DETROIT -- The current-generation Chevrolet Equinox and sibling GMC Terrain, now entering their sixth year, would normally be prepped for reconstructive surgery by now under a typical product development cycle.
Instead, they're getting a nip and tuck.
General Motors is planning just a cosmetic freshening to the popular crossovers for launch about a year from now, as 2016 models. A full redesign won't come until early 2017, sources say.
An eight-year lag between generations is a long wait in a high-volume, fast-growing segment that is now brimming with fresh sheet metal. But in the case of the Equinox and Terrain -- its top-selling U.S. vehicle line after full-sized pickups -- it turns out that GM can afford to wait.
Combined Equinox and Terrain sales could notch their fifth straight annual increase this year, despite a slew of redesigned rivals, such as the Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. And GM's entries still command top dollar: The Terrain's average transaction price through August was the highest among the top eight compact crossovers by volume, at $30,548, according to Kelley Blue Book. The Equinox was third, behind the Escape, at $27,996.
The refresh for the '16 model year is expected to revise the Equinox's face for a wider, deeper grille to match Chevy's evolving front-end look. AutoPacific Inc. analyst Dave Sullivan believes it will be just enough to sustain its appeal for a few more years.
"It has aged really well," Sullivan says. "I think this short Botox approach makes sense given how well it's held up on fuel economy and styling and interior packaging. I don't fault GM for keeping it around a while longer."
Since its launch in June 2009, the current-generation Equinox has been a rare hit for GM in a high-volume segment ruled by Japanese brands.
Once a laggard
Before that redesign, GM was a laggard in the compact crossover market. In 2008, combined sales of the Equinox and the mechanically equivalent Pontiac Torrent -- the Terrain launched a year later -- were 88,072 units, far behind the Honda CR-V (197,279), Escape (156,544) and RAV4 (137,020). Through the first eight months of this year, the Equinox and Terrain combined for 238,673 units, ahead of the CR-V (217,293) and Escape (208,444).
Chevy marketing director Steve Majoros credits the Equinox's all-around appeal. Fuel economy remains near the top of the segment. The Equinox and Terrain performed best among nine comparable models on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small-overlap front-crash test this spring. J.D. Power in June rated it the top compact crossover for initial quality.
"Customers in this segment expect you to deliver across a number of attributes," Majoros says. "We've been able to add incremental improvements to lead in some areas and stay competitive on all fronts."