General Motors Corp.’s well-publicized cuts in rental-fleet sales will impact the outgoing Chevrolet Malibu in May, when the auto maker will lower output 21%.

The Fairfax, KS, plant, which makes the Malibu and the ’07 Saturn Aura, will trim Malibu production in part due to the movement away from heavy reliance on high-volume, low-profit daily rental sales to keep plants moving, but also because of declining sales overall, which fell 52% in January and 33.3% in 2006.

GM says it will produce 120,000 fewer vehicles for rental-fleet customers this year. The Malibu is one of the more fleet-heavy model lines, with 35% of production routed to rental companies.

In contrast, GM plans to reduce that to 25% of production with the all-new ’08 Malibu that rolls out this fall. The auto maker is expected to produce 200,000 Malibus annually at Fairfax once output of the new version is up to speed.

The Malibu slowdown comes in addition to the first-quarter production cuts GM announced earlier this year. Not including the Malibu reduction, the auto maker now is forecast to build 1.08 million vehicles (417,000 cars and 663,000 trucks), down 14% from first-quarter 2006.