GM to rebadge Nissan's small commercial vans for Chevy

NASHVILLE -- General Motors has turned to Nissan Motor Co. to put Chevrolet dealers into the small cargo van market.

June 28, 2013| By Lindsay Chappell and Mike Colias

Nissan NV200

GM, in a statement today, said it will rebadge Nissan's new four-cylinder NV200 commercial van as the 2015 Chevrolet City Express in the fall of 2014.

The Nissan NV200, built in Cuernavaca, Mexico, went on sale at Nissan dealerships only last month.

Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of GM's fleet and commercial sales, said the van will arrive in showrooms in the fall of 2014 and be sold across Chevrolet's dealership network.

The compact van segment is slowly attracting automaker interest. Until now, Ford Motor Co. has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the category with its Ford Transit Connect van. The smaller vehicles are being pitched as small-engine, fuel-efficient alternatives to the aging, full-sized commercial vans, a segment where the Detroit 3 have held sway for decades.

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Nissan is aiming at the commercial vehicle market with its new NV200

San Diego, California - The market for cargo vans has been rather bland in recent years. Aside from the Ford Transit Connect which was released in Canada in 2009, no other vehicle has been added to a segment dominated by American manufacturers. That being said, Japanese automaker Nissan has never been afraid to take on the Americans in their own backyard - we saw with the Nissan Titan - and are doing it again in 2013 with the all-new Nissan NV200.

June 20th 2013| By Charles Jolicoeur

Nissan NV200

This small commercial van is aimed directly at small and medium-sized businesses and seeks to fulfull their transport and delivery needs. According to Tim Franklin, senior manager of product planning at Nissan, the NV200 is designed as an office on wheels.

Business owners are ultimately looking for the same characteristics in their vehicles that consumers want to find in their car. Commercial vehicles must be affordable with a low cost of ownership, in addition to offering a vast and functional cargo space. With a starting price of 21 998 $ before taxes and preparation, and powered by a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine linked to Nissan's Xtronic CVT delivering 131 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque, the Nissan NV200 offers affordability at the dealership and at the gas station.

What you notice first when driving the Nissan NV200 on the roads of California is the liveliness of its engine and acceleration. Obviously, the road test was conducted with and empty cargo compartment, which will undoubtedly enhance performance. The NV200’s offers 3474 liters of cargo volume with a maximum payload of 679 kg. The cargo space has been designed to be as practical as possible with a low loading floor and minimal wheelhouse intrusion. This has the effect of creating an almost completely flat floor and allows all kinds of items to fit inside the NV200.

I'm not an expert in commercial vehicles. That being said, I found the Nissan NV200 behaved very well on the road. Although the rear compartment was empty, I did not feel it had an impact on driving behavior. In curves, the roll was almost non-existent while handling, while certainly not sporty, behaved more like a car than a delivery truck. I also appreciated how the NV200's compact footprint allowed it to zip in and out of traffic with ease. Its relatively short turning radius also facilitates parking maneuvers. However, the central display found at the top of the NV200's center console could be bigger because when the rear view camera is activated, it is difficult to make every object behind the vehicle.

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2014 Ram Promaster reporting for duty

June 12th 2013| By Jeffrey N. Ross

The Ram Promaster

We already knew Chrysler would be getting its own version of the Fiat Ducato for use as the 2014 Ram Promaster, but it was just a question of when and what changes would be made. Well now we know. Though far from conventional-looking, the new Promaster should give Chrysler a fullsize van that is more competitive than the old Ram Van and more affordable than the Mercedes-based Dodge Sprinter.

Chrysler says it made numerous changes to transform the Ducato into the US-friendly Promaster, and the biggest changes were made to the powertrains. Standard equipment on the Promaster 1500 is the widespread 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 rated at 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque paired, which, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, offers a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 11,500 pounds. Other models will get the 3.0-liter diesel inline four-cylinder producing 174 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, giving this version a GCWR of 12,500 pounds, and this engine is mated to a six-speed automated manual transmission.

Not your typical recipe for commercial vehicles, the Promaster will have a unibody construction with a front-wheel-drive layout, but it will deliver 13 different configurations, including two roof heights, three wheelbases and four body lengths, and the choices of cargo, chassis cab and cutaway body styles. There was no mention of a passenger version of the Promaster, but we could see that coming down the road.

Some of the more unique features that the Promaster will offer include the option of dual sliding side doors, an upfitter wiring junction and the choice of three different floor coverings for cargo models (painted metal, rubber or even wood). Other features that stand out include four-wheel disc brakes with two-piston Brembo calipers at each wheel and front seat options that include swivel and suspension front bucket seats or a two-person passenger bench seat.

The Promaster surely isn't the prettiest van on the market, but in a segment that demands function over form, Ram's new van definitely delivers in this regard. Each of the three available openings into the cargo area are all wide enough to allow a forklift to load and unload pallets easily. The hinged rear doors open up 260 degrees and there are 17 tie down rings built into the floor of the cargo area. In total, the Promaster has a cargo volume of up to 530 cubic feet, which is only outdone by the tallest and longest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter model (at 547 cubic feet). One thing that will be interesting to see is how easy the engine will be to access since there is no "dog house" inside, and the jutting lower grille and short, stubby hood make it look like this van will have a challenging engine bay.

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2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

High-tech safety gear, a new four-cylinder diesel, and a fresh snout.

May 22, 2013 | By:ALEXANDER STOKLOSA

The Ram Promaster

Everyone's favorite full-size European commercial van is getting updated for 2014 with tweaked styling, more safety tech, and a new base engine and transmission. We are, of course, talking about the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Overseas, the Sprinter is a big deal, but here in the U.S. it's still a relative niche player, but likely not for long. That's because Ford is replacing the long-serving E-series van with the Transit and Ram is introducing the Fiat-derived ProMaster-both rigs closely mirror the Sprinter's tall and narrow European look. The infusion of direct competitors should help bring the Sprinter to the forefront of commercial buyers' minds.

Hello, Citan Sr.

The Sprinter's most visible change is its front-end styling, which adopts Mercedes' smaller, Renault-based, Euro-only Citan van's flashier look. The grille is more upright than before, and gets Benz's latest take on its signature three-slat design. A new pair of headlights flanks the grille, and features the same eyebrow-like (LED!) turn indicators that have proliferated throughout the Mercedes lineup. A fresh hood accommodates the new fascia and headlights, and it sits higher than before. Inside, there are new seat covers and upholstery, the steering wheel is thicker, and higher-spec models even get chrome air vent surrounds.

While European Sprinters offer a range of diesel and gasoline engines, here in the U.S. we'll continue to get a diesel 3.0-liter V-6 plus a new 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel. The diesel four takes over base-engine duties, and makes 161 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque-figures that trail the now-optional diesel V-6's by 27 horsepower and 60 lb-ft of twist. To help the smaller engine make the most of its power, Benz is pairing it with the European model's seven-speed automatic transmission; the V-6 continues to make do with a five-speed slushbox. Mercedes-Benz claims that by lowering the Sprinter's suspension, it has improved fuel economy by reducing drag and made loading cargo easier by lowering the lift-in height.

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2014 Ford Transit Revealed in Europe

Ford finally unveils the full-size Transit that's coming here.

May 15, 2013 | By:ALEXANDER STOKLOSA

The Ram Promaster

Before we introduce Ford's latest Transit full-size commercial van, allow us to take a moment of silence for the, er, who are we kidding-only a select few will mourn the loss of the ancient E-series van that this new global hauler will replace next year. That's right, at long last Ford finally has unveiled the E-series's successor, the 2014 Transit, which will be sold in basically the same form across several global markets.

Ford already pulled the cover off of two members of its next-generation van family earlier this year-the Tourneo Custom (Tourneo is Ford-speak for passenger versions of its cargo vans) and the Transit Custom-and sure enough, the full-size Transit borrows many of its styling cues from those two smaller vans. As spy photos of Transit mules previewed, the production model gets a similar face to the pair of Customs, although it gets a large single trapezoidal grille instead of those vans' dual grilles. Out back, the Transit wears tall taillights that extend about midway up the rear end; the Customs' taillights are mounted higher up, but follow a similar theme.

Looks aside, it's worth pointing out that the full-size Transit shares little to nothing underneath with the Tourneo and Transit Custom. It also is in no way related to the smaller Transit Connect, which also was redesigned for next year. The Transit may not look a whole lot like the Transit Connect or share much mechanically with the Custom twins, but it will look the same here as it does overseas.

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Debut of The New Dodge Van the Ram ProMaster signals sea change in U.S. RV market

May 9, 2013 | By:Julian Gothard

The Ram Promaster

The launch of Chrysler's new 2014 Ram ProMaster van -- on the Fiat Ducato platform -- at the Chicago Auto Show today signaled a sea change in the RV chassis market in North America. Going forward, North America's Class B (and compact Class C) motorhome market is likely to be dominated by three European designed platforms; the Fiat Ducato, the Ford Transit Van and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Not forgetting other overseas players like the Nissan NV.

Based on the front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato, the 2014 Ram ProMaster -- the company's first truck collaboration with Fiat Professional -- will be offered with either the 3.0-liter I-4 174-horsepower EcoDiesel (that generates peak torque of 295 lb.-ft. at just 1,400 rpm) or the 280-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (with peak torque of 260 lb.-ft.). The engines are paired, respectively, with an electronically controlled six-speed automated manual and a six-speed automatic transmission.

The ProMaster will be available in two roof heights (90 or 101 inches), three wheelbases (118, 136 and 150-inch), and four body lengths, including both a chassis cab and cutaway from the factory. The platform's unibody frame architecture makes it significantly lighter than the competition with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) for the 3.6-liter V-6 of 11,500 pounds and 12,500 pounds for the 3.0-liter I-4 EcoDiesel.

Some standard features that RV conversion companies and their customers will find handy are the electronic stability control (ESC) system, the trailer/tow program -- which comes standard with 62TE and the M40 automated manual -- the ParkView backup camera and the five-inch touch screen global positioning satellite (GPS) navigation system.

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Transit Courier completes Ford's new commercial van line, will we get it?

Posted Apr 13th 2013 11:00AM By Chris Tutor

This week Ford rolled out the 2014 Transit Courier, the fourth addition to its Transit range. Ford says its the first time for the nameplate in the compact van segment.

"Ford has now completely transformed its commercial vehicle line-up, with four all-new, class-leading Transits for European customers," said Barb Samardzich, vice president of product development for Ford Europe. "With the all-new Transit range, we expect sales to grow to 400,000 units per year by 2016, well over 50 percent more than we sell today."

When the Courier goes on sale in the Spring of 2014, it will offer more than 1,400 pounds of payload capacity, multiple mounting points for racks or other framework and a rear cargo area that can carry items 5.3 feet-long. An optional folding passenger seat boosts the cargo length to 8.5 feet.

"With 10 percent more load volume and floor area than its closest competitors, the all-new Transit Courier brings a new level of productivity to the compact van segment," Samardzich said in the press release.

Three engines will be available in the Courier with start-stop optional with all of them. First there is the choice between the two Duratorq TDCi diesel choices: a 1.5-liter, 74-horsepower and a 1.6-liter, 93-horsepower. A step up from that would be the 1.0-liter EcoBoost gasoline engine with 98 horses.

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Ford introduces cargo van version of Ford Transit Custom

Apr 18th 2013 6:59PM By: Zach Bowman

European buyers now know what to expect from the Ford Transit Custom cargo van. The work version of the van bowed at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle Show this week with the new exterior and more refined cabin that first appeared on the Ford Tourneo Custom passenger van.

Buyers outside of North America will be able to choose between a short wheelbase version with a total length of 16.3 feet or a long wheelbase configuration that spans 17.5 feet from stem to stern. Indoors, the van can deliver up to 212 cubic feet of cargo area, or three european pallets stacked three-feet high. In addition, the floor offers enough space between the wheel wells to accommodate a 4x8 sheet of material.

The Transit Custom isn't headed to the North American market, though, which begs the question: Why do we care? Ford is set to replace the aging E-Series with a different Transit van that's specific to our continent, though that vehicle will be based on the global Transit Custom we see here. According to Ford, our van will yield 25-percent better fuel economy than the current E-Series thanks to either the same Ecoboost 3.5-liter V6 currently found in the nose of the F-150 or a diesel powerplant. The North American Transit is also supposed to weigh in 300 pounds less than its predecessor.

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