The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer made a surprise online debut on Wednesday following the announcement of its corporate cousin, the 2020 Buick Encore GX. Both, the reborn Trailblazer as well as the Encore GX will be produced in South Korea.
The country of origin isn’t much of a surprise for two main reasons: GM Korea has produced the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore for years for the U.S. market. Both models will continue being built in South Korea and exported to North America, since the Trailblazer and Encore GX are new entries to the lineup, rather than direct replacements for the Trax and Encore. General Motors promised two new vehicles for the South Korean unit to manufacture as part of a bailout and restructuring plan, with the Trailblazer and Encore GX being those vehicles.
The South Korean auto union agreed to wage freezes and benefit cuts to keep costs in check last year. The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer and 2020 Buick Encore GX were the carrots in the deal. The promise of two new cars for local production likely also helped swallow the end of production at the GM Gunsan assembly plant, which GM has shuttered. GM Korea received, in total, a $7 billion bailout in the restructuring deal. The reorg was necessary following GM’s exit from Europe, which deeply impacted the automaker’s South Korean production.
While the reasoning behind Trailblazer and Encore GX production in South Korea are clear, both vehicles seem like ideal candidates for production at the GM Lordstown plant in Ohio. GM idled the plant this past March where the Chevrolet Cruze sedan was made specifically for the U.S. market. Canadian and Mexican-spec Cruze sedans were assembled in Mexico. The Cruze hatchback was also made in Mexico.
Infamously, GM shed the second shift at the Lordstown plant the same day it announced the new mid-size Chevrolet Blazer would be built in Mexico.
Production of the 2021 Trailblazer will start this year in South Korea for local sales. In early 2020, GM Korea plants will begin exporting the model to the U.S.