Yes, this is the theme for this weekend… Segment Busters, and will they be missed? Judging by the reaction to my Avalanche Posting, it is clear thatmost of you won’t miss the giant Car/Truck/SUV Mashup at all. I will, but I’m a weird guy. I liked the original Avalanche, with the cladding, especially the 2500 with the giant 8.1L V-8. However, there were other “Segment Busters” that were introduced to the market, and either withered on the sales charts, or were quickly withdrawn due to lack of demand. Here are some of those segment busters, with a poll as to which ones you secretly still want.
At around the same time as the introduction of the Avalanche, Ford came out with the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. It was introduced in late 2000 as a 2001 model, utilizing a lengthened Explorer Sport Utility Chassis (Which was closely related to the Ford Ranger at the time). It was all Explorer from the “C” pillar forward, but from the rear doors there was a small composite pickup bed. There was no “Mid-Gate” as found on the Avalanche, so to help with longer loads, a unique bed extender was offered as an option. The Sport Trac was offered with a “Breezeway” style rear window. The Ford Cologne 4.0L V-6 with Automatic was the only powertrain choice for the first generation Sport Trac.
The Second Generation of the Sport Trac was introduced during the 2007 Model Year with an all new chassis that featured independent rear suspension, as well as the option of the Ford Modular 4.6L V-8. All exterior dimensions were larger compared to its predecessor, but you really wouldn’t notice unless you compared them side by side. The last Sport Trac was produced at the former Chicago Explorer Plant on October 29, 2010, amid declining sales, and a totally new Explorer that was about to be introduced.
General Motors liked the Avalanche so much that it not only created a clone in the form of the Cadillac Escalade EXT, but also produced the Hummer H2 SUT, and it’s the latter we will concentrate on. The Hummer H2 SUT was nothing more than an H2 with a 72 inch pickup bed instead of an enclosed cargo area. The model was introduced during the 2005 model year, when overall Hummer H2 sales were only off 1,400 units from their peak in 2003. Between the pickup bed and the passenger compartment, the GM “Midgate” is utilized so that you can extend the cargo area into the cabin, to handle larger loads.
The truck was built under contract by AM General at a specially constructed plant in Mishawaka, Indiana. Unlike what you may have read, the chassis under the Hummer H2 differentiated from the Suburban and Silverado chassis. The front uses a modified GM 2500-Series utility frame, the mid-section is not shared with any other GM truck and is completely boxed, and the rear section uses a modified GM 1500-Series frame which is upgraded for the 8,600 pounds gross vehicle weight. After the financeapocolypse of 2008, demand for anything with the Hummer Brand evaporated, with the brand being shut down during the 2009 model year.
On July 18, 2002, Subaru began production of the Subaru Baja at their US production facility in Lafayette, Indiana. This was seen as the successor to the once loved Subaru Brat, but others saw it as a pint sized Chevy Avalanche, and with good reason. This car/truck was based on the Legacy/Outback platform, and when introduced, the Baja color scheme highlighted the yards of body side cladding, only in a silver color rather than the charcoal color scheme of the Avalanche. To open up the bed to more cargo Subaru offered the “Switchback” system, which was their term for an opening between the cargo bed and the passenger compartment. Unlike the GM System, the window was fixed, and the “Switchback” door opened under the rear window. The rear cargo compartment also offered a tubular bed extender, and a standard roof rack.
The Baja had a very short production cycle, and was discontinued in April of 2006. Yes, slow sales had a part in the decision, as only 30,000 units were sold during the four year run, but it was also due to the Toyota – Subaru tie up in which Toyota would invest in the Subaru Plant, and Subaru would build up to 100,000 Toyota Camrys per year under contract. In fact, the first Camry rolled off the assembly line a year to the day after the last Baja was built.
The GMC Division of General Motors wanted their own version of the Avalanche, but received the XUV version of the Envoy instead. It was built along side of the seven passenger Envoy XL at the GM Oklahoma City plant and was introduced in late 2003 as a 2004 model. It was over an inch longer and an inch and a half taller than the XL versions of the GM GMT370 models (Trailblazer XL, Envoy XL, Isuzu Ascender) and received its own designation as the GMT305. A new Roof Panel, and everything aft of the rear doors were not shared with any other GM Model. This model featured a sliding roof, two way tailgate, and a version of the Avalanche Mid-gate to create a unique Sport Utility/Pickup Truck.
The rear cargo compartment was completely waterproof with drain holes so that cleaning was a breeze, and unlike the Avalanche or H3 SUT, cargo loads could be slightly larger and still be contained in a weatherproof area. The midgate on the Envoy contained it’s own retractable window (Unlike the Avalanche), and could be dropped with the seats folded to make a 6.5 foot pickup bed to transport bikes, quads, or almost anything else. Envoy XUV Sales were projected to be 30,000 per year, but with only 18,000 built during the 2004 and 2005 model years, production ceased on March 15, 2005.
The Honda Ridgeline is Honda’s first entry into the pickup market, and in typical Honda fashion it is nothing like the competition. This truck is based on the Acura MDX Sport Utility Platform, itself a close relative to the Honda Odyssey platform. Honda chose to produce a crew-cab pickup with an integrated bed for rigidity, with a unique storage compartment under the bed for items like the spare tire and other items that need to be weather tight. However, there is no “Midgate” feature to expand the cargo area. It does offer a two way tailgate, similar to the Envoy XUV, which is still unique among these “Special” trucks. The Ridgeline is still being built, only now at Honda’s Lincoln Alabama facility that also builds the Odyssey. Initial sales projections were set at 50,000 units per year, and they were met when the truck debuted in 2005, but I haven’t been able to confirm if sales are still holding to that level.