General Motors Lags Behind In Large Van Segment12
As General Motors’ competition introduces and invests in new large-van products, mostly for commercial use in the U.S., GM itself has seriously lagged behind. That becomes apparent according to the latest report form WardsAuto.
Once a mainstay for commercial use, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna have been overlooked as the Ford Transit and Ram Promaster begin to scoop up sales in GM’s domestic market. Yes, Chevrolet has begun rebadging the Nissan NV200 as the Chevrolet City Express, but it hardly fits the bill as a large van.
Combined sales of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna have tumbled 36 percent, but reasoning can also be conjured from the fact the Wentzville, MO plant has shifted production heavily for the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. If Colorado and Canyon sales stay as hot as they have been, it may be hard to balance the market’s needs.
General Motors may court Nissan into rebadging its NV Cargo vans, just as it does with the NV200, if GM doesn’t want to invest capital into updating its Express and Savanna vans. Newly-tied partner Isuzu also manufactures the Reach commercial van, should GM decide to strengthen its ties.
But, there’s also a solution sitting inside GM itself: Opel. Opel manufactures highly-competitive large vans, and the Movano and Vivaro would fit the bill quite well in the U.S. if you ask us. It’s a matter of if General Motors sees the cost of importing, or producing them locally, outweighs the profit in the segment.
The Express and Savanna crowd will stick around, but not forever as the vans continue to age as they are.
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GM should invest in updating he Savana/Express duo as soon as is reasonable to make it happen. With the economy on an upward trend commercial vans (vehicles ) will continue to be increasingly in demand.
Rebadging a NV2500 as a Express/Savana would devalue GM’s commercial truck reputation.
If the cost to develop they could co-develop with Isuzu or better yet the ‘Chicken Tax’ is expected to be repealed so they can wait until then to bring over an Opel commercial van like the Vivaro and Movano.
I say keep it in house, the Opel offerings are very capable until GM decides if they gonna redo the Van Twins……But they got to do something fast!!! 😉
‘Fast’ and ‘GM’ don’t really go together.
They were ahead of the curve with trucks to replace the US’s aging truck fleet once the economy improved, but they’re slow on vans and SUVs/CUVs.
Maybe too late for the party.
Do you know these vans ( Opels ) are made in France? Yes, they are Renaults. Renault Trucks division has been part of Volvo Motors since 2001. Volvo Motors, owned by the Chinese – now how does THAT work for you?
As you may know if were born before 1993, Renault stopped selling cars here in the USA due to unpopularity based
on reliability issues and subpar models. You also know Renault can design great race cars. Renault has all kinds of
resources and has had ups and downs. Do Americans really feel it takes a Chinese-Swedish-French venture to build
our commercial trucks to go up against the likes of GM rival Ford and Mercedes?
I sold Volvos in the 1990s. Every time I turned around, people would not let me forget about the V-6 engine Volvo
used in it’s 760 luxury sedans. Volvo, a then-Swedish company proud of it’s safety innovations was faced with a
large gap in it’s model line with nothing to put up against sedans made by BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti.
They made a deal with Renault to place a French V-6 into their 700-series platform. It nearly ruined the company.
Faulty engine design resulted in top-ends clogged with burned sludge. I’d lost count of the former Volvo customers
i’d call who would angrily tell me of their hatred for Volvo based upon a sorry ownership of the 760 sedan.
Why can’t GM finally let go of the Chicken Tax? It’s over, OK? U.S. manufacturers profited for decades over a
boon to them, and a curse on American consumers wanting to buy a quality work van. Frightened by the
number of quality work vans in Europe by Mercedes, Fiat and others – American companies bought some
politicians and were able to add an addendum to a perfectly good bill protecting American chicken farmers
from cheaper foreign imports. The Chicken Tax can also be called, The Crappy Van Tax. Not a tax on crappy
vans, but a penalty for foreign companies to import their vans here, and a free pass for GM, Ford and Dodge
to sell panel versions of their passenger vans as the only wares we Americans could buy to deliver goods
and service our customers. The Dodge, Chevy, GMC and Ford vans, built on full-sized truck chassis could go
on making them money, with no new designs for decades upon decades. This profit machine began to
melt down when Mercedes figured out how to circumnavigate the Chicken Tax when Daimler owned
Chrysler. Sprinter vans could be built in Germany, disassembled into components, then be shipped to the
USA and reassembled in Daimler/White Freightliner facilities and sold as Dodges. This was the first blow to
American legacy car company greed in regards to work vans. Meanwhile, vehicles that had no competitor
like VW compact vans and midsize vans would no longer make it to the USA. No more RVs and gas-stingy
workhorses – nope…We Americans had to buy dinosaur gas-pig vans with designs from the 1970s. Good
for GM, Ford and Chrysler. Great for oil companies. Not-so-good for you and me.
The next chink in the Chicken Tax armor was when Ford saw a market for smaller, local-delivery-type work
vans. In Turkey they were pumping out the popular Transit-Connect vans that could be seen all over Europe.
Minivans had seen their short-lived glory days and lost favor here in N. America. Not so for a large need
for small service vans that didn’t cost companies a huge chunk of their budget for fuel and maintenance.
Ford could get past the Chicken Tax gauntlet by first building a people-mover small van in Turkey, with rows
of seats and windows and ship them here because of a loophole in the tax for small passenger vans. Next –
the Turkish-built van would have it’s windows removed in America, replaced with steel panels. Next, they
remove the seats. Now, these vans had “U.S. manufacturing content” and could be sold as a commercial van.
Pretty lame, huh? As there were no competitors, the small Transit-Connect found a pretty strong niche to
prosper in. Today – there is a new, 2nd generation Transit-Connect, now built in Spain. It is being shipped
here in people-mover garb, and also has it’s seats removed here and can be purchased as a 2nd gen
small commercial van. FCA/Chrysler followed suit and now offers a RAM-Fiat in much the same way. GM,
caught with their commercial van pants down – now slaps a Chevy grille on a Nissan NV-200 and calls it
( City Metro ) macaroni. Pret-ty darn embarrassing, GM…
An even more embarrassing stain for GM is the new Ford Transit. Ford seems to have hired the same
dimwits GM did to invent the Volt-Bolt branding scheme to name the Transit-Connect and Transit. The
Transit has been plying Europe’s roads for generations. A stalwart commercial tool for businesses, the
Transit is a European business owner’s affordable option to the various versions ( VW, etc. ) of the
Mercedes Sprinter. The latest iteration of the Transit is the most Sprinter-like yet. In fact, it’s so good,
Ford couldn’t resist re-tooling a factory in St. Louis and just build the whole van right here on American
soil. Ford just took the Chicken Tax and tore it up. GM hasn’t been so quick to see it has drank from
the nipple of political farce for long enough. GM now is so far behind – their only chance at competing
in the commercial van market is to, like Chrysler – reach out to Europe for a tinny, inferior, funky van
from Renault. Even Hyundai has jumped into the Sprinter sprint. Hyundai will have a brand-new
commercial van on sale within the year. Again – GM drags it’s heels and drudges on contemplating
how it will sell a Renault van here to compete.
The ( Crappy Van ) Chicken Tax GM worked so hard – and paid off politicians to implement has come
back to bite them in the proverbial butt. All those decades since the mid-sixties were days of fat and
honey. Now they sit behind the eight ball and have absolutely no answer to the S. Koreans, Italians,
Germans and even their traditional competitor, Ford – in the commercial service vehicle, RV and
practical people mover segments.
Would you buy a Renault or Nissan van with a Chevy or GMC label slapped on it? Should you?
I would think not.
The 1st Gen Opel-Vauxhall Vivaro / Renault Trafic / Nissan Primastar were all wholly built at GM’s Luton plant in England – the result of a JV between GME and Renault Automobile (not associated with Renault/Volvo Truck)
The 2nd gen Opel-Vauxhall Vivaro is again wholly built at Luton. As regards the 2nd gen Renault Traffic, the floor-pans, chassis sub-assemblies and body-panels are now shipped from Luton to France for Renault / Nissan final assembly.
The 1st and 2nd gen Opel-Vauxhall Movano / Renault Master / Nissan N400 (another JV) were/are built in both France and Spain.
Again, the Opel Combo / Fiat Doblo is a JV tie-up between GME and Fiat. Both Models are built by Fiat in Turkey. The chassis is based on GM’s own Corsa platform. The engines are sourced from GM-Fiat Powertrain Torino. This vehicle (re-engined for the NA market) is now available at a Ram dealer near you! … You certainly slipped-up there GM!
In Europe tie-ups amongst major commercial vehicle manufacturers are absolutely the norm, the present-day exceptions being Ford and Iveco – and even they have previous history together.
Sad but true, in NA the Express/Savana have had their day with sales to date this year totaling 32,821 units. Meanwhile the new Ford Transit has shifted 45,509 units in the same period, along with 23,074 of the run-out stock of Econolines.
Whether you like it or not, Euro-style vans are the way forward and are here to stay.
Further points for clarification re. above.
The gen 2 Vivaro / Trafic are solely powered by the latest GM sourced 1.6 bi-turbo diesel in various states of tune.
The gen 2 Movano / Master use various Renault sourced mills, again all diesel.
I think its fair to say that the Vivaro at least is pretty much GM through and through, albeit with design and engineering shared equally with the French
It would make the most sense to keep it in house(on a global scale) but at least offer American powertrain components like FORD does with their new full size TRANSIT. I don’t dislike the current SAVANA/EXPRESS but the market is sadly moving away from the V8 gasoline powered van as we know it. Correct me if I’m wrong or missed something but was the NISSAN NV1500, 2500, 3500 originally meant for CHRYSLER as a replacement for the old RAM van? That is until FIAT entered the picture?
No! Not another European rebadge! A thousand times NO!
Yes, the Ford Transit sold huge… at first. Now heavy-duty customers like myself have found out it doesn’t have the real-word cargo, towing, or durability that the old E-series had.
We run 9500lb GVW vans and we use every ounce. The only things really wrong with the old E-350 were the awful twin-I-beam front end, and stability in the passenger vans. The only things really wrong with the Express were the door hinges (now mostly fixed) and the mileage.
So if any of the automakers are bothering to listen, we need a traditional full-size van, with traditional dimensions and usable capacities, designed and built for AMERICAN customers. NOT something inadequate hauled in from abroad in the name of being “modern”.
I have read somewhere that FORD will have a heavier version of the TRANSIT by about 2020 to replace the heavy E SERIES chassis cab. The EXPRESS and NISSAN NV are good traditional V8 powered vans as stated and I see them all over. FORD still builds a heavy E SERIES but as a chassis cab only for now.
Some of us understand the importance of American products and the heritage that goes with them. We don’t like disruption or change. But you have to remember that the masses don’t care where the food comes from beyond the grocery store shelf nor the car or light truck beyond the dealership lot. Like it or not, that is what drives the market.
We have all had our favorite vehicles disappear over the years. No matter what they were, you liked them and I liked them but not enough others did so they went away.
I may get blasted but I see the FORD TRANSIT all over the place and frankly, I have read more good than bad reports about them.
Chev Express van is soooo outdated. Looks like a Ford full size van for our family
Well you have to remember that most full size vans are sold for commercial use albeit cargo or passenger.
Most of the operators don’t care when a vehicle was designed just so long as it functions as prescribed.
How does one define outdated? Something could be deemed outdated if it’s only 3 years old. If GM thinks that this design is working for them, then why fool with it? TIme will tell if FORD did the right thing in discontinuing the grand old E SERIES van.
So far, I now see the TRANSIT countless times a day where I would see the E SERIES( and still do) so obviously they have something that customers like and the reviews are favorable. Besides I heard that GM was supposed to redesign the EXPRESS and SAVANA twins at some point. I saw a picture perhaps a doctored photo of one that looks similar to the TRANSIT but GMC/CHEVROLET front end. But it would retain the GM V6 and V8 engines. Can’t find that picture now.
All they have to do is take the advice of the owners of sprinter pro master and the ford incorporate that into a new product Exterior side toolboxes for easy access lower bumper and ramp system also side mount and top mount optional ladder and material racks with a sword of the General Motors interior options bulkheads shelving Etc … don’t forget plenty of power butWhat do I know I’m just a handymanand -voilà you got something that’ll sell my ca incorporate that into a new product and voilà you got something that’ll sell come on General Motors its not rocket science grow a pair