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Chevrolet is bringing back its Blazer nameplate, but it is not the rugged truck-based SUV it once was.
Chevrolet unveiled the new 2019 Blazer on Thursday, and it is a five-passenger, mid-size crossover that will fit between the slightly larger mid-size Traverse SUV and Chevy's compact Equinox crossover.
The vehicle shares a name with the old K5 Blazer first introduced in 1969, but this new version is based on a car platform like most crossovers, not the truck platforms of its predecessors or of its Tahoe and Suburban contemporaries.
It comes with either a standard inline 193 horsepower 2.5L 4-cylinder engine or an optional 305 horsepower 3.6L V-6 engine, for those who want more power and the ability to tow up to 4,500 pounds. Both will come with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Consumers can opt for all-wheel drive.
There will be an "RS" version which will be "blacked out" and "sinister-looking," Chevrolet said in a release. There will also be a higher-end Premier version. Both of those come with with dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive.
Chevrolet will also offer a lot of options for customization. There will be "a wide range of interior styling choices for the different models, achieved through several color and trim choices," Chevrolet said.
The vehicle's style is sporty, highly-stylized and aggressive, said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Rebecca Lindland.
"It won't appeal to everyone but it will appeal to people who want a sporty high stylized crossover, regardless of lifestage."
So its appeal could therefore be both narrow in terms of taste and broad in terms of age or other factor, she added.
With the Blazer, Chevrolet is taking another step toward having the "Goldilocks" of lineups, she said.
Chevrolet will now sell 6 SUVs and crossovers, from the tiny subcompact Trax crossover, which starts at a mere $21,000, all the way up to the $50,000+ full-size Suburban SUV.
The characteristics that distinguish one model in the lineup from the one next to it might be few, but they could make all the difference to a customer looking for a very specific kind of vehicle, Lindland said.
Both how the Blazer is positioned and what it offers in options shows that advancements in manufacturing have allowed automakers to aim products at ever narrower slices of the market than they were able even 15 years ago, she said.
Companies can now build several different types of vehicles on the same production line. They can make rear-wheel-drive vehicles and all-wheel-drive vehicles on the same equipment, for example.
They can also share components across a lineup that consumers will never see or notice, and use styling and other more visible features to distinguish one product from another.
So they can, for example, put the same wire harness or USB port in several different vehicles, while allowing consumers to choose from a variety of wheels, interior features, or interior trims.
This gives them flexibility and allows them to achieve the economies of scale that make the business case for a wide variety of narrowly targeted products.
"In decades past it was often too expensive to customize vehicles for these narrow bands of consumers," she said. "But in today's flexible manufacturing world, they can actually do that. They can make these very niche products. It is reflective of the customization that technology has enabled and that consumers have almost come to expect."