You probably remember the early- to mid-2000s, when there seemed to be no end to the “retro” craze in the car world. Back then, virtually every new car coming out was a “retro” model — from the Volkswagen New Beetle to the Chrysler PT Cruiser to the Ford Thunderbird and the Mustang to the Chevrolet HHR. Automakers loved retro, and so did car shoppers, and retro cars were being purchased as fast as they could come out.
In the 15 to 20 years since, times have changed, but I recently realized that the new “retro” trend has become the SUV. Within the last few years, a huge number of well-loved SUV models from the past have been “revived” — to the point where I think we’re approaching retro round two, with SUVs leading the charge this time.
Some examples: after a 30-year hiatus, it appears Jeep will bring back the Grand Wagoneer — the beloved full-size 1980s and early 1990s luxury SUV that has attained ultra-cool status in recent years. Jeep already revived the Renegade name and ditched the Liberty in favor of the well-loved Cherokee — and now, Jeep is bringing back the Gladiator, too. That may be a pickup, but it’s based on an SUV, and really it’s a bit of a hybrid SUV-truck — so it fits in our list.
It isn’t just Jeep. Land Rover has finally officially announced the revival of the Defender, and confirmed that the next-generation Defender is coming to the North American market — something that hasn’t happened in more than 20 years. Chevy is bringing back the Blazer — and while the new Blazer is a crossover, rather than a revived old-school luxury SUV, the fact that the name is returning shows that Chevy is thinking “old SUVs,” too. And there’s more: Ford plans to revive the Bronco, and we should see a new Bronco make its debut sometime in 2019. And after years of letting the G-Class languish, Mercedes-Benz recently redesigned the popular luxury SUV, keeping the beloved boxy styling, but modernizing the rest of it.
Indeed, it seems the new stars of the auto industry — along with electric cars and vehicles with self-driving technology — are SUVs that remind us of fun times in old-school models of days past. One wonders if Toyota was just a little too early to the party with its FJ Cruiser, which was sold from 2007 to 2014 — and while I suspect Toyota would shy away from another retro SUV in the wake of the FJ’s relatively poor sales, it might be worth a try. It seems that’s where the market is heading.