By on June 16, 2014

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GM is killing off their 1500-series Savanna and Express vans, due to slow sales and regulatory concerns.

Pickuptrucks.com is reporting the move comes at a time when the 1500 GM vans were the last full-size vans to sneak in under the 8,500 lb gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR), a key cutoff point for regulatory matters, specifically CAFE. Anything above that threshold is not counted, and the elimination of the 1500 vans will almost certainly help GM improve its CAFE rating.

With just 23 percent of Express buyers and 7 percent of Savanna buyers opting for the 1500, GM apparently expects the 2500 vans and the new City Express to pick up the slack.

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79 Comments on “CAFE Strikes Again As GM Kills Off 1500 Series Vans...”


  • avatar
    rpol35

    “With just 23 percent of Express buyers and 7 percent of Savanna buyers opting for the 1500, GM apparently expects the 2500 vans and the new City Express to pick up the slack.”

    I guess the flip side to that thought is if so few people are opting for these vans will their disappearance really have a meaningful impact on CAFE?

    • 0 avatar
      love2drive

      My understanding on CAFE is that they don’t have to sell even a single car – all that is counted is the number of models that meet a certain guideline. It’s why the makers have slow to no selling compacts at times, just to have the model in their lineup to meet the regulations.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Incorrect — it’s based on actual total production. (Production, not sales — so it may be in a manufacturer’s interest to produce a bunch of fuel-economy specials that the dealers then have trouble selling.)

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @dal20402, right which is why it was easy during certain years to get screaming deals on compacts right before CAFE was totaled and added up. The manufacturers had an incentive to sell Escorts to make up for Town Cars and Explorers.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Alternative headline: “GM surrenders yet another market to superior competition.”

    We should recognize that while GM refused to invest in the market, relying on what is essentially a 50 year old design, Ford, Daimler, Nissan and FCA brought modern, superior vans to market.

    Blaming the government for your failures doesn’t make them go away.

    • 0 avatar

      That would be true if they were dropping all their full-size vans. But they are still making the 2500, which is essentially the same vehicle, so it’s pretty obvious that they did this just because of regulation.

      The thing about vans is most people who buy them are fleet buyers who don’t really care much about things like handling and driving experience, because they aren’t driving them, their employees are. So they want the cheapest, most durable option, and say what you will about these vans, they are tough, proven, and parts are plentiful.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Fleet buyers do very much care about fuel cost. They aren’t going to buy a big V8 unless their application actually warrants it. And if it does, they need a 2500 or 3500, not a 1500.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      From what I hear from local homeschoolers, the 1500 is quite popular in the GMC configuration, since it checks enough boxes to be comfortable (E.g., rear A/C), it’s dead reliable, and it also has a low center of gravity compared to the competition, which also makes it lower to insure by enough to make insurance cost a significant difference in TCO. So, it’s very much a niche vehicle, but some people love them.

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        My dad had a brand new 2008 model. It was a total piece of junk that fell apart very quickly. He had a 2001 before that which was decent but the newer car just had all sorts of issues. He finally went out and bought a Nissan van instead.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to say that I see a ton – well, many tons, really :) – of Sprinter vans on the road here in South Florida, so they appear to be crushing the competition. South Florida is a really image conscious market so I think the Mercedes logo really helps a lot.

      Come to think of it, though, absolutely none of them are 1500s. Regarding the failure of this particular model, I’m not sure if we’re talking regulation here, or simply that not enough people want 1500 vans to continue production.

      David

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yep, this. Getting 12 mpg out of your Stone Age V8-powered van isn’t too appealing when the competition is offering 25 mpg light diesels.

      The only people who will care are personal users who don’t drive the van all day and so don’t care as much about fuel cost. All* of them live in Utah.

      *essentially all

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The V6/2WD version of The GM vans are rated at 14/19, with the V8 being 1 mpg less.

        • 0 avatar
          tuffjuff

          @danio

          So you mean to say that it’s just a small notch above abysmal?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I mean to say that that’s the rated mileage instead of the stated 12.

            It would probably be best to compare apples to apples. If the new diesel full size vans manage 25mpg, it will be on the highway. So the comparison would be 25mpg for those versus 19 in the “stone age” van.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Having driven plenty of full-size vans in various jobs I feel confident saying that the only way an Express with any engine will get 19 mpg is if you push it off a cliff. Even then I think 15 is more likely.

            On the highway with a full load of passengers our E-350s with similar engine technology were getting 9 to 11 mpg.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “Having driven plenty of full-size vans in various jobs I feel confident saying that the only way an Express with any engine will get 19 mpg is if you push it off a cliff. Even then I think 15 is more likely.”

            I had an Express 3500 LWB with the 5.7L Vortec, and consistently averaged 18+ mpg hwy with a 2500# payload – and that was with >200K miles on the motor.
            Another case of YMMV.

      • 0 avatar
        beefmalone

        It’s way more appealing once the warranty runs out on both of them and the Sprinter van has to go to a Merc dealer @ $105/hour while the Savana van can go to any mom/pop mechanic.

        • 0 avatar
          Giltibo

          Many Chrysler dealers service them, as well as all Freightliner ones (The sprinter was also sold as Freightliner). Sprinters have a good reputation: Expensive, but reliable, with good fuel economy.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            In my part of the world, the Sprinters have a reputation for good fuel economy, average (at best) reliability, body rust and expensive parts and maintenance.

            While it was good for our small (printing) company to get away from the 2500 series vans, the money we thought we’d save on fuel got eaten up by expensive parts and unexpected repairs. It turned out to be a slight advantage going with the diesel Sprinter.

          • 0 avatar
            mikeg216

            where do you live? the transmissions are 12k and the steel in 1970′s quality at best…5 years and theyre junk

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          In Maine I see a lot of really rusty Sprinters. Someone commented on TTAC at one point about how Sprinters are made of compressed rust, which I laugh about every time I see one because there’s usually heavy rust on the side or the back doors. I’m also seeing more recent Dodge Ram trucks with rust-through at the rear wheel wells. Makes me wonder how cheaply those things are built.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I wonder if GM knows who its customers are with these. They might assume they are folks who really don’t need a van of this size and could be served by the Nissan/Chevrolet FWD van. But I’d be willing to wager those 23% are customers who do need a full size van but either do no need the additional frills of the 2500 or are trying to save a buck.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m speaking only from the pre-owned perspective, but I also don’t see 1500s in big demand from anyone. 2500/3500s? Absolutely. A Chevy dealer whom I trade cars with often has a sizable truck center and he told me, “Call me on the 3/4 tons. On the odd occasion someone walks in and wants a, 1500 I call Enterprise and buy one directly from them.”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      What happens to the conversion van market now? Some people at Global, Choo-Choo, and Gladiator just had heart attacks.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        They use 2500s. Many conversion vans are already 2500s to better handle the weight of the outfitted equipment.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          My grandparents have had two generations of GM conversion vans – Like a 96(GMC) and currently an 02 (Chevy). I could swear both of them were 1500′s. I’ll have to look next time I’m over there.

          Most hateful car I’ve ever had to drive. Loose steering and suspension, and all over the place. Nerve racking to drive in wind.

          • 0 avatar
            tuffjuff

            @Corey

            +1 I would only ever want to drive one of those things on a perfectly flat road, on an eerily still day of weather.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My terrible driving experience was 9/15/08, when there was a huge damaging wind storm across the midwest. I had to drive about 45 minutes on the highway with SEVERE wind gusts, in a van filled with 7 people (including 2 nervous grandparents). I dodged debris blowing across the road, and people panic braking when a Cadillac was blown OFF the road into the grass. Downed power lines and the lot when I got off of 275 at our exit.

  • avatar

    So a regulation designed to save fuel is causing the lighter, and presumably more fuel efficient version, of the van to get dropped, pushing buyers to the heavier and less fuel efficient vehicle instead. Yeah, regulation!

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      You’re forgetting “slow sales.” Chevy just can’t compete in the van market right now. Everybody else has modern designs that offer higher payload and better mileage.

      Best to cut their losses. They will be back in it when the new vans are ready.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Best to cut their losses. They will be back in it when the new vans are ready.”

        They aren’t leaving, only the 1500 is being discontiinue. They’re just pushing customers who want a full size van into the 2500, and the light duty customers into the NV based City Express. New designs really aren’t a requirement in the van market, the E-series continues to be the best seller by a wide margin because of cost and serviceability. When the E-van is gone, many cost conscious fleet buyers may turn to the GM vans instead. For that reason, I think GM is wise to soldier them on a while longer.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          I think they would have had to cut their prices to compete with the Promaster, Transit and NV.

          The press release claims that customers will get 2500s but, realistically, most customers will go to the competition for increased cargo capacity, more load height, and better mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          Joebaldheadedgranny

          Well put. With Econoline ending production GM has the traditional cargo market all to itself. For a commercial user experiencing 20K annual miles or less, Express/Savana will yield the lowest fully-burdened cost of ownership, with no shortage of qualified dealers to handle service.

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          the e350-450 one ton extended van will still be made indefinitely. no replacement for those

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      Sort of like the new fuel cans that spill gasoline all over the place.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    VoGo;
    I was thinking along the same lines, but this being a Monday, could not articulate my thoughts properly.
    Thanks!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Realistically, it costs them very little to do this, and may well actually save money. I can’t imagine the marginal cost between a 1500 and a 2500 is anything significant. They will probably do something like a light-duty 2500 that just barely makes the minimum GVWR, and a heavy-duty version with a higher one. Doesn’t Ford do something like that with the F-250?

    Just a side note on the topic of vans, I am starting to see a fair number of the new FCA Fiat-based vans on the road here in Maine. Is that just called the RAM Van still?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      ” I am starting to see a fair number of the new FCA Fiat-based vans on the road here in Maine. Is that just called the RAM Van still?”

      The funny looking full sizer is the Promaster. The Ram Cargo Van is a panel Grand Caravan.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I’m seeing more and more of those too. I think the same kind of people who were buying Dodge/Freightliner branded Sprinter vans a few years ago are buying ProMasters now, and with a ProMaster you don’t have to pay Mercedes service costs.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          The ProMaster does look promising. I wonder how long the “robotized manual” transmissions will last, though.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            The majority of them will be the 62TE six speed auto paired with the pentastar V6. How will those hold up in commercial duty? Wait and see is my answer.

          • 0 avatar
            SC5door

            The M-40 has been used in the Ducato for quite some time, I don’t see it being a concern. At least not like the 62TE. (Even after Chrysler “beefing up” the transaxle.)

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          you can also buy two for the price of one sprinter

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    So that means that by 2016, Nissan will be the only company making the traditional BOF RWD 1500 Van?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    All Class 3 and above vehicles in the US will be required to meet new regulations in a few years.

    I expect even the HD vans will not be around in 2018 as they are now. Something will have to change.

    It even appears the Ford will be making aluminium F-250s and 350s.

    I wonder if GM will import those Reno based Vauxhall Movano’s.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    Ford has a all new series of vans hitting the market. It appears G.M. can’t compete with Ford in the truck segment.

  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    That headline is so off the mark.

    GM has planned to phase out the 1500-series van production in Wentzville for a year and a half. They’re replacing the line with the new Colorado pickup family, which GM hopes to sell in big numbers. They’re still producing the same heavier-duty vans elsewhere, and selling them in better numbers.

    What’s wrong with telling the real story? Sounds like a pretty good one to me …

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      At times like these, I’m reminded of an old joke: Jesus & Martin Luther King were out on a boat in the middle of a lake. Jesus gets out, walks on the water and then invites MLK to do the same.

      When reported by the press the headline reads: MLK can’t even swim…

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    That’s a BS headline. CAFE didn’t cause the lousy sales…

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s right. The tail doesn’t wag the dog. If sales were strong, and therefor very profitable, GM would have more than enough to pay off the inconsequential CAFE fines or buy credits.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      CAFE is a factor contributing to the overall cost of continuing to produce the vehicle. If they’re dragging down the average and costing GM compliance and therefore money, and it’s purpose can be served by other vehicles that either aren’t included in the rating or are significantly closer to the number, then they are best served to drop it.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    As old a design that these vans are, the 1500 version was the “oldest”. It is the only one left with a 4-speed auto and the only one using the old 5.3. If GM had upgraded the drivetrain to, say 2009 standards, it could’ve had a 6-speed auto and cylinder deactivation and probably would be rated at 21-22 mpg.

    As the owner of a 3500 version, I can say that they keep these things simple and pretty durable. They could easily make them a lot nicer, but that would steal Suburban sales.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    GM has just done a terrific disservice to serial killers everywhere.

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    Well, there goes the AWD option…

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    what, the end of the creeper van?

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    There are an extremely limited number of commercial applications for a full size van with the payload capacity of a 1500. The days of these things being purchased (in large numbers anyway) as a poor man’s RV or “party van” are long over. To see a 1500 on the road being used by a business is a rare sight indeed (I don’t recall EVER seeing one).

    All that said, if you need a place to live and can park it down by the river…

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Saw one this morning. Caterer.
      You are correct, it’s a very limited market, and one that can mostly be served by minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        A minivan that GM doesn’t have at that.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          The trend for full-size vans is just an older version of the pickup/SUV story – the type of people who buy them for some reason OTHER than having an actual need for the capabilities of a truck/van are slowly but surely dying out (figuratively AND literally). Vans are just several decades further along in the process.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Hollywood will probably miss these the most.

    Edit: i.e. : SCENE 3:
    Our hero/our hero’s wife/son/daughter/etc. is knocked out/gagged/blindfolded/drugged/etc.
    and thrown into the back of a nondescript white van…

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Nope. They can still use a used van for at least another 20 years.

      Aren’t they still using 1980′s Econolines in the movies? Did I miss the memo to switch to the ones from the 90s?

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “GM is killing off their 1500-series Savanna and Express vans, due to slow sales and regulatory concerns.”

    Regulatory concerns? Did this come from an official GM source, or is this just speculation driven by the famous TTAC anti-Fed-reg bias?
    This is not a rhetorical question, I’m asking seriously here.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Btw, that’s a 3/4 or 1 ton in the picture. 8 lugs.

  • avatar
    newsie23

    I used to own a ’03 AWD Express 1500 Passenger Van – so that I could carry a Snowmobile ‘inside’ and safely, park overnight, in a mega city. Because I don’t really like Trucks, the transmission lines rotted out at 68 km from the lack of use. Of course, I had to have the transmission rebuilt!
    My ideal truck/van/mini-van would have 1 or 2 rows, of removable, bucket seats. If they were left in, I would like to be able to carry plywood/dry wall, etc., – down the center. The rubber/rug, floor mat would be ‘flappable’ – to be used in a trades van or passenger van configuration.

  • avatar
    CamryStang

    Never mind that GM is rolling a new light-duty cargo van which would compete with the 1500 vans for buyers. GM buyers who don’t need the payload of the big vans will buy the new one, and those do will get the heavier duty 2500 and 3500 series.

    Never mind poor sales too.

    Never mind that in truck land, the light-duty versions get replaced first.

    Never mind all that, we’ve got to knee-jerk blame regulation! Cmon guys, you can do better than that.


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