rkmdogs

Astro replacement dilemma

34 posts in this topic

I started this inquiry in the old format, found my own answer in the 2006 GM press releases, that the General is pitching the Uplander as the replacement for the Astro. Somebody needs to clean their glasses! First off, the Uplander is at most a 7 passenger vehicle, not 8, as the Astro was! Second, it does not have a 5000 lb tow capacity. I'm not sure of performance comparisons between the old 4.3L and the new 3.9L variable timing V-6, whenever it becomes available. The 3,4L sure doesn't have it! And that cargo box deal, !!!!! who is smokin' them funny cigarettes at design? If you have cargo ON THE FLOOR in the back, how can you get to the cargo box, which is UNDER the floor? Take everything out? AND that me too, one-piece, head skonkin' rear hatch --- bring back the dutch doors, please! Somebody at Corporate has been reading the wrong tea leaves if they think that the Uplander comes anywhere close to matching the versatility of the Astro! Who could we contact at Corporate to let them know that if the Uplander is the new "minivan", offer it in RWD. They already say you can get it in AWD! So the chassis has to have a rear driveshaft provision. Wake Up, General!!!!!
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They cannot afford to replace the Astro because it is not that big of a seller, but I don't see why GM just doesn't offer a shorter wheelbase Express van, it then could more closely replace the Astro!
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The Astro was a nice niche vehicle, but I don't think developing a replacement is worth the resources. Its demise should be adequately covered by the mid-size SUV's and the upcoming lambdas.
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READ MY LIPS! An SUV is not a Minivan. Now repeat 100 times 'til it sinks in! The current SUV offerings do not replicate the features offered by a minivan! AND.... as far as market share being too small, that is a cop-out answer! Let's look at D-C's Caravan, Toyota's Sienna, the Honda job, and Kia's Sedona. A shortie Express is NOT the answer. The General, for whatever reason has chosen to vacate this market ... just like he did with the full-size Caprice! The bean-counters, not the car-people are winning.
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Another point to ponder.......... GM ran this vehicle for over 20 years, without any significant updates! That's a lot of return on your initial investment. If they had upgraded minimally, along the way, they could have been current with the competitors in the state-of-the-art minivans. The closest they came to a minivan replacement with an SUV was with the Envoy XUV, whose execution was dismal with the deference to style over function on the rear gate functioning features!....... and it still couldn't seat 8 people! I wonder how many of the people who are writing off this type of vehicle have ever owned one, or used one? We ain't just talkin' soccer moms here!
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I've driven an Astro or Safari numerous times, including for long trips. For what it is, big and functional, it's unique in the market. The engine is rough and the front legroom is lacking, but hey, it's a truck. Its main strength is towing. For a people mover, there are better choices. A GMT355 or GMT360-derived mid-size van would be nice--I just don't know if there could be a business case for one.
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You know, I was always under the impression that the Express and Astro were really, really related. Rkmdogs, as someone who owns an Astrovan, what's the problem with a shortened Express as long as it has all the same desireable features (Dutch doors, high towing capacity, truck durability)? By the way, I agree the Astro and Safari fill a very valuble niche in the van market for families that actually tow something when they go somewhere and tradesmen who don't need the huge length of the Express.
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Good question FlyBrian. I can only answer from prior experience and outside reports. First, the Express weighs a lot more, and has different wheelbase to tread width ratios than the Astro. Historically, short wheelbase vans have had a very choppy ride, and expansion joint interval placement on some roads make it totally unbearable. I have owned several full size vans in the past, my last being a 2001 Express 3500 long-wheelbase. This was a very nice van for over the road, but around town driving was a chore due to the length. I have owned several Dodge full-size vans, both long & short wheelbase, in both 3/4T and 1T versions. Fully loaded, nice rides, but empty or with just passengers, a real dreaded experience. AND, the new Express, with the last redesign is a fully framed vehicle. This was done to compete with Ford and their offerings for class C motorhome cutaways, and other commercial use applications. This is a very desirable feature for this size and type of van, but in the minivan designs, this construction adds cost & weight, which then means bigger engine, bigger brakes, etc. That's why, in my opinion a "shorty" Express would not be a feasible solution. A better solution would have been to offer the Astro features on the Uplander, specifically the rear Dutch door design, a split, folding 2nd seat(like the old Suburbans), instead of folding buckets just to accommodate a second row table! What happened to fold-down center armrest tables--- like the Astro LT? Maybe nobody at GM design knows how to do a seat with a fold-down table and with fold-down seat backs? Or maybe the bean-counters won't allow it in this market level vehicle? In the design feature selection on the Uplander, the LS series does not come with a roof rack, but misses some of the other amenities. On an LT Uplander, the roof rack is included in the package with no choice to delete it! In todays gas crunch situation, a roof rack increases the already poor air drag of the vehicle, reducing gas mileage by up to 10%! Why can't you buy the upscale Uplander WITHOUT the roof rack? You don't get one on the Tahoe SS! The design team for the Uplander was fixated with making it a rolling juke box, not a versatile, useful vehicle. Now, on the rear drive business. It is a known fact that if you tow with a FWD vehicle, you lose traction to your driving wheels. With a RWD vehicle in a tow situation you increase traction, but loose some steering control unless you use a load-equalizing hitch. Anyone towing a boat or a rigid travel trailer of any size, who does not use an equalizing hitch is an accident waiting to happen! That is why RWD is preferable. The compromise that the General chose was to offer the Uplander in AWD, (no quarrel with that) but only on an LT series model! And then the drive split is in favor of the front axle, until the torque shift is required. The only answer as to why the rear axle isn't the primary drive is because the rear axle driveshaft is offset due to the transfer case displacing the output. But two of my Astros (the '95 & the '00) were AWD, and they had RWD as the primary! I am reminded of an old tale, about a company firing its' older, more expensive engineers and replacing them with younger ones, at a much less salary figure. But once they had a design problem that the new, young boys couldn't solve. So in desparation, to keep from shutting down a high-costing plant, they called back one of the old-timers as a "consultant". He came in, and looked at the problem, and said,"I can fix that quickly foryou." They agreed, and he proceeded to add one bolt to the troubled assembly, and all the problems were cured. He then sent the company a bill for $100,000.00. The new, young manager hit the ceiling. How can you charge so much for one bolt," he asked? The old-timer answered," oh the bolt is only 10 cents. Knowing where to put it costs $99,999.90! Nuff said!
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No, I'm on my third one now, and I bought all of them as second owner. 1st - A 1988 from GSA services. A Fed govn'mt vehicle out of St.Louis. It is still running with its' 4th owner @ 313,000mi. 2nd - A 1995 AWD, that was a Farmer City,KY. bank president's personal vehicle. Sold to a G.I. transferred to Colorado w/ 187,000mi. on it. It too, is still running. 3rd - A 2000 AWD that I currently own. Bought from retiree in Plant City,FL., with 44,000mi. on it. Currently has 87,000mi.-running great, but just had to put in new alternator. Shopped for new 2005, but only found 5 within 200 miles thateven came close to what I wanted. They all had less on them than what I have now with my LT trim. Prices ranged from $18,000 to $27,000. But they all wanted to steal my current one@ $3,000 less than current book! Enterprise car rentals is selling off their manager fleet of Astros. Buy a used 2005 w/ 12,000-16,000mi., still under warranty for under $18,000.
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READ MY LIPS!

An SUV is not a Minivan.

Now repeat 100 times 'til it sinks in!

The current SUV offerings do not replicate the features offered by a
minivan!
AND.... as far as market share being too small, that is a cop-out answer!
Let's look at D-C's Caravan, Toyota's Sienna, the Honda job,
and Kia's Sedona.
A shortie Express is NOT the answer. The General, for whatever reason has chosen to vacate this market ... just like he did with the full-size
Caprice! The bean-counters, not the car-people are winning.

[post="1234"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



While the Astro had its niche, there's not nearly enough demand in a heavier-duty, RWD minivan for GM to engineer and develop a dedicated platform for it. You'll never (I know...never say "never") see another Astro-like vehicle....

The Astro sold well out here in California. It was mostly bought by hispanics that loved the cheap price and the large amount of room for their larger families, etc. BUT, it was really a niche vehicle.

Not enough mainstream buyers like you are willing to put up with the negatives (inefficient room, rough ride, lower MPG, poor bad weather traction w/o awd, etc.)
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That's why, in my opinion a "shorty" Express would not be a feasible solution.
A better solution would have been to offer the Astro features on the Uplander,
specifically the rear Dutch door design, a split, folding 2nd seat(like the old
Suburbans), instead of folding buckets just to accommodate a second row table!

In the design feature selection on the Uplander, the LS series does not come with a roof rack, but misses some of the other amenities. On an LT Uplander, the roof rack is included in the package with no choice to delete it!
In todays gas crunch situation, a roof rack increases the already poor
air drag of the vehicle, reducing gas mileage by up to 10%!



Unfortunately, it is extremely cost-prohibitive for GM to engineer unique "Astro-like" features into the Uplander....unless those features were engineered into the entire platform in the beginning (shared with the other minivans.) That's why they can't just give you the option of rear dutch doors or a different, split-folding 2nd seat.

Also, in today's more fuel-efficient vehicles, a roof rack doesn't really impact MPG much at all.....certainly not 10%. If you take off the crossbars when not using them, then the actual roof rack rails, running fore-to-aft on each side of the van, won't make a noticeable impact on economy. Edited by tannersoc
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If roof racks don't have a negative effect on vehicle performance, then why didn't they leave it on the high-dollar Tahoe SS? Ask Chevy engineering to publish the drag factors on their vehicles with & without a roof rack. As far as engineering features into the Uplander......... why wasn't that done? Somebody other than the bean-counters knew that the Astro was being replaced. The right hand is supposed to know what the left is doing, in a well-regulated business! It is called....... COMMUNICATION & PLANNING!
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This is straight from the GM media released documents........ "2006 CHEVROLET UPLANDER: SUV STYLE WITH MID-VAN CONVENIENCE Chevrolet Uplander added new dimensions of style and versatility to the mid-van segment with its introduction for 2005. A crossover sport van for those who want it all, the Uplander delivers the bold styling of an SUV, the passenger room and interior versatility of a van, and the smooth ride of a sedan." Re:"....unless those features were engineered into the entire platform in the beginning (shared with the other minivans.) That's why they can't just give you the option of rear dutch doors or a different, split-folding 2nd seat. The press release continues............. "Uplander can seat up to seven, along with offering numerous cargo configurations. The Uplander lineup continues in 2006 with front-wheel drive passenger models available in LS and LT trim, as well as an all-wheel drive passenger van and front-wheel drive commercial-use cargo van. New designations for equipment groups for LS and LT models include 1LS, 1LT, 2LT and 3LT." This is straight from the corporate press release. What other minivan is being offered?????????
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"The Astro sold well out here in California. It was mostly bought by hispanics that loved the cheap price and the large amount of room for their larger families, etc. BUT, it was really a niche vehicle. Not enough mainstream buyers like you are willing to put up with the negatives (inefficient room, rough ride, lower MPG, poor bad weather traction w/o awd, etc.)" It is exactlly this narrow sophomoric view, looking within a very narrow scope that has contributed to the problems GM is in right now! I'm sorry to inform you but, there are 49 other States in this country, who don't dance to the tune of California! Niche vehicle it may be....... but tell that to all the other minivan manufacturers and they will laugh in your face. The truth is GM has chosen to turn it's back on this market a long time ago. That's why the Astro's were never privy to state-of-the-art updates. If they had kept this vehicle up-to-date, it would not take buckets of money to make a competitive model minivan.
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Oh yeah, One last(I hope) comment! The Dutch doors on the Astro were added several years after the vehicle came out! It was not part of the "initial design package" as previously inferred.
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Rutro Rastro!
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hey i thought you guys were talking about a 4.6 litre v6 replacement for the astro a litle while back, what happened? was it the 3.6 were you guys miss informed? oh and i hate the uplander not what gm needs in my opinion, its got enough boring large autos
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[quote name='mute' date='Aug 21 2005, 10:27 PM']
hey i thought you guys were talking about a 4.6 litre v6 replacement for the astro a litle while back, what happened?

was it the 3.6 were you guys miss informed?

oh and i hate the uplander
not what gm needs in my opinion,
its got enough boring large autos"

You got the last part right, mute.

As of the 2006 GM press release, the Uplander will come standard with a 3500 3.5L
V-6, rated at 201hp and 216lbs-ft of torque.

Sometime later in the year(but they don't say when) an optional engine will be offered. It is the 3900 3.9L V-6 with variable valve timing. They must be confused about their own ratings because in the beginning of the release it says this engine will produce 240hp and 240lbs-ft of torque.
But later down in the text it says that this new engine will produce 235hp and 239
lbs-ft of torque.
I guess if you read further, it might get weker, .... I don't know!
This appears to be some variation of the new family of Corporate-developed V-6's.
To my knowledge, the 4.6 is the Cadillac engine and not allowed in a lowly
Chevy product!
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If roof racks don't have a negative effect on vehicle performance, then why didn't they leave it on the high-dollar Tahoe SS?

Ask Chevy engineering to publish the drag factors on their vehicles with & without a roof rack.

As far as engineering features into the Uplander......... why wasn't that done? Somebody other than the bean-counters knew that the Astro was being replaced.
The right hand is supposed to know what the left is doing, in a well-regulated business! It is called....... COMMUNICATION & PLANNING!

[post="1671"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Why no roof rack on SS..? Looks maybe...?

Also....I'm glad you are such an Astro fan.....BUT, compared to the rest of the minivan segment, they sold peanuts. GM isn't going to spend the money to engineer dutch doors on the Uplander (and sister vans) because the SEGMENT hasn't dictated that is a priority feature. People would rather have lift up hatches....look at sales numbers and see what people are buying.
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"The Astro sold well out here in California. It was mostly bought by hispanics that loved the cheap price and the large amount of room for their larger families, etc. BUT, it was really a niche vehicle.

Not enough mainstream buyers like you are willing to put up with the negatives (inefficient room, rough ride, lower MPG, poor bad weather traction w/o awd, etc.)"

It is exactlly this narrow sophomoric view, looking within a very narrow scope that has contributed to the problems GM is in right now!

I'm sorry to inform you but, there are 49 other States in this country, who don't dance to the tune of California!
Niche vehicle it may be....... but tell that to all the other minivan
manufacturers and they will laugh in your face.
The truth is GM has chosen to turn it's back on this market a long time ago.
That's why the Astro's were never privy to state-of-the-art updates. If they had kept this vehicle up-to-date, it would not take buckets of money to make a competitive model minivan.

[post="1676"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


(formerly "tannersoc")

Listen, CHILL about the California comment......you don't wanna get me started about how CA is HUGELY relevent to the U.S. auto market....or get me started about the 34 MILLION people that live here....or get me started about how L.A. is the single largest automotive market in the country...

I LIVE in California.....so that's the viewpoint I can bring to the posts....I can't speak for Florida, or Ohio, or New York as I don't live there....

As far as having a narrow and sophmoric view....you have no earthly idea what kind of experience I have in the automotive market so let's just get that clear right now.

I wasn't saying the Astro was bad, but there is no sense in GM designing a minivan to fit that segment when that is clearly where the segment is NOT going. Just simply let the sales numbers speak for themselves. Minivan buyers are speaking with their wallets and they have NOT been buying minivans like the Astro......they are buying FWD-based minivans built off of car platforms with lift up rear hatches. That's why the new GM minivans have the features they have...and why they don't have dutch doors, or RWD, etc. Edited by The O.C.
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My first exposure to a one-piece rear hatch was on a Dodge Ramcharger. And in the winter, you had to open the hatch & then duck your head sideways to keep from getting hit as the struts sagged from the cold! I preferred rear doors, like a full-size van. My wife likes the Dutch door arrangement for the security it provides from things getting out, or falling out, while allowing access to the cargo area. I haven't met anyone with another van that has a one-piece hatch that wouldn't prefer some other opening arrangement! Let's face it! The Dutch door design is probably the most expensive to manufacture, with 6 hinges and the multiple alignment problems in assembly. Hatches only require 2 hinges & 2 gas struts-- a lot cheaper!
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My first exposure to a one-piece rear hatch was on a Dodge Ramcharger.
And in the winter, you had to open the hatch & then duck your head
sideways to keep from getting hit as the struts sagged from the cold!

I preferred rear doors, like a full-size van. My wife likes the Dutch door
arrangement for the security it provides from things getting out, or falling out, while allowing access to the cargo area.

I haven't met anyone with another van that has a one-piece hatch that
wouldn't prefer some other opening arrangement!
Let's face it! The Dutch door design is probably the most expensive to manufacture, with 6 hinges and the multiple alignment problems in assembly. Hatches only require 2 hinges & 2 gas struts-- a lot cheaper!

[post="2003"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



I don't disagree with you at all....! The dutch doors ARE handy. It's just that I see why GM doesn't engineer them for the new minivans.....

But then again, maybe if they did, they'd have one thing to point to about their minivans that stand out versus the competition.....

Figure that....GM leading instead of following....! :o
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[quote name='The O.C.' date='Aug 22 2005, 12:30 PM']

"GM isn't going to spend the money to engineer dutch doors on the Uplander (and sister vans) because the SEGMENT hasn't dictated that is a priority feature. People would rather have lift up hatches....look at sales numbers and see what people are buying."

First, WHAT sister vans? The Venture, the only other GM minivan has also been discontinued!

I haven't met anyone with a one-piece lift-up hatch that wouldn't prefer some other
opening arrangement! They have admired our Dutch doors!
My first exposure to a one-piece lift-up hatch was on a Dodge Ramcharger. The standard operating procedure in the winter was, open the hatch, then duck your head sideways as you approched the opening, cause the gas struts would sink in the cold, and you would "skonk" your head. Tall guys do that regularly on the current offerings, and if you make the struts stronger, short girls can't reach the hatch to close it, or don't have the strength to do it, in that position. That's why
Dodge added the power to the hatch!

The lack of a street side door, and no folding seats is what has driven people away from the Astro as a passenger vehicle. That plus the electronic gadgets
for the kids--- which have never been offered in an Astro, are the real
sales killers.

There are many factors as to why the Astro sales dropped -- lack of attention
to the market state-of-the-art, and a refusal to respond to it are the real killers!
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Just read your comments O.C. I was too busy writing nasty responses to stop and read. Sorry! Yes it is regretable that GM has chosen to drop its' role as inovator, and instead become a "me-too" player. Their history is just the reverse----- with many memories of their leading innovations, like the Corvair! Damn Ralph Nader, who never bothered to learn to drive! The Astro is unique in the minivan market and offers many features that say a choice not an echo! If you play the "me-too" game you can never beat the Japs or now the Koreans & the Chinese, since they do not have to play by our manufacturing rules. Innovation and intellectual originality are the keys to making American products first --- again! But, in any high stakes games, they also entail risks! But the risks need to be taken based on intelligent decisions. Example: The Envoy XUV A greta idea, with the return of the door-gate on the rear opening. Shades of full-size station wagons of the 70's! But the execution came off horrible. The tailgate, as a door would only swing open 70 degrees, blocking any straight-in loading of large or heavy objects in that configuration. WHY? Because to change the hinge design, to something like the Express van doors that can swing open 180 degrees would have changed the rear quarter sheet-metal appearance! So for appearances sake, a very useful feature was compromised! That is not good decision making!
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