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TrailBlazer, Envoy Latest Casualties of War

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2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer 4dr 2WD exterior front left

2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer 4dr 2WD exterior front left

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GM has confirmed that the Moraine, Ohio, plant that builds GMT360 SUVs (Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Saab 9-7x) will be shuttered just in time for Christmas. That's the lump of coal that 1,100 Moraine workers will be getting in their stockings this December 23.

Originally, the plant was supposed to go offline in 2010, but recently the closing date was moved up to early '09. Wall Street woes and stock price freefalls surely forced GM's hand.

SUV sales are not going to stop altogether, as there will always be a need for vehicles that excel at towing, toting, hauling, and conquering the wilds. But the popularity of the SUV is definitely in decline, and as such, only the best and the brightest will survive (31-mpg Audi Q7, anyone?). Gas prices are up, jobs are disappearing, 401(k)s are in jeopardy, hybrids are in vogue, and dismal sales plus GM's financial crisis has forced it to take the mediocre, slow-selling GMT360 out behind the barn for a quick mercy-killing. And not a moment too soon.

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The GMT360 SUVs were supposed to be a revolutionary new mid-size SUV from GM back around the turn of the millennium. Ford had been handily beating GM's mid-size SUVs with Explorer sales, and GM needed to up the ante. What resulted was one of those design-by-committee pieces of mediocrity: lots of smart engineering watered down hopelessly by the bean counters, all resulting in a vehicle not a whole lot more successful than the ancient S-10 Blazer/ S-15 Jimmy it replaced.

Oldsmobile Bravada

Oldsmobile Bravada

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The GMT360's 4.2-liter six, GM's first in-line six in decades, is butter smooth, employs variable-valve timing (on the exhaust camshaft, anyway), and boasts nearly 300 horsepower. In four-wheel-drive guise, it even locates the front axle half shafts right through the tall engine's oil pan for space efficiency. That's smart engineering and a cool detail one wouldn't expect in a GM truck. But the fact that this engine doesn't have the low-end guts of the rough, hoary old 4.3-liter V-6 it replaced is shocking. It asks the meat-and-potatoes truck/SUV crowd to scream around all day at 5,000 rpm--that's where the 4.2-liter in-line six makes its mojo (in its current version, the engine's 277 pound-feet occur at 4,800 rpm, its 291 hp at 6,000 rpm).

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GM also had one of its infamous badge-engineering field days with the GMT360. At its height, there were six of these beasts, including the Buick Rainier, the Oldsmobile Bravada (oops, bye-bye Olds), and even a funky center-mounted ignition key couldn't fool people into thinking that this was a Saab. There were awkward extended-wheelbase versions, aka Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL, and a nearly useless Envoy XUV that was killed off nearly as soon as it was put on sale. Oh, yeah, and poor Isuzu got a little piece of the pie in the form of the Ascender.

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Would Saturn be better off if GM had realized the market was changing? Maybe. Would something like the Chevy Volt already be here today if the big mid-sizes utes had been axed earlier? Possibly, but not likely. SUV sales didn't start cratering until 2005, when the  GMT360s were already halfway through their shelf lives. Has GM learned the lesson of badge engineering and connecting with the market at exactly the right time? No (Acadia, Outlook, Traverse, and Enclave) and maybe.--Colin Mathews
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Comments (6)
  1. While it is good ridence to these truck I feel for the workers, they are not responsobile for the ongoing poor management decisions or lack of management decisions at GM. These are all the same crap truck with different noses and bad engines. It is not the workers fault on this one and is sad news for them going into Christmas. It is just sad that the top management at GM are not also being shown the door, sold off or just put out to pasture.
     
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  2. A colleague who, for some strange reasons, likes those Breadvans on Stilts, had leased a Trailblazer, and was complaining about its dismal 15 MPG average, and then leased a Hummar H3 (a pseudo-hummer) with the 5-cylinder engine and claims he gets.. better MPG than the trailbazer.
    His black H3 Hummer looks UNBELIEVABLY UGLY and unrrfined, BTW. A ridiculous design, esp. viewed from the Side.
    NOW if GM offered these StupidUglyVehicles with a MODERN, EFFICIENT DIESEL, and 30-50% better MPG with no loss of performance, they would have done MUCH MUCH better, and gas would be even cheaper for all the rest of us.
     
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  3. Close plant in US, open plant in Meixco. Borrowed money from US, spent money in Mexico. GM should be bought over by american businessman that put jobs in USA. USA taxpayer paid AMERICAN dollar for Mexican Peso cost car. The GM should be ashamed for not able to provide jobs for american, and ashame for not making good automobiles, and making automobiles that insult comsumer's intelligent, who would want a Saab9-7X from USA. I cetainly would buy a saab that is made in Mexico. I hope people are not stupid to buy a BMW from Mexico.
     
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  4. John: I am sure BMW makes NO vehicles of any kind in mexico. It does have a plant in the US South and makes SUVs (crossovers) and the sporty 2-seaters.
    it is VW, NOT BMW, and of course FORD (Focus and Fusion, among others) that make cars in Mexico
     
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  5. I actually kinda liked the XUV version with the sliding roof (a la Studebaker station wagons of the early Sixties).
    The niche market of people-who-need-to-transport-large-potted-plants-upright has been completely, utterly abandoned. Damn them !!
     
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  6. John V - I agree, the Envoy XUV has that kinda gleeful Futurama 50s thing going on, a certain gee-whiz factor for sure. We should put one in a time-capsule and bury it deep under Detroit, to be opened in 100 years as people gasp and giggle. Alas for GM, the gee-whiz of this particular decade is turning out to be gas/electric hybrids, not whimsical sliding roofs for, as you aptly point out, the people-who-need-to-transport-large-potted-plants-upright market. I Parked next to one of these behemoths today, and there it lurked outside the Barnes & Noble, bathed in white, and covered in stickers for a nearby pricey private high school. Wow, already handed down to junior (mom got a Lexus RX400h). I marveled at this DinoSUVR's Edsel-esque popularity, styling, and lifespan. Sometimes GM gets it so, so right (new 'Vette ZR-1, Caddy CTS, Chevy Malibu, performance of new Cobalt SS...yes, go read Road & Track). But when they get it wrong, ouch.
     
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