GM Engineers Reach One Million Test Miles for 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Prototypes
You hope the manufacturer of your new vehicle has thoroughly tested it before releasing it to the market, in order to ensure that it is as safe, comfortable and efficient as possible. Obviously, field testing under different conditions takes time and can run up a lot of mileage, but with the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, GM’s engineers seem to have gone to excess.
That’s because not only has the Malibu been totally redesigned, but it’s meant to go on sale globally. GM’s planning on selling it in close to 100 countries, a first for a midsized Chevy sedan. Making sure it would make all those potential customers happy meant a lot of testing.
“You learn a lot about a car when you spend so much time in it – and that’s exactly the point,” said Mark Moussa, global chief engineer. “In the last year and a half, during every minute of the day, a 2013 Malibu has been driving somewhere around the world – all to make it the best car it can be.”
They’ve been testing since early 2010, using a fleet of approximately 170 pre-production vehicles, in order to check out the 13 powertrain combinations and various equipment packages planned for the 2013 Malibu. GM hand-built the driveable prototypes and sent them around the world, for testing on GM’s proving grounds and on roads in the US, Canada, England, Germany, Dubai, South Korea, China and Australia.
Even with 170 cars and 22 months, that’s a lot of miles. In fact, it’s more than 45,450 miles per vehicle per month. GM says one million test miles is “the equivalent of 66.66 years of driving a car 15,000 miles annually, 201 round trips between New York City and Los Angeles, or two trips to the moon and back.”
Of course the powertrains, suspensions and other components had been tested before the pre-production cars had been built, but the extensive road-testing allowed the engineering team to fine-tune all aspects of the car’s performance. The pre-production cars travelled through Death Valley and to the top of the Rockies. They were subjected to long road trips with winding hills, and many miles (and hours) of rush hour traffic in both Seoul and Chicago.
“Along with more significant differences among markets, such as powertrains, there is a myriad of small details that vary in markets around the globe and they must all be validated in real-world driving tests,” said Moussa. “Even small things such as holders for toll change or tickets vary for different markets. In Korea, for example, the hazard lights are often used as a ‘thank you’ to other motorists, so the long-term durability of the switch must be ensured.”
They had to test 11 different types of tires to find one that could deal with Asian monsoons, while not producing an unpleasant noise in the dry season from travelling over the concrete roads which are deeply grooved to remove water. Some cars were subjected to salt and slush, others were left out in the Arizona sun.
The new Malibu will be produced in the US (Michigan and Kansas) and elsewhere.
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