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The Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2019



I DON’T KNOW General Motors’s vice president of global design personally, but I can tell from the driver’s seat of the new Chevrolet Blazer RS, Mike Simcoe needs help.

Mr. Simcoe, an Australian national who came up through the ranks with GM Holden division, became global design boss in 2016, replacing the retiring Ed Welburn. Mr. Simcoe’s fresh eye and exquisite sideburns had made me hope for better things out of GM. But as the new Chevy Blazer midsize crossover makes evident, he has no more pull with the accountants than Mr. Welburn did when it comes to vehicle interiors.

The Blazer is a style-forward, niche-filling two-row crossover that has been whipped up out of GM’s box of commonality, with design inspired by the Chevrolet Camaro. The family lineage is conveyed by its sweeping hood, the Clint Eastwood-squinting LED headlamps, and cowcatcher grille. On the inside, Camaro landmarks include the prominent circular air vents with bezels that adjust temperature, as well as the teeny-tiny row of buttons to manage climate.

Built in Mexico, the Blazer reflects GM manufacturing’s emerging product strategy in North America: Standardize sub-assemblies, powertrains and architectures across divisions, segments, and model years, then charge extra for personality and refinement.

And how. Base model Blazers start at $28,800 before delivery. Blazer Ls are propelled by ye-olde Ecotec 2.5 turbo four, producing 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque. It’s the Hertz special.

There are good reasons to stick the old Ecotec in the base Blazer, but none favor the customer. It allows Chevrolet to trumpet an eye-catching base price. But it makes the base model so hard to love that many shoppers will be pushed into the higher trim levels. Somewhere a sales exec is steepling his or her fingers. Excellent.

The Blazer’s better engine—GM’s naturally aspirated 3.6-liter, 308-hp iron-block V6, also long of tooth—requires an additional outlay of $1,000, not including all-wheel drive, available for another $2,700. Want the leather package? That’s another $1,500. To step up to the sporty RS with the optional AWD requires another $3,300. Our violently red tester went out the door for $50,765.

This number staggered me. In my head a little ****ney flower girl said, “Gwwwann!” How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?

Which brings me back to Mr. Simcoe. You see, there’s design design, and then there is production design. Or, if you like, what Mr. Simcoe wants and what he gets after negotiation with the beancounters. This process includes material cost reduction (MCR) powwows, where the team looks for nice things they can take out, hopefully without customers noticing. These are the meetings that squeeze the love out of GM vehicles.

It was at some MCR meeting in a secure location that program execs decided to use the thinnest sun visors they could find for the Blazer; the least lovable plastics on upper and lower doors, dash, center consoles and trim; and go with the usual penny-wise upholstery, with its wandering seams and puckers. I imagine Mr. Simcoe sitting in these meetings, losing every argument, tears rolling off his sideburns.

I didn’t ask Mr. Simcoe’s permission to use him as a club to beat management. My apologies in absentia. I’m only advocating for better GM product design, and he’s the guy whose door says “Design.”

To be sure, the Blazer has curb appeal. While dimensionally within fractions of its GM crossover/SUV siblings, the Camaro-inspired styling really comes across, at least for Camaro lovers. The Blazer has a lot of stance and a lot of cool curves, with upswept hood lines, deep drafts through the door’s sheet metal, a turret-like side window opening and a rising beltline kicking up above the rear haunches. The RS models brandish huge 21-inch alloy wheels and 35-series summer tires. Our tester’s gloss-black wheels and lower skirting dazzled as long as there was no dust, dirt or mud clinging to them. It’s kind of a high-maintenance look.

I got two-thumbs-ups from a couple of passing motorists, and a report from a friend who said a neighbor kid thought it was “dope.”

But as a driving machine, the RS feels pretty generic and, under any kind of throttle pressure, sounds positively spectral, moaning and groaning like it was haunting Danish parapets. What is going on with the noise insulation under the hood, if any? The 3.6-liter DOHC iron-block wears more modern cylinder heads (direct ignition, stop-start function); but its raucous and unrefined induction noises fills the cabin like ’90s arena rock.

The RS and Premier trim levels get the V6 bundled with a nine-speed automatic; yet despite a considerable application of powertrain code, including five selectable driving modes, our RS’s delivery of power felt sluggish and disconnected. Even in light, day-to-day traffic, throttle response and downshifts lagged way behind my demands, even in Sport mode, which is supposed to sharpen the throttle and shifts. Oof. Sometimes, before I could bring the Blazer’s pot to boil, the opening in traffic had evaporated, which meant having to chop the throttle, leaving the engine to overrun awfully, hung out by its own rotational momentum.

Underbaked and starved of value, the new Blazer is a reminder that GM the financial entity and GM the car-building enterprise don’t have the same interests. GM is now enjoying stable returns, which Wall Street likes; but it’s all on the back of its contraction of North American market share. If GM wanted to grow its business, it would plow more money into making products desirable.

It must make Mr. Simcoe crazy.












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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

You see, there’s design design, and then there is production design. Or, if you like, what Mr. Simcoe wants and what he gets after negotiation with the beancounters. This process includes material cost reduction (MCR) powwows, where the team looks for nice things they can take out, hopefully without customers noticing. These are the meetings that squeeze the love out of GM vehicles.

It was at some MCR meeting in a secure location that program execs decided to use the thinnest sun visors they could find for the Blazer; the least lovable plastics on upper and lower doors, dash, center consoles and trim; and go with the usual penny-wise upholstery, with its wandering seams and puckers. I imagine Mr. Simcoe sitting in these meetings, losing every argument.

But as a driving machine, the RS feels pretty generic and, under any kind of throttle pressure, sounds positively spectral, moaning and groaning like it was haunting Danish parapets. What is going on with the noise insulation under the hood, if any? The 3.6-liter DOHC iron-block wears more modern cylinder heads (direct ignition, stop-start function); but its raucous and unrefined induction noises fills the cabin like ’90s arena rock.

‘There are good reasons to use the lowest-cost engine available in the base Blazer—but none of them favor the customer.’

Underbaked and starved of value, the new Blazer is a reminder that GM the financial entity and GM the car-building enterprise don’t have the same interests.


"These are the meetings that squeeze the love out of GM vehicles."


I read that one sentence over and over...and thought about the brand new Silverado.


Ok, so let the hate begin. But ask yourselves this one simple question - Is Mr. Neil correct?









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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

"These are the meetings that squeeze the love out of GM vehicles."


I read that one sentence over and over...and thought about the brand new Silverado.


Ok, so let the hate begin. But ask yourselves this one simple question - Is Mr. Neil correct?









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Yup! GM Interiors have gone back to the mid 2000s where everything looked cheap and not well appointed. Look at the Equinox, it's a boring place to be inside. Still can't understand why the customer still gets only 7-8" display screens, or monochromatic DIC in the center console. It shows in the sales numbers, especially with the Silverado, the consumer is not willing to fork over $50k for a half baked vehicle when the competition has much better offerings.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

"These are the meetings that squeeze the love out of GM vehicles."

I read that one sentence over and over...and thought about the brand new Silverado.


Ok, so let the hate begin. But ask yourselves this one simple question - Is Mr. Neil correct?
In one word: yes.

GM cheapthink abounds in their interiors. When Bob Lutz left the building they quickly went back to their old ways.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

Pfft... this so called 'review' comes across as a hit piece. I've seen a lot of reviews of the Blazer, many of them were rightly critical in regards to some aspects of the interior, but at least they also showed the Blazer in a mostly positive light. This reviewer though is absolutely shambolic, a charlatan posing an an auto journalist going way overboard in his criticisms. Oh wait... its DAN NEIL!:rolleyes::fall::mad:
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

Where does he get the idea that the 3.6 liter is an iron block, or its old? Even the 2.5 liter is brand new with an earth shattering 11.9 compression ratio, better than Porsche Boxer 4.

Pompus Neil, when did he stop driving Porsche, Astons and Maybach's to come to lowly Chevrolet ?
My thoughts exactly. The engines are not the problem, with all the other problems this vehicle does have the engines I would count as a strength.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

Like the writer personally or not, he hit the nail straight on the head. How else can one explain a striking design only to be let down by the small things inside. And yes, I too was thinking of the Silverado. GM needs to purge the middle management types that keep penny pinching GM out of competitiveness.

How about giving the Blazer a premium interior since GM is charging premium prices for it, and cut the number trims and engine choices in half. It will simplify production and lower costs to pay for the higher quality interior. Honda this past week has stated its cutting back on trims, to be more...........wait for it...................Profitable.

The higher quality interior will sell itself, and screw trying to "protect" GMC or Buick. If its a problem then don't sell $50K Chevys. The customer demands and deserves an interior to match the price. Or is the plan to put $10K on the hood and sell them in $35K-$40K price range. Old GM thinking really bugs me, this car deserved better.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

Like the writer personally or not, he hit the nail straight on the head. How else can one explain a striking design only to be let down by the small things inside. And yes, I too was thinking of the Silverado. GM needs to purge the middle management types that keep penny pinching GM out of competitiveness.

How about giving the Blazer a premium interior since GM is charging premium prices for it, and cut the number trims and engine choices in half. It will simplify production and lower costs to pay for the higher quality interior. Honda this past week has stated its cutting back on trims, to be more...........wait for it...................Profitable.

The higher quality interior will sell itself, and screw trying to "protect" GMC or Buick. If its a problem then don't sell $50K Chevys. The customer demands and deserves an interior to match the price. Or is the plan to put $10K on the hood and sell them in $35K-$40K price range. Old GM thinking really bugs me, this car deserved better.
Couldn't have said it any better. GM can't plot how many potential customers they are turning away on their spread sheets. The company and its products are returning to the laughing stock in the public's and media's eyes with their notorious bean counting and Kohl's/CVS pricing strategy; ridiculously high sticker prices offset by embarrassing "20% off MSRP!" fire sales that just bring prices down to where they should have been in the first place. There is a clueless mentality inside that company that has infected them for decades. The media and discerning customers simply don't exist to them.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

"These are the meetings that squeeze the love out of GM vehicles."

Also you can add these:

"Underbaked and starved of value"
"GM the financial entity and GM the car-building enterprise don’t have the same interests. GM is now enjoying stable returns, which Wall Street likes; but it’s all on the back of its contraction of North American market share."
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

I don't care if Dan is bias against GM or not, a review like this should not be allowed to happen period! GM has enough baggage against it to have such a negative review out rightly stating the interior is cheap! I too have my doubts about Simcoe!
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

But ask yourselves this one simple question - Is Mr. Neil correct?
He is absolutely correct. As GMI Forums members have pointed out in this and other threads, GM is focused on improving profitability, at least in the short term. This entails reducing product development, engineering, and manufacturing costs to the lowest possible, while simultaneously charging customers the highest price possible. That's exactly what GM is doing with 2019 Chevy Blazer.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

It's quite evident that the writer does not like GM with all his complaints. It's too bad some of these writers are not honest.
This reviewer though is absolutely shambolic, a charlatan posing an an auto journalist going way overboard in his criticisms. Oh wait... its DAN NEIL!:rolleyes::fall::mad:
On the contrary, Dan Neil is among the most honest and incisive automotive journalists extant. He previously wrote for Car and Driver, Autoweek, and LA Times. AFAIK, he is currently the only automotive journalist to have won a Pulitzer prize (which Neil earned in 2004).

While Mr. Neil's writing style is renowned, he would benefit from a editor to catch technical errors. There were at least two in his Chevy Blazer article: the 3.6L V6 uses an aluminum block, not iron; and the aspect ratio of the 21" tires is 45, not 35.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

My thoughts exactly. The engines are not the problem, with all the other problems this vehicle does have the engines I would count as a strength.
While I agree the engines are not the problem, I stop short of calling them a strength. Maybe I'm just old-school at this point, but I have never liked the idea of a high-revving engine in anything other than a car. Wife has the 3.6 in her Equinox and while the power level is sufficient, it takes some revving to get the damn thing off the line...
 
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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

Sure he's biased and has a ax to grind, but at the end of the day he is right. GM is run by accountants and it shows. Bob Lutz was the last guy would could bend the curve in the past, but it appears the accountants are firmly in charge again.

This product and the Silverado give me concern for GM's long term future. Mediocre is not recipe for long term success. Just look at GM over the last 30 years and see the subsequent market share reductions. The future is clear that a yet smaller GM is in our future. The only difference is management seems OK with that.
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

Where does he get the idea that the 3.6 liter is an iron block, or its old? Even the 2.5 liter is brand new with an earth shattering 11.9 compression ratio, better than Porsche Boxer 4.

Pompus Neil, when did he stop driving Porsche, Astons and Maybach's to come to lowly Chevrolet ?
"Earth Shattering 11.9 Compression Ratio"

May I use that quote in my next Sales Presentation? Oh wait, "does Ford even Shatter the Earth when Porsche doesn't?"Oh wait "who would even care?"
 

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Re: Chevy Blazer Review: "How could something so cheap-feeling cost so much?"

While Mr. Neil's writing style is renowned, he would benefit from a editor to catch technical errors. There were at least two in his Chevy Blazer article: the 3.6L V6 uses an aluminum block, not iron; and the aspect ratio of the 21" tires is 45, not 35.
I agree with you, Neil is one of the best - if not the best - automotive writers. GM would do well to have every executive read his Blazer review.

Oh, and there are actually 3 errors in the article - he refers to the Chevy Traverse as a 2-row vehicle. The Traverse has standard 3-row seating for eight, and optional 3-row seating for seven.









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