Is this the new Chevrolet TrailBlazer?
The shadowy sketch of a small Chevy SUV was part of a presentation by General Motors executives to investors in New York. But it coincides with sources telling MotorTrend that a small crossover is coming for Chevrolet that will bring back the TrailBlazer name.
TrailBlazer could slot between the entry-level Trax and the compact Equinox. Even if it is not much bigger than the subcompact Trax, it could be a more upscale model in that size bracket.
When we asked Chevy marketing director Steve Majoros, he just smiled and said he can't talk about that. But he did say "news in 2019 calendar year forthcoming."
Bringing back the well-known name would come on the heels of restoring the Blazer name. In both cases, the names are attached to vehicles that bear no resemblance to their predecessors. But recycling names saves the millions it costs to establish a new nameplate and relies on the fact that many buyers don't remember the original Blazer or TrailBlazer—or don't care. To many they are new vehicles with cool and instantly recognizable names.
In the case of the Blazer, GM started work years ago on a midsize crossover to slot between the Equinox and Traverse. Two years ago, when development was well under way, they decided to attach the Blazer name to it. Purists have screamed blasphemy since the new Blazer is not body-on-frame or even the right size. The original K5 Blazer was a full-size SUV based on the C/K pickup chassis.
The new Blazer, which uses the same C1 architecture as the Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia, went on sale in December, selling 27 of them. Chevy will start advertising it in April when there is a good supply at dealerships.
"Sometimes we get caught up in historical products," said Majoros. "The point is Blazer is a great name and brings instant Chevy connection."
As for TrailBlazer, although Majoros is not allowed to confirm it, he did say there is room for another Chevy SUV between Trax and Equinox both in size and in price point. "In this day and age, you can't have too many," he said of the growth of crossovers—especially for Chevy with a mandate to offer something for everyone and fill gaps left by the dwindling car lineup. The brand still needs to be able to offer vehicles at $16,000, $18,000, $22,000 and $24,000.
The Trax is expected to stay in the lineup. When GM started bringing the B-segment CUV from Korea, it was low volume, about 40,000, which was fine since it was not being advertised or pushed and the small inventory met the small demand. It ratcheted up to 90,000 last year, and demand remains in line with supply, Majoros said.
This rendition of TrailBlazer would have nothing in common with the original. Originally it was an upscale trim line of the K5 Blazer, available from 1999 until 2001 when it became its own model as a midsize SUV. GM discontinued the TrailBlazer after the 2009 model year; the last one rolled off the line at the Moraine, Ohio, plant on December 16, 2008. The gap it left was filled by the Traverse.
A second generation of the TrailBlazer, using the Colorado truck frame, was launched in 2012 for other parts of the world, built in Brazil and Thailand (that model is pictured below).
Today, more than 90 percent of customers want car-based, not body-on-frame, for their two-row utility vehicle, Majoros said. The Blazer competes with the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, the new Honda Passport, and other stylish crossovers. The Blazer was supposed to be a design statement with packaging efficiency and still be a capable new two-row entry.
No word on where a new TrailBlazer would be built; Korea, China, or Mexico all are possible. Perhaps a U.S. plant could be repurposed under GM's current cost-cutting and restructuring.