By on August 12, 2019

Can you kill a ghost? While Hollywood and some Catholic priests say yes, in the automotive realm the process of ridding oneself of a spectre usually involves a new sheet on the drawing board, not a ceremonial ritual.

As you may have already heard, a ghost long rumored to haunt Detroit’s future product stable has reportedly disappeared into the ether from which it came. It never had much of a form, its name carried a question mark, and no one officially admitted to its existence. It only had a clear rival: the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and upcoming Ford Bronco.

If you’ve concluded that we’re talking about that hazy GMC model, you’re bang on. Despite assurances from brand execs that General Motors’ truck brand had no intention of launching a body-on-frame rival to Jeep’s quintessential off-roader, just enough evidence of its development existed to keep the rumor alive.

Earlier this month, Muscle Cars & Trucks, citing GM sources, claimed that the BOF off-roader program died as a result of last November’s cost-cutting measures. That slash job spelled the end for several North American manufacturing plants and a handful of passenger car models. The publication claimed the program’s death came not from a widespread dislike of the Wrangler/Bronco rival idea, but the decision to move away from an all-new platform for the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon midsize pickups.

Backing up the report, at least to some degree, is this quote from LMC Automotive’s president of global forecasting, Jeff Schuster. “We have also heard rumblings that the vehicle may have been canceled but so far have not been able to confirm that,” he told Automotive News.

Schuster added that, “If it was canceled, it may speak to the cost pressure automakers are under and the proliferation of the SUV/CUV body style.”

Surely at GM the only concern would be the former, not the latter. Chevrolet just reintroduced the Blazer and TrailBlazer nameplates, and Buick will debut the Encore GX to slot above the Encore early next year. Granted, these models aren’t market-limited niche offerings. While the automaker lacks a non-pickup off-roader, ongoing belt-tightening and an almost guaranteed revenue bump from its new crossover introductions begs the question “why bother?”

GM remains silent as to the whether the Wrangler/Bronco rival program existed, or whether the hazy future might somehow hold just such a vehicle. If this ghost was indeed killed, one wonders why the automaker was seen benchmarking two Wrangler Unlimiteds at its Milford Proving Ground earlier this year.

[Image: General Motors]

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25 Comments on “A Ghost Reportedly Dies, Jeep and Ford Smile...”


  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    It SHOULD have been the new Blazer, rather than that silly 50 thousand dollar Equinox with zero offroad chops.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    More Equinoxes will save GM.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    As long as they have a good off road mid-sized pickup, they have the option of making a Wrangler competitor. If a Jeep can become a pickup, a pickup can become a “Jeep.” The Colorado ZR2 is a very capable off road vehicle and is a worthy Gladiator Rubicon competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      It’s debatable whether the ZR2 should have carried a Chevy or GMC badge though

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The Gladiator is a niche vehicle dedicated and designed for a specific niche, where the ZR2 is a series of compromises to try and please ALL of the midsize onroad and offroad lovers all the time. The Gladiator doesn’t drive pretty on long-distance hard road surfaces – the words “hard, stiff ride” come to mind.

      The Gladiator blows its doors off at the competition, takes its roof off to throw shade at the ZR2, and outcrawls and outclimbs the ZR2 where ZR2 drivers fear to tread.

      But as a long-distance Interstate traveler, the Gladiator will leave you pretty beat up after a long day’s traveling. OTOH, you can take a ZR2 on an Interstate cross-country and still feel reasonably good after reaching your destination.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Totally agree with this analysis HDC. For some, the ZR2 makes a lot more sense, with plenty of off road capability and more on road comfort. I think it is a great vehicle for outdoor sportsmen, for example, who are headed out to hunt or fish or kayak, etc.

        For others, only the Gladiator will do. I am in the latter camp, but I respect what Chevy has done.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          thelaine, the Gladiator appeals to Jeep fans and those buyers looking for a rugged, no holds-barred Wrangler-with-a-bed. And the Glad makes a great token-toy; something unique, something not everyone drives yet.

          Kinda like the Dirty Harry S&W .44 Mag Revolver when it first came out – collectors couldn’t buy one fast enough, until the .44 Automag came out.

          Motorweek also did a segment on the Gladiator this past weekend to show off some of the areas where the Glad excels. It’s a collector’s item right now.

          As the newness of the 2020 Gladiator wears off, and we’re already seeing more and more on the road in El Paso, TX, and surroundings, I believe Jeep is going to come out with a more basic Gladiator that features only AC, Cruise, PS, PB, and pressed-steel wheels, ’cause that’s where the demand is, something in the $35K range.

      • 0 avatar
        Mnemic

        Lol the gladiator doesn’t ride “hard and stiff”. I don’t know who told you that but they clearly have never ridden in one.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Mnemic, I rode in a Silver/Black Hard Top Gladiator as a passenger while my best friend was taking one for a test drive on July 31, 2019, at ~ 1030am.

          I was being kind when I evaluated the ride as “hard and stiff.” As a passenger I could feel every ripple, washboard and joint of the Interstate and every dip, ridge and pothole on city-driving roads.

          This is not to imply that the Glad is bad. It is not bad, but it is a totally different-riding truck than the ZR2.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      thelaine,

      https://www.foxnews.com/auto/jeep-wrangler-death-wobble-fix

      A friend of mine, and fellow ttac reader, just emailed this to me. The Glad will not be immune to this phenomena because of the articulation and design of the front end.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        HDC, it is disappointing to see this issue re-appear on the newest version of the Wrangler. I sure hope the fix they have introduced actually works. Skepticism is warranted, however, given the history of this problem. My friend got death wobbled in the last Wrangler version and it scared the sht out of him. He replaced his ball joints and the problem did not reoccur, but it was an experience he never forgot.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          thelaine, there has always been a fix out there, but it was pricey. I imagine it still is pricey.

          My oldest grandson got a new Wrangler from us (his dad and I) when he joined the Marine Corps and he used that Wrangler daily. Racked up the miles to/from Camp Pendleton.

          When the death wobble occurred on his Wrangler he took it to a Jeep shop in Oceanside that specialized in all things Jeep and they put new balljoints, new neoprene bushings, new gas shocks/struts all around, and a new steering damper in place.

          The fix worked. But he only kept the Wrangler for a few more years before trading it in for a new Honda Accord V6 EX-L for his wife and new baby.

          Lost track of whatever happened to his Wrangler since it was sold the same day he traded it.

          But that fix cost him plenty and could not be done at the MCB Auto Hobby Shop because it involved a hydraulic press and some lathe machine work.

          IIRC, the fix was ~$3K, parts & labor.

  • avatar
    ajla

    2021 GMC Pebble based on the Encore. The same I3t engines with CVT as the Buick GX but with unique off-road styling.

    Basically a Renegade without the Trailhawk trim.

    • 0 avatar
      JoeBrick

      @Aija- “2021 GMC Pebble based on the Encore. The same I3t engines with CVT as the Buick GX but with unique off-road styling.Basically a Renegade without the Trailhawk trim.”

      That is a hideous idea.

  • avatar
    Mnemic

    It and the camaro were axed in current form to be moved to their list of future EV’s. They needed a unique and deep-rooted EV line with punch and those two were needed for it.

  • avatar
    Dan

    This wasn’t even close to ready. One look at the storm clouds on the horizon – economic bubble showing cracks, debt catastrophe looming, Trump imploding with the Bolsheviks waiting in the wings – and betting against the 2025 BOF toy market was such a no brainer that even GM got it right this time.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This is typical of Barra & Co. double down on what’s destroying market share instead of getting into a segment that is without a doubt profitable. Crossovers are a fad that’s about to bust like the minivan segment, the only car their keeping is the Yugobu, their pickups are bleeding market share, and the full size SUVs they currently dominate are poised to be decimated by the horribly laughable move to IRS. At a time when the market consists of two entrants that are both performing very well, it’s time to jump in with a good product.
    I almost feel certain that Barra is purposely destroying GM market share and stunting growth. No reasonable Exec in her position would ever let a company they were tasked with leading become such a sh!1show and not step down in shame long before now.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “and the full size SUVs they currently dominate are poised to be decimated by the horribly laughable move to IRS”

      Ya right because buyers of these vehicles demand solid axles front and rear. GM only stands to gain, not lose market share by moving to an IRS on their full-size BOF SUVs. Anyone that thinks this is a bad move is pretty out of touch with the people that actually drive these vehicles off the lots. Solid axles were fine on a ‘Burb 30 years ago, not today.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Solid axles were fine on a ‘Burb 30 years ago, not today.”

        No snark, but couldn’t you say the same thing about keeping the V8 and BOF construction as well? At what point are you just building a butch-style minivan because that’s all the buyers apparently want? How many people are actually buying a truck-based SUV because they want “truck” features?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I’d be happy to make a public bet with Hummer on what happens with sales of the big GM utes after they go IRS (first 2 years, to get past GM’s typically rough transitions between truck platforms). They go down, he gets a bottle of fine whiskey of his choice. They go up, I get the same.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Oh well. GM would’ve probably just screwed up whatever BOF Jeep-like vehicle it would’ve developed by giving it some off-the-wall name like “Citation” or “Lumina.”

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Citation is still a great model name!

      …For Cessna aircraft.

      Except for the old straight wing “Slowtation”. Noisy AND slow! You can hear them miles away.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    You guys missed the announcement though that every GMC model is going to have AT4 variant!

    http://gmauthority.com/blog/2019/08/every-gmc-model-will-have-at4-variant-by-2021/

    Because what is really needed is a Terrain AT4… Maybe they can purchase “trail rated” badges from Jeep’s supplier.


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