After abnormally high GM commercial van sales results in the United States a year ago, it wasn’t surprising to see dramatic year-over-year sales declines reported by the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana in July 2013.
800 workers at a Daimler plant that builds Sprinter commercial vehicles downed their tools and walked off the job after wage talks collapsed.
Mazda is not doing too well. Stuck with most of its production in high-yen Japan, woefully underrepresented in emerging markets and without the scale necessary for long term success, Mazda is expected to announce a 100 billion yen ($1.2 billion) loss for the fiscal year that ends this March. Mazda has three options for survival: Pray, bet on Skyactiv, and save wherever you can. In the save wherever you can department, Mazda says sayonara to commercial vehicles. (Read More…)
Chrysler is dropping half a billion dollars into an expansion of one of its North American plants, Automotive News [sub] reports. This is where Chrysler will produce (to what degree remains open) its Fiat Ducato van, which will be sold as a Chrysler Ram Van.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler, told reporters in Detroit that this plant will be “the center for production of light-commercial vehicles in North America for us.” Red-white-and-blue blooded flag-wavers may object to the location of the plant. It is about 180 miles southwest of Laredo, Texas. In Saltillo, Mexico. (Read More…)
Are you familiar with the Fridolin? If so, hit the jump. If not, here’s the brief version of its history. Unhappy with its adorable but inadequate, two-cylinder Goggomobil Transporters, the German Postal Service approached Volkswagen and Westfalia in the early 60s, looking for a new interpretation of what it was looking for, namely “arbeitspsychologisch optimaler Ausstattung zu einem günstigen Anschaffungspreis.” This is a tough phrase to translate, but essentially it means “equipment optimized for the workplace psychology, at an affordable price,” and in 1963 that’s what the VW-Westalia team delivered. A mixture of Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (Bus) and Type 3 (Fastback/Squareback), the Type 147 was first shown to the German Post in 1963, and was quickly nicknamed “Fridolin” (an uncommon German boy’s name) apparently because workers said “it looks like a Fridolin.” Only 6,126 were built between 1964 and 1973, and they continue to enjoy a strong collector’s cachet (primarily as slammed campers, apparently). And now, Volkswagen wants to re-create the classic… for the future.
Take one Ford Fiesta. Add four inches to the length, and pop up the roof for some extra headroom. Add a pair of small sliding rear doors, and you’ve got the forthcoming Fiesta B-Max. With Ford soft-pedaling its C-Max plans for the US market, don’t expect this tiny van to ever come to the US… at least unless gas prices go crazy.
Daimler’s Sprinter Van has been available in the US for ten years now, but thanks to high prices, inconsistent brand strategy (it’s been marketed as a Freightliner, Dodge, and now Mercedes), and some curious marketing choices, it’s never made a huge impact on the market. And with Ram announcing that it will bring Sprinter-sized Ducato vans to the US, it seems like a good time to reflect on the words of Paul Niedermeyer, who wrote back in early 2010
Yes, I can muster some appreciation of Econolines of yore. But the painful reality is that the current E-Series is an ugly, primitive and inefficient pig virtually unchanged since 1974. The fact that the American light truck sector hasn’t had the same revolution that European design influences have had on passenger cars is a mystery. Case in point: Ford’s Transit (not Connect) vans are a (several, actually) giant development leap ahead of the Econoline, offering FWD, RWD and AWD variants in three wheelbase lengths, numerous configurations, and driven by the most advanced diesels that can get well over 20 mpg. The Transit outsells Mercedes Sprinter in Europe. What the hell is Ford waiting for?
According to C&D, Ford was just waiting for the new Escape to go into production in Louisville, in order to free up production of the Transit at Kansas City. Apparently Ford has even filed trademark applications for a number of “T-Series” names, so expect a full line of Transit vans to replace the decrepit Econolines. And with three offerings in the large commercial van segment instead of just one, expect more choices, more competition, more marketing, and a general van renaissance in the US. At a time when minivans have become so unloved they’ve given rise to the now-ubiquitous crossover, it’s nice to see that the van make something of a comeback.
First of all, let’s not fool ourselves: this is quite the hypothetical question. For one thing, Fiat is unlikely to federalize the Doblo cargo van that this “Work Up” is based upon until a subsequent generation comes out. In the meantime, the only Fiat Professional vehicle the US market will be getting anytime soon (thanks to CKD production at Warren Truck, according to Allpar) is the Ducato van, which competes fairly directly with Daimler’s Sprinter. But, hypothetically, could this Doblo “Work Up” find a market in the US? Let’s look at what it offers…
In the past, when a sitting president has hit the campaign trail, they’ve leased their own campaign bus which the Secret Service would then retrofit with all the latest security features. But no longer, as Talking Points Memo reports that the presidential bodyguards are buying their own bespoke campaign bus, reportedly from Hemphill Brothers Coach Company. Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin explains
We’ve never been fully comfortable with the security provided by a bus we lease and then try to retro-fit. This would be just like other vehicles we’re adding to our fleet. We’d use them for the campaign, but they’re not for campaign purposes. They would be part of our fleet — just like our limos, just like our follow-ups, just like our emergency vehicles.
And this isn’t just for President Obama: one of the two new buses will be made available to the Republican candidate as well. And because the buses are government property, they won’t be allowed to have campaign logos and both campaigns will have to reimburse the Secret Service for their use. There’s no word on what retrofits the new buses will receive, but we’d be disappointed to find there’s not at least one minigun turret. Because you can never have enough miniguns on the campaign trail… [Hat Tip: Dan Licht]
We have no wish to dampen enthusiasm for any new development in the light commercial vehicles sector but at this point the prospects for all-electric vans are fraught with difficulties, despite the clear operating advantages of using one for specific kinds of work
The Commercial Vehicle Monitor editor for the British residual value gurus at CAP, Tim Cattlin, tells Honest John that the new electric Azure Transit Connect has a few issues that fleet managers may want to look at before buying Britain’s first electric van. To wit:
The £39,999 van is expected to have a value of £8,000 after three years and 30,000 miles, with CAP explaining that uncertainty over the unproven technology and expensive batteries are the biggest issues.
That’s a 20% residual value after three years of driving 10,000 miles per year. Yikes! (Incidentally, if you drove the Transit for its entire 80 mile range every day for a year, you’d rack up about 30k miles in that year alone). The Azure Transit Connect is reportedly available in the US for $57,400, although Ford doesn’t list a price on its website and production is said to only be about 600-700 units this year. Meanwhile, Ford had better hope that the residual value issues aren’t linked to Azure’s technology (which uses Johnson Controls batteries), because it’s just announced a plug-in hybrid Super Duty Chassis Cab for 2013… with Azure as a partner and fleet businesses in mind. Better take a look at those projected residuals first, guys…
Would you be a little bit surprised if the man behind this tiny, funky little electric van was the man who styled the VW Passat CC and first-generation Mercedes SLK? Well, Murat Günak has been heavily into the electric car game since leaving Volkswagen, having designed one of my favorite EVs, the fresh-and-freaky Mindset. But even though the Mia and the Mindset seem a little more in the same vein, Günak has actually moved well past the Mindset’s super-high-end positioning, as this Mia is set to sell for the lowest price of any EV in the EU, starting at €19,500 ($28k). For comparison, Mitsubishi’s iMiEV (the cheapest EV in the US market) sells for €34,390, or nearly $50k… although its European price is set to drop to closer to €15k when production ramps up.
But the Mia isn’t just (relatively) inexpensive… it’s downright cool. Built by the French firm Heuliez in either 9.4 or 10.5 foot lengths (the latter with 53 cubic feet of cargo space), it comes with a McLaren F1-style central driver’s seat and doors designed to operate in tight urban conditions. With a range of only 60 miles and a top speed of only slightly more than 60 MPH, it’s strictly an urban runabout, but as a small business delivery vehicle it seems to hit a lot of the right buttons… especially the three-hour charging time (an 80-mile-range battery is optional but takes five hours to charge). Production hits 10,000 units next year, when sales to private customers begin. [via Autobild]
In the United States, unlike elsewhere in the world, there aren’t many choices for those who need seating for more than five people but who don’t want to give up the maneuverability of a compact car. Kia gave the segment a go, but withdrew the Rondo from the U.S. market a couple of years ago. Chevrolet has opted to not even test the waters with the Orlando. So Mazda currently has the segment to itself. But the Ford C-Max arrives in less than a year. Does the revised 2012 Mazda5 have what it takes to fend off the challenger?
Ford sold 8,834 Transit Connects in 2009, with sales of the small, Euro-style panel and passenger vans hitting 27,405 units last year. With 9,852 already sold in the first third of 2011, it seems the original German delivery van-slingers in the US market, Mercedes, are taking notice of the segment. The Dodge-branded Sprinter, a larger vehicle, saw peak sales of 21,961 back in 2006 has seen sales fall dramatically in recent years, and in 2010 Mercedes wrestled the vans back to its brand, only to sell a meager 8,599 (a nearly 1,500 unit improvement over Dodge’s last year with the product). In other words, the lesson of recent US-market Euro-style delivery vans seems to be that bigger (i.e. more direct competition with American BOF offerings) is not better.
Nissan’s NV200-based entrant into New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow contest has won the contract (reportedly worth over a billion dollars), reports Reuters, beating out two other finalists, one based on Ford’s Transit Connect, the other from Turkey’s Karsan Otomotiv. The decision may be taking a few New Yorkers by surprise, as Reuters reports that the Turkish entrant’s clear glass ceiling made it a crowd favorite, and that
Karsan also hoped to gain favour with city officials by promising to assemble the cars in Brooklyn, vowing to use union labour. The plant would have marked a return of auto-making to the city for first time in about a century.
Though New Yorkers may have preferred a locally-built model to take over from the 16 vehicles currently serving as NYC Taxis, the NV200 seems like a sweet little van. So congratulations, Nissan… now, are we ready to start talking about a civilian version?