(Adds details on Malibu sales, new Traverse vehicle)
CHICAGO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - The head of General Motors Corp’s (GM.N) Chevrolet brand said on Wednesday that U.S. retail sales of the new Malibu model were up 200 percent in January compared to the old model.
“We can’t get enough of them because demand is so high,” Ed Peper told reporters on the sidelines of the Chicago Auto Show.
GM has said the main impediment to Malibu sales has been producing them fast enough. It currently turns around the cars within 15 or 16 days, a very tight rate under industry standards.
GM has added production capacity for the Malibu, which has won industry awards, and Peper said it was a “delicate balance” to match production with demand and avoid overbuilding.
Malibu production should catch up with demand toward the end of the second quarter and into the third and fourth quarters of 2008, Peper said.
Asked whether the Malibu sedan had been taking sales from other Chevrolet models such as the Impala, Peper said lower Impala sales in January overall was misleading because GM has been cutting back sharply on fleet sales.
Impala U.S. retail sales were up 44 percent in January, Peper said.
GM introduced a new crossover utility vehicle, the Traverse, on Wednesday at the show, that begins production in the third quarter with deliveries to dealers in October, Peper said.
The Traverse is intended to compete with the Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) Pilot and the Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) Highlander. It is built on the same platform as GM’s Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook. (Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Brian Moss, Richard Chang)