Heavy Duty Trucking

OCT 2014

The Fleet Business Authority

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66 HDT • OCTOBER 2014 www.truckinginfo.com tomers are happy with it – how it performs and its low cost of ownership. We're starting to run into some capac- ity constraints [at the plant in Mexico], and starting to look at ways to build some more. We want to make sure we're matching demand with capacity." Sales of Nissan's large body-on-frame NV 1500, 2500 HD and 3500 HD vans are up 21.9% over last year, and go mostly to small business people. They're built in Mis- sissippi and come with gasoline V-6 and V-8 engines. "We're an upstart," O'Conner says. "Our competitors have been in this for decades. We're now the only manu- facturer building a full-size vehicle on a separate frame with a high roof. We know we have to prove ourselves and that's why the warranty" – recently launched 100,000- mile, bumper-to-bumper coverage for all commercial vans, small and big. Body-on-frame Despite the popularity of the new unibody cargo vans, General Motors says it's see- ing continued success with its traditional body-on-frame G-series vans, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana. "We literally are selling every one we can build," says Joe Langhauser, product manager. "People we have never seen before are showing up on our doorstep because they appreciate the body-on-frame design. They're less concerned about the outside sheet metal, but they are very much concerned about the underlying frame structure" that, if intact, allows a G-van to continue working even after panels are damaged. That might be a problem with the new unibody vans, he thinks. Most Chevy and GMC vans are ordered by fleets, he says. Gone is the light-duty 1500 series and its 4.3-liter V-6, leaving only 2500- and 3500-series vans and a 4500 cutaway. These come with the 4.8- and 6-liter gasoline V-8s, and the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V-8. Among 2015 refinements for G-vans are less costly digital-only radios and LED lighting in cargo areas, replacing fluorescents. The new compact Chevrolet City Express, a rebadged Nissan NV200, will be on sales lots in November. "From what we hear from dealers, they can't wait to get their hands on them. We expect to take our fair share of the market," Langhauser says. "Nissan had a year jump start and it's per- formed close to where we expected. We expect to leverage our dealership network, which is significantly better (there are about 3,000 Chevy dealers), and we have over 500 Busi- ness Elite dealers" that focus on commercial accounts. Mid-sizing a Mercedes-Benz van Following on the success of the Sprinter van in the U.S. market, Daimler plans to introduce a mid-size van sometime next year. The Vito made its debut in Berlin, Germany in late July, but Daimler execs were coy on an actual release date for the American version of the van, saying only that it would be introduced in the fall 2015 in a MY 2016 designation as possibly the VS20. It will be a rear-wheel drive with a 3.5-liter gasoline engine and come in cargo and passenger versions, with simple configurations and a long wheelbase. It will be sold only through Mercedes-Benz dealers in the U.S. "The VS20 will fit into a home garage," says Bernhard Glaser, vice president and managing director for Vans at Mercedes-Benz, USA. "It's the kind of van a customer will be able to park at home, even on residential streets that prohibit the parking of commercial vehicles." n Vans aplenty In 2015, the light-duty 1500 series is no longer available, leaving only 2500- and 3500-series vans and a 4500 cutaway, which come with the 4.8- and 6-liter gasoline V-8s, and the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V-8. All Ford Transit models are made with high-strength steel to enable them to carry 600 pounds more in pay- load and offer a 46% improvement in fuel economy over the Econoline.

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