There are a lot of people upset about the new Chevy Blazer. But for wildly different reasons.
Some say it’s another example of GM squandering an iconic brand by labeling a weak-sauce crossover as “Blazer”. Many were hoping Chevy would take the brand seriously—as seriously as Ford takes the Bronco brand. They wanted to see Chevy follow Ford’s lead and create a better Blazer in the spirit of its off-road heritage for the 2020s.
Some people, like most in Janesville, Wisconsin, where some truly iconic GM cars, trucks, and SUVs were once assembled, were giddy over Chevy’s announcement it would bringing back the Blazer. They hoped it meant new life for the shuttered plant. “Yeah, we know how to do that one right,” they must have thought.
Built in Mexico
Then GM announced the Blazer would be manufactured in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. Yeah, Mexico. Just to add insult to injury, a few months later GM announced the closure of four GM factories in the US. It may or may not be reopened for some future production.
Still, the idled plants hold some hope. This is better than Janesville’s options. That plant was demolished just last year. Nothing will be built there again; except maybe houses, apartments, or a strip mall with a Waffle House.
Now, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the Blazer has become a symbol of everything bad about car manufacturing. About GM. About the world. People around the world are paying attention. Whatever good GM marketing thought would come from naming this product “Blazer” has completely and totally blown up.
The unions see it only one way. “The Blazer is emblematic of everything that is wrong with the world,” says Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor, and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Democratic candidates in their second debate this week, which was held right across the street from GM’s silver silos headquarters in downtown Detroit, were sure to bring up the matter. GM lucked out as it never came up. But locally, every politician within a thousand miles of Detroit is sounding off on GM and the Blazer as the 2020 elections draw near.
And just as the timing is wrong for GM with elections approaching, so too is it bad timing as GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW) are preparing to renegotiate their GM contract, which expires in mid-September.
It gets worse. Before baseball’s Detroit Tigers opening day at Comerica Park a Blazer was lifted atop the outfield fountain. Local talk- and sports-stations, and also social media, blew up. Callers raged about the Blazer and what it meant to Detroit’s laid-off residents. Quickly, GM replaced it with a Chevy Traverse. That is assembled in nearby Lansing, Michigan.
But the damage still resonates. Tuesday Lordstown, Ohio’s UAW Local 112 chairman Dan Morgan, tweeted, “The Blazer is over-priced Mexican junk! That is why it’s not above Tiger stadium.” Lordstown stopped building Chevy Cruze sedans back in March as one of the four plants GM announced closing. Lordstown is hoping for another shot for the shuttered plant.
No Going Back
For GM, the plans to build the Blazer in Mexico were made several years ago, before sedan sales plunged. At the time those plans came together the Lordstown plant was running at full speed with three shifts, according to Jim Cain, a spokesperson for GM.
Chevy started building Chevy Impalas at the 6.2 million-square-foot plant beginning in 1966. Workers and residents there probably can’t remember a time when the plant wasn’t running full-steam. Last year it had 1,435 hourly workers.
We’ll bet the next time you see a Blazer, what was intended for your observation won’t be what you’re seeing.