Friday, May 10, 2024

Pedal Blocks Killed My Malibu Moment

I’ve driven many cars since I obtained my license 57 years ago, some I’ve owned or leased, most I rented during business and pleasure trips across the United States, Canada and Europe. 

But never a Malibu. I most likely will never drive a Malibu as General Motors announced Wednesday it is dropping the model from its Chevrolet lineup ( 

Not that I didn’t walk into a Chevy showroom in early 1982 with every intention of buying a Malibu. Our second child had been born weeks earlier. Gilda needed a car she would be more comfortable driving than the blue Buick LeSabre my father had “gifted” to us a year or two before. He made us give him Bertha, a red with black vinyl top 1969 Buick Skylark Gilda had learned to drive on. He wanted our Skylark for one of his workers, Lucy, as his months-old car was too new to just give away to a non family member. To Gilda the LeSabre was a boat. Used to driving a Buick Electra 225 or a Cadillac DeVille, my father thought the LeSabre was too small. 

On a Saturday afternoon we entered the Chevy showroom looking for a Malibu. Gilda sat down in the driver’s seat, adjusted it and proclaimed it “undriveable.”

Why? Because no matter how far forward my 5 foot 2 inch wife set the bench seat—yes, the Malibu had a bench seat, not bucket seats—she was not able to touch the accelerator or brake pedal. 

Not wanting to lose a commission the salesman speedily suggested blocks could be fastened to the pedals to make them accessible. Gilda’s scornful laugh still reverberates in my ear. 

As Gilda wasn’t going to grow any taller we reasoned we needed to find a car company with experience serving the vertically-challenged. We drove to the nearest Datsun dealership in the midst of its rebranding to Nissan. 

Gilda hopped behind the wheel of a Nissan Sentra hatchback and became an unofficial apostle for the Japanese carmaker’s marketing sensibility in producing cars for short drivers. She credits GM’s shortsightedness about meeting the needs of female drivers as a major reason for the decline in its market share.