by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter

NEW YORK (WWJ) The totally redone Chevrolet Malibu, which is making its worldwide debut at auto shows in New York and Shanghai, may be the most important vehicle General Motors has unveiled since emerging from bankruptcy nearly two years ago.

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“The key point on this one is we’re taking it global,” says Russ Clark, who’s in charge of marketing mid-size cars for General Motors.   “The current Malibu is sold in about 20 countries worldwide, but primarily here in North America. This next generation Malibu will be sold in just under a hundred countries in six continents.”

The expansion of the Malibu to a global platform comes as General Motors slims down to four core brands.  That strategy includes a larger presence for Chevrolet overseas.

(General Motors video of 2013 Chevy Malibu)

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This decision brings with it a lot of risks, because it could mean compromises that could make the Malibu less acceptable to U.S. buyers.  Some analysts have already complained that the rear seat may be too tight for Americans.

But General Motors say the Malibu has a number of improvements that will resonate worldwide, including a sleeker styling, more technology and an improved interior.

Here’s how GM worded the most important changes:

• All-new exterior designed to stand out around the world
• All-new, dual-cockpit interior with more room, more quietness, more premium materials and content, and greater craftsmanship
• All-new, fuel-efficient, 2.5L four-cylinder Ecotec engine with next-generation six-speed automatic powertrain
• All-new ride and handling package engineered for best-in-class performance
• All-new, aerodynamically efficient shape and active shutter system save fuel and reduce wind noise
• All-new Chevrolet MyLink in-car infotainment system integrates online services like Pandora® Internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio®
• New radio face that articulates up and down revealing a six-inch-deep hidden storage compartment, a first for a U.S. midsize sedan
• New safety features including 10 air bags, lane departure/forward collision warning system and a rearview camera system
• On sale in the U.S. in 2012

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GM launched the new Malibu in a ceremony to open the Shanghai Auto Show.  On Wednesday, they promise some surprises, when they show off a version of the Malibu at the New York Auto Show.