The Bowtie gets the crossover feels

7 Mins read

TO BE HONEST, the Bowtie brand had been relatively quiet here even before the pandemic hit.

That’s changing.

Now, in the span of two successive quarters, the Philippine distributor of the General Motors brand has released an equal number of new models. Following the unboxing of the Chevrolet Tracker (widely perceived as the successor to the Trax) in July, Chevrolet lost no time before trotting out a familiar nameplate: the Trailblazer.

But to backtrack, the uneventful interim leading up to the twin launches was expected, nay, planned. In an exclusive interview session with “Velocity,” Chevrolet Philippines-The Covenant Car Company, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Atty. Albert Arcilla explained, “Chevrolet is going through a transition in its product portfolio. As early as 2017, 2018, we were not coy about (announcing) the transition of our products. We knew that some products would be changed, and we would have take out some of the key models that were already familiar to the audience. In 2018, 2019, we scheduled to transition to the new products that we’ve worked for.”

The twin launches are thus not proof of life for Chevrolet in the Philippines but, rather, a part of a premeditated “sabbatical” and recalibration of strategy.

“We were already really in sync with our product portfolio plans for 2021 and 2022. We were just delayed by a few months, but our launch targets were really for (execution) halfway through 2021,” added Atty. Arcilla. “It really gave Chevrolet that time to really study how we would introduce the new models that will be again familiar for the brand.”

The period of relative inactivity (at least to many outside observers) was actually put to good use in preparing Chevrolet Philippines for the gradual evolution of its offerings. Atty. Arcilla said the company kept sight of that goal while liquidating the existing product portfolio to make room for new models, namely the Tracker and the Trailblazer (for now). “We were successful in doing that because we already brought down a lot of our inventories during the transition period,” he added.

The decision to veritably pull the plug on certain models is not to be taken lightly and, of course, might have dire consequences later. But the trigger was pulled at the General Motors (US) level, and Atty. Arcilla thinks Chevrolet Philippines has been “put in a good situation” because of it.

He averred, “Ours is not a very big market; we are only distributors of the products that are available for our market. When General Motors and Chevrolet decided to cut down on the production of some models in the region, it really affected our product portfolio. However, it also came at a time that (the Philippines was) changing our own tax environment. We had the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, which had the net effect of jacking up prices of imported vehicles, with some exceptions).

“By the time we were taking out the old Trailblazer, that was when it would have been sold at a very high price. If you look at how the market reacted to the changes in the tax environment, people really did step back and look at other segments. As we were stepping out of the segment, the market was also stepping out of it. Now we’re back in the segment where the market is looking. I think it is serendipity for us at Chevrolet Philippines.”

The segment the company is stepping into is one that has been ripe for the picking even before the pandemic commenced — and promises to remain lucrative in the foreseeable future for the right companies with the right product.

The Chevy Traiblazer, already a familiar nameplate on account of the midsize SUV that was a hit here, now makes a comeback in a smaller compact SUV form. Crucially, Chevrolet Philippines is touting this as a premium product for a “forward-thinking, tech-savvy, and independent audience.”

Measuring 4,408mm x 2,052mm x 1,656mm (LWH), the all-new Chevy Trailblazer is longer, wider, and taller than its sibling Tracker. “The Trailblazer is a continuation of the new design language for Chevy’s crossover family and extends our momentum into one of the industry’s fastest-growing segments. It continues the SUV heritage of the revered nameplate and is now loaded with safety and convenience features that anticipate the needs of today’s most discerning customers,” Atty. Arcilla added in a release.

Meanwhile, Chevrolet Philippines Senior Vice-President and Director for Marketing Communication Services Lyn Manalansang-Buena said, “The all-new 2022 Chevy Trailblazer is a premium compact SUV, and it is catered to individuals who have achieved a certain level of success in their lives. It caters to a different target audience than the Tracker.”

She continued, “It has a lot of creature comforts and benefits that addresses an audience with a more discerning taste. It has stuff like an automatic liftgate, valet assist, MyLink infotainment system with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. There’s a lot of features for individuals who’ve made it to a certain level in their lives.”

As for the Tracker, Mrs. Manalansang-Buena stated that is a vehicle which “punches above its weight (as a) crossover SUV with a lot of benefits.” It’s aimed for a younger set, and the executive imagines these motorists would probably be “managers making their way up the corporate ladder,” or young families ready for their first vehicle. “The Trailblazer could be a secondary car, and maybe belongs to a family that has a multi-car system. That’s how we see the two target audiences of the Tracker and the all-new Chevy Trailblazer.”

For Chevrolet Philippines First Vice-President and Director of Product Development and Distribution Services David Ma. Antonio Zaballero, the Tracker and Trailblazer represent “two distinct product philosophies that appeal to two sometimes overlapping segments, but are (different) enough that their preferences are distinct as well.”

He commented on the Trailblazer, “The plethora of convenience and safety features will appeal to a more mature, more established demographic looking for advanced driver assistance systems and a raft of fuel-saving technologies in the powertrain.”

The all-new Chevy Trailblazer is available in two variants, the LT (P1,488,888) and Premier (P1,621,888). Chevrolet makes mention of the model’s front fascia and how it derives inspiration from the iconic Camaro. Speaking of its front end, the Trailblazer gets LED Intellibeam headlamps, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), and LED fog lamps. The “signature dual-port grille (also) gives its face a multilayered, dimensional appearance.”

Chevrolet designers purposively wanted the Trailblazer to have a visually wider and stronger stance, and this is helped along by an accent bar and simulated front skid plate. On the side, the crossover “includes taut character lines, a sleek roofline, and a bold hood shape to accentuate its youthful character.” LED illumination appears in the rear of the Chevy Trailblazer as well — through a high-mount stop lamp and taillights. Buyers will appreciate a hands-free power liftgate, rear camera, and sensors.

Powering the vehicle is GM’s next-generation Euro 4 E-Turbo engine. The inline three-cylinder turbocharged DOHC 1.3-liter mill delivers 155hp at 5,600rpm, while a stout 236Nm of torque arrives between 1,600rpm and 4,000rpm. Chevrolet said that the “innovative engine is characterized by advanced technology features that not only add excitement behind the wheel, but also enhance fuel efficiency.”

The system features active thermal management to keep the engine at optimum operational temperature, and a variable displacement oil pump to ensure that lubricant delivery is matched to engine load. Active grille shutters can close when engine cooling needs are reduced — also aiding in the reduction of drag while maximizing aerodynamic efficiency by pushing more air around the vehicle. Additionally, the Trailblazer’s electric water pump is independent from the engine and keeps parasitic drag low.

The Trailblazer also boasts an engine start/stop system to cut down on both fuel consumption and emissions when possible.

The vehicle translates the engine output into performance through a new-generation Hydramatic VT40 CVT. Chevrolet stated that this six-speed front-wheel-drive CVT comes equipped with a multi-drive-mode system to match road conditions. A suite of driver assist and safety systems reads like a who’s who of features more commonly seen on upmarket models: enhanced stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution, hill start assist, cornering brake control, rollover protection, engine drag control, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, rear camera, rear park assist and rear-cross traffic alert.

The Chevy Trailblazer also receives brake assist systems such as Brake Pre-fill, Fading Brake Assist (FBA), and Panic Brake Assist (PBA). The crossover also has the ability to detect if an emergency or spare tire is in use — and accordingly adjusts the brakeforce, torque and power applied on the spare. The parking brake is actuated electronically as well.

To provide confidence during “enthusiastic cornering,” Chevrolet’s Torque Vectoring by Brakes (TVBB) system applies the brakes on the inside wheel (the vehicle gets 17-inch alloys, by the way) when the Trailblazer makes a turn at speed. “Light brake force is applied to the front inside wheel as soon as it begins to lose grip, sending more engine torque to the outside wheel that has more grip,” said the company.

The Trailblazer’s steering wheel is leather-wrapped and bears a heating function (as with the front seats), along with cruise and audio controls. Chevrolet equips it with electronic power steering as standard. Swathed in jet-black leather, the cabin is accented by white stitching. The infotainment system is predicated on an eight-inch MyLink with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and its HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system is equipped with an air moisture sensor and A/C cabin pollen filter.

The all-new Chevy Trailblazer is available in eight colors: Summit White, Black Meet Kettle Metallic, Crimson Metallic, Blue Glow Metallic, Vivid Metallic, Mahogany Red Metallic, Abalone White Tri-coat, and Satin Steel Grey Metallic.

Available in Chevrolet dealerships nationwide, the all-new Chevy Trailblazer comes with a five-year warranty, automatic enrollment to the 24/7 Chevrolet Roadside Assistance for three years, and access to the Chevy Hotline for convenient vehicle service and ownership needs.

Atty. Arcilla said that he sees two promising segments now — the aforementioned crossover niche and small sedans. As Chevrolet Philippines is addressing the first category, it is also looking at bringing in models for the second.

“We are already in a lot of discussions with our principals at GM and Chevrolet because we’ve seen that there are certain models available in other markets that may be introduced here in the Philippines. We’re waiting for the right timing and right pricing strategy that will give us the right volume and price level that we can offer to the market,” intimated the Chevrolet Philippines head. “By the middle of next year, when everything hopefully gets a little more normal, it will be easier for us to make that decision to again introduce a model in a very, very big segment.”