this year, up 2 percent from the same period a year earlier.