Hooniverse Weekend Edition – Say Goodbye to the Chevrolet Avalanche

General Motors announced earlier this month that the Chevrolet Avalanche will be discontinued after the 2013 model year. To celebrate its departure, Chevrolet will offer a Special Edition called the Black Diamond Avalanche, and will also offer the truck at a lower price. At the time of its introduction way back in 2001, it was a radically different concept in the market by offering all the room of a Crew Cab Pickup, as well as an eight foot bed when needed by removing the cab divider and folding the rear seats. After the Avalanche was introduced, there were a few other SUV/Pickup offerings, but none could match the versatility of the original. Here are some of the highlights of this almost dead model…

The Chevrolet Avalanche was introduced to the public at the 2000 North American Auto Show in Detroit as a concept and was described as a no-compromise Chevy truck with a unique combination of configurable passenger and cargo space. It went into production a year later as a 2002 model with four basic versions; A 1500 1/2 ton version in either 2WD or 4WD, and a 2500 3/4 ton version, again in 2WD and 4WD. The only engine available for the 1500 was the 5.3L Vortec V-8 producing 290HP, while the 2500 received the 8.1L V-8 that produced 340HP. There were numerous option packages available when introduced, including a North Face edition that tied in with the famous maker of extreme outdoor gear.

The Avalanche was the template for the styling direction that the entire Chevrolet Truck lineup, with the trucks adopting the Avalanche “Angry” front face and folded sheetmetal, the chrome bar dissecting the headlamps and the turn signals, and the large gold Chevrolet Bow Tie emblem prominently displayed at the center of the grill. Not only did the Avalanche queue the new paradigm shift in truck styling, it set the tone for the entire GM car and truck lineup, and cladding was the key.

Funny thing about that cladding… the new GM President, Rick Wagoner, wanted it removed. So 1/2 way through the 2003 model year, a new Avalanche option appeared; Without Body Hardware (Option Code WBH), or better known as “Slicksides”. You could get an Avalanche with nothing on the sides whatsoever, but even the slicksides could be optioned with plastic fender flares, and bodyside molding, so what was the point? 2003 proved to be the most successful time for Avalanche Sales, with the long downward spiral thereafter.

At the Chicago Auto Show, the second generation of the Chevrolet Avalanche was introduced to the public, riding on the new GMT900 architecture. This model was virtually identical in length and width to its predecessor, but the height grew by three inches. The 2500 version was long gone, with only the 1/2 ton 1500 models available in various trim packages. When it went into production a month later, there were two engines offered; The 5.3L Vortec 5300 developing 320HP (and E85 Flex Fuel Capable), and the optional 6.0L Vortec Max that produced 367HP (near the end of 2010).

The face of the Avalanche was taken from the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, and the use of cladding was strictly verboten. It still retained the mid-gate feature of the original Avalanche models, as well as the flying butress panels at the rear, but the overall design was one that was a lot cleaner that its predecessor. That seem to do nothing for sales, as the death spiral continued. Here are the yearly sales according to Wikipedia:

2001 – 52,955; 2002 – 89,372; 2003 – 93,482; 2004 – 80,566; 2005 – 63,186; 2006 – 57,076
2007 – 55,550; 2008 – 35,003; 2009 – 16,432; 2010 – 20,515; 2011 – 20,088

The Avalanche directly spawned the Cadillac EXT Truck, as well as the Hummer H2 SUT, and the GMC Envoy XUV. There were a few other car based trucks that were also inspired by the Avalanche including the Honda Ridgeline, and the Subaru Baja. The Ford Explorer Sport Trac was introduced slightly ahead of the Avalanche. With the Avalanche passing, do we mourn the death of a pioneering vehicle, or just display the remains, and hold it up for ridicule? Let me know what you think of the passing of this unique vehicle.

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