Despite being shelved for a couple of decades, the return of the Ford Bronco name has sent the automotive world in a frenzy, with levels of hype that seems to be going unmatched. Perhaps only the C8 Corvette can rival this new family of 4×4 utility vehicles in buzzworthiness. It’s all because Ford created a product that resonated with the brand identity of what people recognize and expect a Bronco to be. Chevrolet, meanwhile, did the opposite with the Blazer. And it should go without saying by now that this decision was, is, and always will be known as a mistake.
That’s not to say the current Chevrolet Blazer is a bad automobile. It’s a car the brand needed in its lineup, as they didn’t have a two row, mid-size SUV to compete with the Ford Edge and Jeep Grand Cherokee. They could have, no, should have come up with a new nameplate (although Chevrolet doesn’t seem to have the best modern track record of this with the Bolt/Volt blunder), or used something different from their history. Instead, traditions were cast aside, and the Blazer’s image as an iconic SUV was grossly underestimated. Or perhaps manipulated.
In any case, one would be extremely hard-pressed right now to find anybody who thinks the Chevrolet Blazer naming strategy was a clever one. That goes for the Trailblazer, as well.
The Chevy Blazer was historically an off-road, body on frame SUV designed to take on both the Bronco and Jeep CJ models, but was based on the K5 platform shared with full-sized trucks at the time. It eventually shrunk down to be known as the S-10 Blazer in the 1990’s, before the name got shelved in the early 2000’s. But it was always truck-based, and was several degrees more adventure-ready than today’s FWD-based face in the crowd.
GM could have created a new Blazer based on the 31xx architecture that underpins the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks, much like Ford did by utilizing the Ranger platform for the Bronco. They still could create a rugged, off-road adventure SUV on the truck platform, but they already put the Blazer badge onto an angry-looking kitchen appliance that’s comfortable being something that truly doesn’t matter. It’s an acceptable vehicle with an unacceptable nameplate, and a crossover that now prevents GM from directly competing with the Bronco with the only name that was qualified to do so. And that segment, already popular, is going to just keep growing.
Even more sad is the fact GM probably knows this, maybe even knew this when the Blazer came out in the first place. According to The Detroit News, GM CEO Mary Barra possibly even told her senior product planners the Blazer was a missed opportunity. And our own connections within the automaker have only ever exhibited levels of frustration with the marketing department’s decision.
Today’s GM C1-platform Chevy Blazer simply serves a purpose, but that’s just the problem. It could have been called anything else. The Blazer nameplate deserves to be on something fantastic. It looked like Chevy may have made a mistake when it first debuted in 2018, but now that the Ford Bronco is out, we know it is.