Former Holden chief Mark Reuss says the new mid-size Malibu sedan will help boost sales of the bigger Commodore in New Zealand and Australia.
The Malibu is expected to go on sale in both markets next year. It was launched at the Shanghai and New York motor shows last week wearing a Chevrolet badge.
Reuss told website GoAuto that he believed the front-drive Malibu would attract a different audience to the Commodore. He said the difference would shore up Australian production of Holden's rear-wheel drive models, including the Commodore.
"While you see other carmakers converging on one type of vehicle we're going to have two different vehicles that will offer something different and that's important," he said.
"And I don't think the Malibu is too close in size to the Commodore," he added.
Reuss said both models would result in higher overall Holden sales. Buyers who may never have chosen a Commodore would consider a Malibu, increasing sales volume and profitability to help sustain the company's front-wheel drive (Cruze) and rear-wheel drive (Commodore/Caprice/ute) manufacturing operations in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Reuss hinted at the possibility of further variants of the Malibu, which has so far appeared only in sedan guise. He did not discount the possibility of a Malibu wagon in the future.
Malibu will be sold in up to 100 countries from next year. It will be built in South Korea, China and two US plants. The NZ and Australian model range will come from General Motors' plant in South Korea, a former Daewoo facility.
Malibu is based on the same global platform that underpins America's Buick Regal and LaCrosse, the new Saab 9-5 and Europe's Opel/Vauxhall Insignia.
Holden parent General Motors says the car's exterior design - wide stance, broad shoulders - picked up cues from the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette muscle cars.
The Malibu destined for Downunder will look slightly different from the show car. It will feature the same multi-element headlights, rear haunches with a distinct Coke bottle kink and Corvette-style dual-round tail-lights, but will carry a Holden-specific front-end.
Inside, the dual-cockpit is finished with soft-touch surfaces and ice-blue ambient lighting along the centre stack dials, instrument panel and storage pockets. Holden sales and marketing chief John Elsworth said Malibu reflected the same focus on quality and technology as seen in the smaller Cruze range.
"Malibu will represent another major step forward in the Holden product offensive, filling a gap in our model line-up between Cruze and Commodore models," he said.
"We think it will really hit the mark. From the Camaro-inspired exterior design and sleek interior to the dynamic performance capabilities, it is another great example of the sophistication we're building into our new-generation global vehicles.
"We'll offer high-performing fuel-efficient engines, a high level of safety and a range of features and technologies to appeal to customers in the competitive mid-size segment."
Malibu will be powered by a range of four-cylinder engines expected to be borrowed from the Insignia range in Europe. The line-up includes 1.6- and 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, a 2-litre turbo-diesel and a Holden-sourced 2.8-litre turbo-petrol V6, all matched with six-speed transmissions.
The Malibu could also inherit a range of Insignia technologies offered in Europe, including an electric park brake, satellite-navigation, a FlexRide variable suspension damping system, rain-sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, intelligent headlights with washers, heated/leather power seats, dual-zone climate-control and alloy wheels sizes of up to 19-inch.