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BangShift Question Of The Day: Should OEMs Start Thinking About Keeping Successful Models Instead Of Engineering New Ones?

BangShift Question Of The Day: Should OEMs Start Thinking About Keeping Successful Models Instead Of Engineering New Ones?

Of all the vehicles I ever expected to see the buying public clamor for, a Chevrolet Astro is not on the last. Along with it’s GMC Safari twin, the S-truck based Astro and Safari vans had a good run for twenty years, enjoying two generations’ worth of sales. Usually running a 4.3L V6 and an automatic, available with all-wheel-drive since the 1990 model year, the Astro/Safari were as common as ants on the road. The IIHS reported in 2007 that Astro drivers were the least likely to be killed as per information recorded between 2002 and 2005, which might have reflected on driver’s habits while piloting the breadboxes around.

But is that a reason to bring the Astro back? Apparently so, because there is a growing movement and a Change.org petition to make it so. There’s even a 1980s-themed video that highlights the benefits of the not-so-mini van. But let’s look at this logically: the S-10 has been dead for years. The 4.3L V6 has been gone for years. And the company that was making the absolutely craptacular interior plastics has hopefully been demolished in favor of a much more useful dirt lot. How, exactly do you just magick the Astro back into production when it’s been gone fifteen years?

And this leads to today’s question: As we look back on vehicles past, some seem to endure better than others. Think the square-body Chevrolets, the Fox-body Fords, and such. Vehicles that could’ve easily continued on their own so long as the manufacturer just kept up with minor changes like improved engines and interior upgrades and updates. In a few cases, you can do just that (see also: Chevrolet Express, Ford E-series) but just in general, would this actually be plausible? The Astro would’ve been cheap to carry on, since most of the suspension bits were sourced from other models, like Camaro, Caprice, Cadillacs, and more. They sold well enough to bypass their original kill date by three years, and outside of safety upgrades to meet modern day requirements, would probably still sell well today.

What do you think…save the engineering costs on a brand-new model or progressively update and upgrade?

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14 thoughts on “BangShift Question Of The Day: Should OEMs Start Thinking About Keeping Successful Models Instead Of Engineering New Ones?

  1. Mark Watkins

    I often thought if Toyota brought back their early 80’s mini trucks, they would sell millions of the things. Simple, reliable basic transportation/work truck.

  2. Loren

    Our ’91 Jeep Cherokee 4.0 w/350K+ miles, and ’02 (first-gen) Toyota Solara V6 which is as tight as it was new at 150K, are both cars that they should have just kept making forever. I’d buy either brand-new today. However there is always the push to engineer new stuff and declare obsolete the old, even when it is a step backward.

  3. Matt Cramer

    Usually, I’d say no – bad idea. If you don’t improve on the vehicle, your competition will. And you’re going to hit a point where you can only cram so many improvements into an aging chassis before you really ought to just start over from scratch, and put together a new design that hopefully captures the appeal of the original while going beyond its limitations.

    A “bring back the X” demand generally happens when the replacement either failed to improve whatever it replaced, or if the new version managed to fit the mainstream audience but completely missed what brought the original a cult following. With the Astro, there are a lot of minivans out there that are better people haulers – but there’s not much if you want a minivan that tows or off-roads. The problem isn’t that the Astro is gone specifically, but that it filled a niche that nobody is currently catering to.

  4. bob

    If you ever replaced an engine in one of these with AWD, you would be more than glad they quit making them.

  5. Robert

    How about small trucks? Like Mark said above for Toyota. The original version of the Ranger and the Chevy S10 were a great size pickup. Today its the “new” Ranger and Colorado which are pretty big by comparison.

  6. BeaverMartin

    Chevrolet should still be producing the B Body. Cops and taxi drivers have wanted them ever since they stopped making them. As a bonus I assume the manufacturing cost would go down over the years so they could be sold dirt cheap. Fleet managers would love it. I’d gladly buy a brand new 94′ Caprice 9C1 wagon with the LT4 and a warranty. I think the sales model would work great with trucks too. I can absolutely guarantee a brand new 87ish C10 for 30ish K would out sale the new Silverado 5 to one.

  7. BeaverMartin

    Just thought of another one! Toyota should spin off Land Cruiser as a stand alone brand and sell the FJ40, J70, J60, J80, and J100 along side the J200 all at different price points. Jeep should respond and do the same with the CJ7, TJ, and JK/JKU.

  8. Matt

    It’s a common misconception, but the Astro was not really related to the S10. It was a parts bin amalgam of C10, Caprice/B body and even Cadillac Commercial Chassis elements from day one. The S10 didn’t even share the same 5 on 5″ bolt pattern with the Astro and full size trucks. There was the 4.3, the black painted dog dish hubcaps, and that was about it, GM offered a wheel design on both with different bolt patterns, leading to the confusion. That being said, I think something could be derived from the Colorado platform today to offer a modern equivalent…

  9. drivindadsdodge

    when Ford announced that the Crown Vic was going away police departments stock piled them
    department service technicians loved them …police officers loved them
    rugged as a Sherman Tank

  10. Pizzandoughnuts

    A good friend of mine drove his family in there’s for 280+, all he ever did was oil, fluid, brakes and tires on that thing.

  11. Anthony

    G body GM . Well liked cars and the chassis could be used in this van too. Pointless. They would never do it.

  12. 2manybills

    I had an AWD GM version. The trannies were notoriously weak and mine was dying to the tune of 3000 bucks. I filled her with transx and traded it for an 04 Durango with a 5.7.

    These two vehicles are the reason I won’t drive GM or Chrysler vehicles.

    Please leave that b!tch dead in the grave

  13. Don

    Nissan used this strategy, see where they are now. They are known as a bargain basement vehicle and dealers are having trouble selling the things profitably.

    1. Nate

      except the 4.3 V6 still is around, they just don\’t put it in the trucks that actually need it,instead running a car engine in the Colorado…

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