NEW YORK – Chevrolet will begin shipping Malibu mild hybrids to a limited number of dealers at the first of the year.

The plan is to stock 11 hybrid-distribution centers located in cities along the two coasts.

New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and Baltimore will constitute the hybrid distribution centers on the East Coast. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Portland, will be the West Coast distribution points.

Those centers will receive the Malibu hybrids from a national distribution center outside Kansas City, MO.

The hybrids are being built exclusively at General Motors Corp.’s nearby Fairfax plant, which also produces conventional Malibus. GM’s Orion Township, MI, plant began manufacturing the Malibu in early December.

Fairfax is scheduled to build more Malibus than Orion, even though Orion assembles 60 units per hour, which includes the Pontiac G6, while Fairfax assembles 48, including the Saturn Aura. Both plants operate on two shifts.

A Chevrolet spokeswoman declines to say how many Malibus each plant will assemble overall.

While only big-volume dealers in the 11 city regions will have demo Malibu hybrids for customer testing and inspection, Chevrolet intends to ship salable hybrids to dealers only when they have actual orders.

The Malibu hybrid carries a base price of $22,790, including delivery and destination charges. That’s about $1,800 more than the mid-trim-level LT model that is identical to the hybrid except for the powertrain.

Hybrid buyers are entitled to a $1,300 federal tax rebate for the first 60,000 hybrid units Chevrolet sells. A spokesman declines to estimate how long it will take to reach the 60,000-unit target but concedes it will not be in this model year.

Customers in the interior of the country who want to order hybrids “can get them eventually,” the spokeswoman says. “But we don’t yet know how long it will take for delivery to those customers.”

Chevrolet believes that the I-5 corridor on the West Coast and the I-95 corridor on the East Coast will generate most hybrid orders.

No hybrids will be delivered to daily rental fleets, Chevrolet says. However, conventional Malibus will be available to the fleets because Chevrolet believes it’s a good way to expose potential customers to the re-designed model.

Only well-equipped Malibus will be provided to the rental fleets so that the cars make a good impression.

Chevrolet began shipping the conventional Malibu to dealers Nov. 1, and the cars have been turning over in seven days, says Jim Brown, a Malibu product manager.

In fact, there is a waiting list for the Malibu at many dealers. Brown says by next month the two plants will begin assembling enough Malibus to build up to a 60-day inventory, the division’s target.

During November, the Malibu’s first month of sales, the 4-cyl. base LS model accounted for 31% of deliveries. The LT, which offers a choice of 4-cyl. or 6-cyl. mills, comprised 45% of sales and the top-of-the-line LTZ V-6 made up 23%.

Brown predicts that when the initial buying rush dies down 4-cyl. models will account for 75% of sales.