It seems nostalgia is a thing right now in the SUV world. The Ford Explorer name is back, Jeep is bringing back the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer nameplates and Ford has confirmed the return of the iconic Bronco. Consumers have a love affair with SUVs and automakers are pulling all the strings to attract buyers, including throwbacks of the past.
The only Detroit OEM that has yet to dust off an SUV name from the past thus far is General Motors. Part of the reason they haven’t is because they still sell some legendary SUVs, including the oldest nameplate in the industry, the Suburban. There’s also Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade of more recent history.
But with Jeep rolling out an all-new Wrangler this year and Ford confirming the return of the Bronco, isn’t it time GM enter the small off-roader segment as well? We think so, and the GMC Jimmy is the perfect throwback for it.
The Jimmy name has been on ice since 2005, when the midsize SUV died in favor of the GMC Envoy as the GMC brand began moving up-market to distinguish itself from the Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Some purists would likely argue that GM’s off-road SUV should be the Chevrolet Blazer, which arguably has more off-road legacy than the Jimmy (though both were always based on the same underpinnings). I argue that GMC should be GM’s Jeep play though, for many reasons.
With Ford entering the segment and Jeep upping its game, it’s going to be highly competitive. In any market segment you either steal business from your competitors or you grow the segment with new buyers. This all has to be balanced with the fact that the vehicle has to be profitable to justify a business case to produce it in the first place, all the while advancing the company’s ability to meet stringent new fuel economy standards.
Basically it sounds impossible after discussing all of that, but that’s why I argue GMC should get this vehicle. GM really can’t afford to have it sell in high volumes or else it would negatively impact the company’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) numbers, which are going to climb all the way to 54.5 mpg by 2025 unless President-elect Donald Trump wishes to change that.
The fuel economy standards are likely to lead to a lot of aluminum in the vehicle, which isn’t cheap. This means the price tag isn’t going to be cheap either. So, a moderately priced off-road SUV that carries a moderately high price tag and sells in modest volumes.
Does that not reek of GMC?
There’s also the marketing aspect to this type of vehicle. Buyers of this segment are often loyal and brand conscious. The Buick-GMC sales channel is prime for this type of buyer since the brands are niche players and not the high-volume, more pedestrian brand that is Chevrolet.
GM likely already has the parts to build this vehicle. The 31xx architecture that underpins the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon could likely serve as a basis for it. GM already produces the global Trailblazer SUV on a variant of this chassis.
Is this something GM would do? It’s hard to say. On one hand the company is an eager participant in niche segments with vehicles like the Camaro ZL1 and now Colorado ZR2. On the other hand, they have huge holes in their lineup, such as the lack of a hot-hatch or even hotter versions of their mainstream products to combat Ford’s Sport products.
Regardless, the nostalgia returning to the SUV world is sort of exciting and GM should get in on the action. The Wrangler and Bronco can’t have all the fun, not when GM has a viable brand to combat Jeep globally, they has just chosen not to leverage it thus far.