By on July 16, 2014

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GM built their last 1500 series van at the Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant this past week. GM claims that the vans will die to make room for the all new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks at the Wentzville plant, but that’s not the full story.

The real story is a combination of slow sales and an increasingly disadvantageous position in GM’s average fuel economy. The 1500 vans weren’t light enough to sneak under the CAFE cutoff point, but their thirst meant that they were bad for GM’s overall CAFE average.

In its place, we will get the smaller, Nissan-based, unibody City Express.  GM may be cribbing a van from Nissan, but they’re far from alone in killing off their body-on-frame vans. The Ford Econoline also bit the dust earlier this year.

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37 Comments on “GM Builds Their Last 1500 Series Van...”


  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Isn’t the bigger Ford Transit they’ve been showing off an Econoline replacement, albeit unibody?

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Why the additional commentary about CAFE and regulations?

    It seems to me that the market has spoken. The market has moved past wanting light-duty, body-on-frame full-sized vans with awful fuel economy. The market for a fleet vehicles with an enclosed cargo space wants is showing a preference for front drive, low load floor, better fuel economy ‘eurovans.’

    The only thing that has kept the 1500 alive this long is momentum.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      Because CAFE and regulations are relevant to the decision. The manufacturers offered “eurovans” to the market because of the regulations.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Lets see a front drive, low load floor “euro van” has only been on the market for a couple of months and so far I’ve only seen 3 of those hideous things. Yes the Transit Connect has been out for a while but that does not compete directly with a full size 1/2 ton van.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        I have no idea how you can say the Transit Connect doesn’t compete directly with the half tons – pretty much every sale of a Transit Connect was a buyer that would have gone to a light duty half ton in the past. These things are everywhere in DC, NYC, SF, doing things like delivering flowers and being work vans for light duty electricians and technicians.

        Also, you haven’t been paying attention – the two largest conglomeration of light duty cargo vans – UPS and FedEx – have long since moved onto the euro style Dodge Sprinter. When was the last time you saw a UPS or FedEx in an American style cargo van? They are becoming rare sights, indeed.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The Sprinter is not FWD. Haven’t see a UPS branded Sprinter. There are a few remaining FedEx Sprinters but in most cases they are owned by independent contractors. The Jasper rep that used to call on the fleet I used to maintain also called on the local FedEx facility and they scrapped Sprinters if they needed any significant repairs and were not buying anymore. They still have some Chevy vans in service because with their gas engines they have a lower overall cost of operation and greater up time. Their service facility and a number of their different sort and loading facilities are spread around near my office.

          Who I mainly see use the Transit connect are people who used to use a traditional minivan (florists) or a Ranger (exterminators). Can’t say I’ve seen many serious contractors that need to carry a lot of weight like electricians and plumbers in Transit Connects. So there are some that switched from the 1/2 ton van to a TC but I’d say more switched from a mini van or compact pickup with a canopy.

          • 0 avatar
            Signal11

            I understand that the Sprinter is not FWD. I guess in that sense, I am referring more to European style vans in general in a certain sense. In Texas, I see a lot of UPS Sprinters running around, much more so than their old square vans or US style vans.

            Not all electricians and technicians carry a lot of weight in their vans. Elevators, HVAC, network, etc – don’t need all that much GVWR but do need usable, accessible covered volume. I see more of these in the cities than I do in the burbs.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Some YTD deliveries figures:

          Ford E-series: 66,905
          Chevy Express + GMC Savana: 55,783
          Ford Transit Connect: 19,799
          Sprinter: 11,483

          Tradition still rules this segment. But the segment isn’t profitable enough these days to continue with US-specific products, so we’re going to end up with world vans, even if they aren’t particularly popular.

          • 0 avatar
            Signal11

            I wonder what the breakdown is on the E-series and GMC/Chevy twins is for half tons versus heavy duty versions.

            From what we’ve heard from folks involved in sales, it seems that the majority of Ford E-series and Chevy/GMC full sized vans are HD versions while 150/1500s are relatively a small piece of the pie.

            To me, that would mean a lot of light duty van buyers have already moved away from traditional half tons.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            From what I gather, the van segment is similar to the full-size pickup segment, in that the entry-level engines are not popular. (This is contrary to the passenger car market, where the thirstier engines have little demand.)

            In that sense, you may be right; the buyers who really care about fuel economy bailed out for the Euro-style vans. But they are only one minority segment of the market.

            Still, it doesn’t matter. Euro-style is the future, regardless. It no longer makes economic sense to make US-oriented vans; this segment is going global.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “GM may be cribbing a van from Nissan, but they’re far from alone in killing off their body-on-frame vans.”

    Aren’t the 2500, 3500 and cutaways still being made? They haven’t really killed them off, just nixed one trim level.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      Basically you are right, except it’s a bit more than a “trim” level, it’s the carrying capacity – lowest capacity out to be replaced by a “eurovan”(?) which in reality will probably work for this segment need.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Agreed; the 1500-series vans were kind of trapped in a nowhere-land; not heavy enough for professional duty, but overkill for someone who would buy a Caravan CV (or Eurovan).

  • avatar
    sirwired

    If that’s the “last” van in the picture, what are all those vehicles behind it on the line? If they are going to have to keep the line open for other vans on the same platform, how is space going to be freed up for compact pickups?

    Also, the linked article citing CAFE makes no sense… it said that the vans were the last vehicles to “sneak under” the CAFE 8,500lb GWVR limit, beyond which CAFE no longer applies. But wouldn’t you want to be OVER the 8,500? Not “sneak under”?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Part of the reason for the largely commercial sales drop is that we’re still in the Great Recession. Like the Great Depression, there have been ups and downs, but also like the Great Depression, it’ll last about a decade, and we still have a couple years to go.

    Another is that the economies of scale have been lost. RWD, BOF trucks had an analogue with full size cars, but that’s no longer the case. Longitudinal engines, transmissions, and rear axles have become more expensive as costs are spread over fewer vehicles.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    And lo, child abductors and serial killers wept openly.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    At least the Ford Transit is a Ford!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The vans did much less harm to GM’s CAFE profile than the 1/2 ton Silverado/Sierra. Same vehicles as far as CAFE is concerned. So are we about to lose GM 1500 pickups? Not likely.

    The again, the Colorado/Canyon pickups could fill that void better than the Nissan midsize vans can replace GM 1500 vans. And GM’s move to revitalize marginally profitable midsize pickups would start to make sense if their 1/2 ton pickups were to be killed off.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      Those 1/2 ton pickups is where GM (and Ford) prints money. It’s far better to kill the (nearly) fleet-only low-margin vans to gain a bit of CAFE relief than to kill the pickups. It’s also the reason Ford (and maybe GM) is going to aluminum – cash cow is cash.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        GM would capture most ‘lost’ 1/2 ton pickup sales with 3/4 tons (already 50% the fullsize pickup market/profits) and midsizer pickups. It appears GM is banking on the future growth of the midsize pickup market anyway. Probably a bad move, but the only reason midsizers lack tremendous profits is lack of tremendous volume.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          GM and Ford would never in 1,000,000 years do anything to jeopardize their full size trucks. Sure, the sedans have come quite a long way, but kill the full size trucks and SUVs and the companies won’t last very long.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            GM and Ford were very committed to 1/2 ton vans, once upon a time. Ford is no doubt committed to 1/2 ton pickups for the long haul, but GM seems ambivalent. All-new GM trucks hit the market with a dull thud. Nothing concrete about aluminum GM pickups either.

            There’s enough GM midsize SUVs and pickups if GM did kill off all 1/2 ton pickups and SUVs. It just seems like GM is banking on a huge increase in gas prices or Euro style taxation. Do they know something we don’t?

            The Colorado/Canyon and 3/4 ton Silverado/Sierra pickups would pickup most displaced 1/2 ton pickup buyers anyway. Especially fleet/industry.

  • avatar
    Point Given

    Vast majority of sales of cargo vans are 2500 and up, commercial users need the greater payload offered.

    Easy move to make for GM, CAFE relief and doubt that this hurts sales of that ancient lump in the slightest.


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