The Strange Case of the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox’s Wandering Trim

By all accounts, the upgraded and downsized 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a competitive vehicle in a red-hot segment, priced and optioned to help boost its parent company’s fortunes in a time of falling auto sales.

Too bad they don’t build it anymore.

While editing TTAC writer Chris Tonn’s review of a mid-level 2018 Equinox last week, something jumped out from the page. “A close look reveals an inconsistency in the chrome trim surrounding the windows,” Tonn wrote, describing his futile attempts to push the rear door beltline trim back into position.

This jogged my memory. Back in the spring, a 2017 Buick LaCrosse tester displayed the exact same problem, leaving me wondering if it was a fluke issue or indicative of a wider-ranging problem. The suspicion only grew after I dropped the LaCrosse off at a participating dealership. There, I noticed the rear passenger door of a brand new, zero-mile Cadillac CT6 exhibiting worse trim lift than the Buick. (See photo after the break.)

Naturally, I sent the TTAC crew to their local General Motors lot in search of full-size sedans, but the effort went nowhere. Low-volume models, few sitting on lots, and those that were showed no discernable trim lift. Well, with the Equinox, it’s not a needle-in-a-haystack scenario — it’s everywhere.

Tonn’s observation festered in my head for a few days. On a whim — and being single, bored, and curious — I spend part of my Sunday afternoon prowling GM lots in record heat, sweating so much that my wallet’s water-repelling abilities soon became a concern. This wasn’t a fruitless search, however.

Two of the three lots weren’t exactly overflowing with vehicles, but a handful of Equinoxes remained. Base models with black rubber beltline moldings seemed fine, but higher-trim models, even the top-flight Premier, did not. Roughly three-quarters of the chromed Equinoxes, to varying degrees, showed some trim lift. Always on the rear door, and always lifting towards the front.

These are new vehicles, not tired rides awaiting their final owners on a dusty BHPH lot. Never mind initial quality and long-term durability, all of which might prove perfectly satisfactory on the new Equinox — first impressions are everything. For a model that tops out above $40k, no one wants a visible imperfection from day one. Not only is it a red flag to wary dealer (and brand) visitors, it’s a nagging concern for new car owners. The lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you’ve made a big mistake kind.

It’s also the kind of thing that, if combined with other minor gripes, could lead an owner — or reviewer — to wonder exactly what GM’s game is. (Check out former managing editor Mark Stevenson’s scathing takedown of the second-generation Chevrolet Cruze for a perfect example of this.)

Curiosity now satisfied, I fired off an email to General Motors. Has the company noticed this? What’s causing it?

TTAC’s resident parts encyclopedia, Bozi Tatarevic, speculated that improper tempering could be the culprit. As it appears to be a snap-in molding, insufficient anchoring could be another factor. Who knows. Whatever the cause, the Equinox seems the largest recipient of GM’s wandering trim, though the LaCrosse and CT6 examples show it isn’t the lone victim.

“It looks like we have just recently seen some of the lifting you describe due to high heat that wasn’t seen in original testing,” replied Tara Stewart Kuhnen, GM’s media officer in charge of Chevrolet crossovers. “We will absolutely help remedy this issue if it’s found on a new Equinox.”

It wasn’t seen in testing? That’s certainly odd. Yes, it was hot in the Northeast this past week, but GM sends all of its new vehicles to its Yuma, Arizona test facility for hot-weather testing long before a model ever sees a dealer lot. Ontario doesn’t hold a Roman candle to Arizona for heat. Nor does Chris Tonn’s home state of Ohio.

While GM wouldn’t speculate as to the cause of the issue, Kuhnen reiterated her original statement in reply to TTAC’s follow-up query. “To my understanding, this issue was not seen in any initial heat testing.”

As for owners concerned about this imperfection, Kuhnen said GM “will fix any misplaced trim as a part of normal warranty.” One wonders whether the replacement trim has a greater ability to stay in place than its factory-fresh predecessor.

[Images: © Steph Willems and Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]


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