After Ford Bronco Reveal, Is GM Ablaze With Envy?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Putting aside your author’s own predilection for traditional sedans (a kink shared by many a TTAC resident, but fewer and fewer buyers), one can understand why General Motors canned its Chevrolet Sonic, Cruze, Volt, and Impala, and why Buick stands to become a utility-only brand come 2021.

Less understandable, especially after last week, is why one newish model arrived in its present form. And it seems some people at GM are wondering that, too.

As soon as the fawning over the 2021 Ford Bronco began, so did the collective dumping on what could have been its rival: the Chevrolet Blazer. It’s not the Bronco’s rival, of course. The Jeep Wrangler is.

The Blazer, which arrived for the 2019 model year, marches to the beat of a different drum. Eschewing its heritage, unlike the Bronco and Wrangler, the Blazer returned to life as a crossover built atop a front-drive passenger car platform. Filling the significant CUV gap between the Equinox and sizable Traverse made sense (Ford has the Edge, after all), but using the Blazer name for this entry rubbed many purists and history buffs the wrong way. Many felt that, unless the model in question was a body-on-frame SUV with real off-road chops, resurrecting the Blazer name was inappropriate.

We remarked on it then, and the griping continues to this day. It continues in the pages of The Detroit News, too.

While one can understand a company with no intent to offer up a rival in the dedicated off-road SUV space choosing to get some mileage out of its history by dusting off a familiar nameplate for a new CUV, it also locks a company into its current direction. Better not change product plans, as that name’s now out of commission.

Columnist and associate business editor Daniel Howes offered up the usual lament for what might have been re: Blazer, but the surprising takeaway from his piece is that apparently GM’s leadership might feel the same way. That’s the claim.

In describing the overwhelming enthusiasm for the history-steeped Bronco and GM’s decision to sit out that battle, Howes writes:

A winning strategy it’s not, if only in the never-ending PR battle. The mountain of pre-orders for Michigan-made, compact Broncos flooding Ford Motor Co. is a harsh reminder that GM’s Blazer revival as just another sporty midsize crossover, something it originally wasn’t, is shaping up to be one big missed opportunity. No less than CEO Mary Barra, I’m told, tersely reminded senior product planners as much in a meeting amid last week’s Bronco brouhaha.

We can’t confirm whether this inside line is a juicy nugget of pure truth, but GM, like any major automaker, doesn’t want to find itself lagging behind its biggest competitors if it can help it.

Trouble is, the Bronco belongs to a segment that grew suddenly scorching, past Wrangler success notwithstanding. To start pursuing its own off-road SUV now would lead to a terribly belated market entry for GM, as well as a product that can’t access the model name it should be able to lay claim to. The heat could easily have died down by then, too. And besides, GM’s future isn’t something that’s just scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin (regardless of how some readers might feel about the company’s electric ambitions). There’s a structured plan afoot, just as there’s a cost-cutting strategy. There’s also a pandemic and a concurrent recession underway. Money isn’t plentiful right now.

GM could choose to make use of the frame underpinning the next-generation Chevy Colorado, but there’s no word on any green light for such a product, or even corporate musings related to the hypothetical beast.

Still, it’s interesting to hear that the person who’s led GM since 2014 reacted in such a manner (or at all) following the Bronco’s debut.

[Image: Ford, General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jul 23, 2020

    Mary the clown is in top form in taking GM to new heights of mediocrity so this is really rich coming from someone who couldn't steer a canoe without screwing up. And the greatest hits just keep coming. Promises of an all electric future. Promises of triple zero fantasy. Turning Buick into a frump mobile CUV only brand for NA. Removing the one bright spot for it's compact twins the Nox and Terrain by killing off the 2.0 turbo option and also the diesel. Bringing out the once formally second best selling pickups with dud 8 speed transmissions and cheap interiors and thus relegating it to third place in the sales race. The Blazer name fiasco. Keeping the outdated Trax and Encore with 138 HP first generation Cruze engines when the superior 155 horse version was available and then dropping it, mileage ratings that somehow keep dropping on many newly introduced models, plans to kill off everything but a slow selling Bolt and the clown car Spark despite the fact that the Malibu, Cruze and Impala all outsold both of them and the disaster that is called Cadillac which I'm too tired and bored to get into at this point. Just announced yesterday, the highest trim level Silverado gets downgraded to the wonderful 8 speed transmission because GM is having issues getting a part needed for the 10 speed. Meanwhile Ford has no trouble supplying 10 speed automatics to all but the basic stripper 3.3 V6 equipped F-150's. Too bad they caught the same disease as GM and killed off everything but the Mustang in there car line.

  • Jfk-usaf Jfk-usaf on Jul 24, 2020

    Need an idea GM? You designed and sold one of the best looking pick ups in the history of pick ups. The 1967 to 1972 Chevy, GMC C/K10, 20 series. Make your current generation of either the ugly new full size or the mediocre... I mean medium Colorado pick ups short lived and design a modern take on the C/K series from that time frame. This look / platform could chain out into a refreshed Blazer that would be closer in spirit to what the public actually wanted. One request would be to source a smaller percentage of the parts from China and come to the table with a quality product that really sets the bar. Until then, or until International Harvester reincarnates itself, I'm waiting eagerly to get my hands on one of these Broncos. Ford really knocked the cover off the ball with this one.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.