DETROIT – General Motors launches production of the ’14 Chevrolet Impala at its Detroit-Hamtramck, MI, assembly plant, and expects by the time its entire powertrain lineup fills out in coming months sales of the model will eclipse last year’s totals.

Impala models powered by the auto maker’s 3.6L V-6 gasoline direct-injection engine or a 2.5L 4-cyl. GDI mill, a first-ever 4-banger for the nameplate, began rolling out of the 27-year-old facility today.

GM’s Oshawa, ON, Canada, assembly plant began production of units with the V-6 engine last month and in the fourth quarter will launch output of models with a 2.4L 4-cyl. GDI engine mated to the auto maker’s eAssist light-hybrid technology.

Don Johnson, vice president-U.S. sales for Chevrolet, says Impala deliveries this year should exceed the 169,351 units in 2012 as buyers new to the brand join loyalists.

“It is attracting a lot of attention,” says Johnson, who estimates about 500 Impalas are now on the ground at U.S. dealers. The launch should hit its stride in May.

The forecast includes sales of the Impala Limited, which remains atop the car’s 25-year-old “W” large-car platform and will sell only to fleet and commercial customers.

The next-generation Impala shifts to the more sophisticated Epsilon architecture underpinning some of GM’s most important passenger cars and will seek 70% of its sales at retail. The old model took just 30% of its volume from the retail channel.

Johnson says buyers will migrate to the Impala from the cross/utility vehicle, SUV and Middle Car segments. Impalas outfitted with the V-6 engine and the brand’s middle-of-the-road LT trim will be the most popular.

Buyers will be younger, more affluent and better educated, he says, just as the Impala’s initial television commercial suggests. Full advertising for the launch begins in mid-May and will feature a close tie-in with Major League Baseball, including a sweepstakes to attend its annual All-Star Game July 16 in Flushing, NY.

The volume Impala costs $30,760, or about $1,000 more than the current Ford Taurus but less than other competitors such as the Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera and Nissan Maxima. Johnson says the Impala will come with more standard equipment than the imports.

The Impala also will beat the competition on fuel economy, he adds, and will be the most highly styled of the bunch. “Styling will drive a lot of people to consider the Impala.”

The new model also gets a national lease program for the first time in years, a 36-month term at $279 per month with $2,799 due at signing. Johnson expects lease penetration to quickly rise to the segment average of 35% of sales.

In addition to bolder styling, the ’14 Impala ushers to market a number of new technologies, such as crash-avoidance capability and a next-generation infotainment system.

jamend@wardsauto.com