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Chevy Wipes the Slate Clean

Dark blue 2019 Chevy Impala rear end, closeup of name/logo, garage door in back

 

 

Today on AutoInfluence, we explore Chevy’s decision to wipe their slate, at least partially clean…

At this point, where we find ourselves edging towards 2019, few people remain unaware of Ford’s announcement, from earlier this year, confirming that they’d be phasing out their line of sedans to refine their focus on crossovers. Now…we counted ourselves firmly a part of the camp who approved the decision, albeit not for the most common of reasons. While others applauded the decision as an affirmation that Ford was listening to the message car-buyers were sending via their buying dollar, and making a commitment to practical eco-friendly fare, we were (simply out) not very big fans of Ford’s jumbled and mismatched lineup of cars. So if the decision heralds a change-up, we’re all for it.

Now Chevy has announced an almost-mirrored strategy, discontinuing the enduring Impala, ever-accessible Cruze and even the innovative Volt in an attempt to refine their own focus for the changing palate of tomorrow’s car-buyers. And yes, once again, we’re 100% on-board. Buying habits aside, the majority of coupe and sedan stylings of-late have felt progressively more uninspired and progressively less compelling. If complacency sold cars we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, but the proverbial pie is being cut up and redistributed so many ways that even tried and true automakers have little choice but to their the baby out with the bath water. Take the Impala, for example. With six decades under its belt, one look tells you all you need to know: that it deserves a rest. The Cruze always felt a bit like an oversold entry point, to us, so we’re honestly a bit surprised that it took a decade for its star to fade. In fact, its only the Volt that caught us off-guard. With only a few model years to its credit, the hybrid offering felt entirely competent among competitive offerings. One can only assume that the shift to full-EV powertrains and demand for crossover versatility came like a double-tap from a sniper rifle.

And it goes without saying that such surgical decisions are interested to be witness to. Mostly because its doubtful that such decisions are driven by sales numbers alone. At no point were GM execs running down a list of sales numbers, determined to execute the three bottom-sellers (along with the Buick Lacrosse, Cadillac CT6 and XTS) only to realize that they were all sedans. There was no coincidence, because, let’s be honest, the writing has been on the wall for the better part of three decades. The widespread integration of the family-friendly SUV, replacing a large segment of minivans in the early 90s was the sounding alarm. The late-aughts Depression and fuel crisis all but demanded a more economical alternative, and automakers have been smart to follow that momentum over the past ten years. And now, with the majority of innovation tied to sustainable fuel alternatives, advanced safety and driver assistive features and the introduction of autonomous technologies, the crossover makes the most suitable vessel.

But setting aside the monotony of conscientious advances, let’s take a minute to acknowledge the easily-overlooked opportunities to infuse crossovers and SUVs with a bit of excitement. This is one area where both Ford and Chevy have experienced mixed results, although Chevy was certainly more consistent in their offerings. But Ford’s redesign of the Expedition, announcement of the resurrected Bronco (attached to a slightly undersized offering to be named at a later date) and an all-electric SUV throws down a gauntlet.

So was it any surprise when we learned of Chevy’s plan to resurrect the Blazer, to face off against the Bronco in some sort of late 80’s grudge match? Not really. And if we’re being completely honest, there’s a clear strength in the design language used. Sleek and angular, it addresses the bland aesthetics of recent model years that we’ve taken such issue with. A tasteful palate of colors helps to accentuate the appeal, while a refined-yet-modern cabin design creates one of the most enticing interiors we’ve seen in a while. It feels focused, earning Chevy a well-deserved pat on the back. So, if we can expect more of THIS as a result of Chevy’s refinement strategy, we say “Bring it on”.

Factor in two V6 engine configurations, both with variable valve timing , offering up to 305 horsepower and a confident 27 mpg highway rating, the Blazer is more than just a pretty face. And, in all honesty, it makes us excited for what might be coming down the line.

And to think…all that it cost us was a few lackluster four-doors. Not a bad trade, if you ask us.

This has been AutoInfluence…thanks for listening…

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