By on November 25, 2015

2016 Chevrolet Express 2500 Cargo Van

General Motors may contract production of its commercial vans to AM General to free space to build its popular Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon midsize trucks, Automotive News reported.

In a note to Wentzville, Missouri workers obtained by Automotive News, production of cutaway versions of the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana, which are used for ambulances and moving trucks, could be moved to Indiana-based AM General. According to the report, about 30,000 cutaway vans will be made this year at GM’s Wentzville facility.

The available capacity will be used to build the Canyon/Colorado, which have outperformed expectations this year and sell like hell.

AM General — of Humvee fame — currently produces the Mercedes-Benz R-class that Daimler sells overseas to free up space for that manufacturer to make gazillions of C-class cars in Alabama.

According to the report, the note said van sales were still good — but not great like its truck sales.

“The truck and van continue strong sales,” the note says. “This potential partnership would free up production capacity and allow the organization to capitalize on our ability to build midsize trucks to further satisfy customer demand.”

According to our own Tim Cain, GM sold nearly 8,000 commercial vans last month. Ford’s Transit sold more than 9,300 in the same time period, which led the segment. The Canyon/Colorado twins accounted for nearly 9,500 sales last month, behind the Toyota Tacoma, which sold more than 15,000.

General Motors last contracted with AM General to build the Hummer H2 until 2009.

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42 Comments on “General Motors Moving Van Production To Make Way For More Pickups...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    For those of us who are ignorant: What does a “cutaway” van refer to? What’s cut?

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      It’s a cab & chassis, basically. They’re used for ambulances, box vans, and (way back when) campers.

      http://www.2040-cars.com/_content/cars/images/37/148437/001.jpg

      http://www.history-of-cars.com/images/chevrolet/chevrolet85g30camper3.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        The Chevys a are still made into some very nice high-end campers:

        http://leisurevans.com/libero/

        http://www.roadtrek.com/models/210-popular/

        The Fords are more mass-market, lower end.
        http://winnebagoind.com/products/class-c/2015/spirit/overview

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Imagine everything aft of the B-pillar gone; it’s just the forward driver box and a frame to which a constructor attaches their purpose-built box.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      I do not know if it is like the European Chassis Cabs, but probably not.
      Nice to know that the Colorado/Canyon would not sell as some ” experts” have predicted and the Midsize segment would die.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      You still see lots of cutaway van based motor-homes and some small buses/airport shuttles, but they all seem to be based on the Ford Econoline platform. Don’t know why GM gets no love.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I owned a 1997 Ford E350 box van for about a year. The reason that Ford does well is price- they owned about 80% of the commercial van market a few years ago (I don’t know what the numbers are today).

        Fleets are hesitant to switch brands. Ford did well, and that momentum helps to propel them.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      As others have mentioned a cutaway has not body past the B-pillar while a cab and chassis has a panel placed there to close off the cab. GM only offers cutaways based on the van while Ford offers both cutaway and cab and chassis on the Transit.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    “Ford’s Transit sold more than 9,300 in the same time period, which led the segment”

    It makes me wonder why anyone with half a brain would choose to buy a GM Commercial Van when the Ford Transit is modern and up-to-date and offers more variety to adapt to a buyer’s need.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Unibody vs BOF I suspect. You can just buy a chassis and cab and mount the ambulance/dump/cargo container later.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        If you’re a fleet manager with GM vans you have one set of parts, one set of procedures, one set of known quirks, one set of instructions for maintenance and care, one set of requirements for drivers, one set of configurations.

        There is a reason why many fleet managers are clinging to their Panther platform vehicles as long as they can, and for longer than they typically would if they could buy new Panthers (to cite as Peoples Exhibit A).

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I guess both you and 28 make sense and that could indeed be the motivation for some buyers sticking with a GM Van.

          But if I were to be in need of a Commercial Van, the Ford Transit, or the Mercedes Sprinter, would be the Van of choice because they are more versatile, modern, can be tailored and configured, and come in a variety of body styles.

          For instance, I saw the sweetest high-roof Ford Transit passenger van with windows all-around, and to me, driving our Sequoia, I felt dwarfed by it.

          The guy driving that Ford Transit was some old codger, and I presume his wife was in the passenger seat, just cruising the country-side, taking it all in. He had Wisconsin plates on it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I love the Transit. I’ve driven a few different examples and I wish I could justify purchasing one. The medium roof diesel Transit I had for a weekend was great. It was very comfortable transporting many things over a great distance.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            I wouldn’t touch the Mercedes Sprinter with a 10 foot pole. I’ve seen pretty new examples with rust streaks on seams and hinges here in the Pacific Northwest, where cars simply don’t rust. I can’t imagine what the tin worm would do in snowbelt areas and the northeast.

            If I wasn’t indebted to an existing fleet, I’d go with Ford or Nissan.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I think the paint on my 3 year old daughter’s nails may be thicker and longer lasting than the paint that Mercedes puts on the Sprinter.

            Around here (MI), Sprinters are going away. They are being replaced by Transits at a rapid rate.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            @bbal
            Id love a Transit diesel chassis cab with a Ute bed (www.utebed.com) on the back. I bet it would get good mileage, drive decent and be easier to get around in tight spaces than a regular cab F-250. I like the chrome grille, but those awful wheel covers that come with the same package would have me choosing a base model (LOVE the painted steelies on the base SRW Transits!), or T-350 model with dual rear wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The hinges thing is normal for doors not opened frequently enough, like rusty brake rotors on cars left sitting for days or weeks.

            I’d stay clear of Mercedes vans because Mercedes.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            The problem with the Transit and ProMaster for some is that it’s too different. I think they’ll catch on, but since GM is still producing what you already have, they’ll have a pretty loyal base.

            Sprinters are known for high maintenance costs. Their main appeal vanished when the Transit appeared.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @jJohn Taurus
            You have described many European “Pickup Trucks” with payloads from
            3,000lb to 10,000lb
            Ute bed Litd was started by an Australian living in the US. Instead of Pickup beds you can change it to a Alloy Ute Bed

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            They are starting to make RV’s out of the Transit.
            http://winnebagoind.com/products/classc/2016/fuse/overview

            The Transit is considered a step below the Mercedes based units but above the Ram/Ducato.

            The Chevy van is probably as reliable as can be. The Ford E350 and 450 often have Ford’s exceptionally thirsty V10.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Thornmark,
            Transit has a lighter GCVWR than the Mercedes units, so it is sort of between a Class B and C

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        You can buy the Transit in Cutaway/Chassis Cab form too. Plus Ford is still selling 4000 E-Series a month as well.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        The Chassis cab Transit does have a frame out back (integrated with the unibody cab), and you can do virtually anything with it that you can with the Clinton-admin-era Express/Savanna.

        If Im not mistaken, Ford still builds strip chassis E-Series to order (no cab, just chassis, drivetrain, wheels/brakes/steering components, and not much else) for motorhome or other similar vehicles. Ive been seeing F-Series-based shuttle busses lately. Chassis cab F-4/550, aftermarket bus body. Probably more comfortable for the driver than the E-Series or Express/Savanna based models.

        Id like to see medium duty F-Series-based school busses again. Ford agreed to abandon the full size school bus market when it entered into its partnership with Navistar. Now that said partnership has gone down in flames, I see no reason why Ford cant ressurect it’s B-Series again to compete in that market. Or, hell, just keep the F-Series moniker. I think the new medium duty F-Series is pretty bad ass lookin, it would make a pretty sweet lookin school bus. I dont know who made it a rule that school busses must be ugly (look at a newer Thomas…uhggg), but its one rule Id love to see broken.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          Thomas is owned by the company that owns Freightliner. IC is owned by International.

          Blue Bird looked into doing Ford-based Type C buses before the Navistar deal. But, now they produce their own chassis for the Vision.

          There is no room for Ford in that market. When Wayne and Carpenter closed, that pretty much closed the door for Ford and GM.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          You can still get a 2016 E-350 SRW, E-350 DRW and E-450 Cutaway. They also have the E350 and E450 Stripped chassis as well as the F59 stripped chassis designed for building step vans and the F53 stripped chassis for building Class A motor homes.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            For those interested, Don Chalmers Ford in Rio Rancho, NM usually keeps a nice selection Commercial-grade Ford utility Vans around, and they have been known to have excellent connections within the nationwide dealer network.

            The other dealer in my area focused on this type of market is Shamaley Ford in El Paso, TX.

            Of course they also sell other Ford vehicles as well.

            I bought my 2006 F150 over the Internet by visiting their sites, and I thought I got a pretty fair deal on an outright sale (no trade) when I finally bit the bullet.

            In my case, one had exactly what I wanted, and the other didn’t. Both were very helpful and the price was right.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            For those interested, Don Chalmers Ford in Rio Rancho, NM usually keeps a nice selection Commercial-grade Ford utility Vans around, and they have been known to have excellent connections within the nationwide dealer network.

            Yeah I’ve been on “Quality New Mexico” committees with their fleet sales manager – their commercial sales are robust and they keep vehicles in stock to reflect that.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Ford offers at cutaway version (CA) of the Transit and the higher capacity Econolines and a cab and chassis (CC) version of the Transit. Yes the Transits are unibody but there are rails back there to mount your box on. Now whether a fleet buyer is going to trust a unibody’s rails that are essentially sheet metal instead of the old school rails formed for plate is another story. But Ford still offers that in the Econoline Cutaway which is available in a 2016 model year.

        Mainly it would be momentum and compatibility. Better to have an all GM fleet to limit the items that you need to stock simplify repairs and do easy remount of existing equipment.

        That compatibility factor is something that Ford payed attention to when desiging the interior for the Sedan and Utility Interceptors. The have the same width between the seats and have the available equipment mount platform that is the same size and has the same bolt pattern.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        28-Cars-Later,
        I’m certain the Transit has a full chassis.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Ford calls the Cutaway and C&C as Uniladder. It is a unibody with the ladder portion formed from sheet metal that is spot welded together.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Scoutdude,
            I just looked at some images of the Transit chassis and you are correct. It’s same as the large Fiat/Ram vans, except the Transit still has the RWD.

            The Falcon and Commodore utes here use a similar chassis for their one tonners.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      As noted by others, Sprinters are costly to keep running. I gather that they also have a tendency to go through transmissions, which aren’t cheap. Only an unabashed badge snob would put themselves through the financial ruin and torture of owning a Sprinter.

      Another reason why the GM vans a hanging on is price. I’m sure they can probably undercut everyone else on vehicle pricing since they are making a much older/rudimentary product. I’m actually surprised their van sales didn’t go up out of fear and unfamiliarity towards the “Euro” vans.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Where are these GM midsize trucks selling? I have barely seen a handful in So Fl and there ARE a lot of pickups sold here, just not those.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “Where are these GM midsize trucks selling?”

      These are primarily sold as Commercial Vans, so Plumbers, Electricians, Carpet Layers, HVAC specialists, Nuts&Bolts Distributors et al are the demographic of choice.

      One of our local contractors who specializes in services for the home-owners recently bought a new Ford Transit High-Roof – no windows, to replace a very old GM-Van.

      The new High-Roof Transit allows the workmen who drive it to keep their ladders, plumbing pipe, blackpipe for gaslines, and such, inside the high roof, rather than on top of the Van. Better security and more room.

      I think Ford has a real winner here, for that market. Regrettably, both the Mercedes and Freightliner Spinters have disappointed some buyers.

      For some the alternative was Isuzu. That’s the way the Bread Truck and Krispy Kreme people chose to go in my area.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      A lot of small business fleets have Canyons/Colorados out here. Most fleets used to use F150s, and many still do, but the Colorado has made some definite inroads to that market.

      That said, GM vans are aplenty, but not many new ones. The new vans I’ve seen here have all been Transits or Transit Connects, except for one lone Chevrolet City Express (A Nissan really).

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I wonder when Ford will start up the Ranger? By the time they get onto the midsize bandwagon GM, Toyota and Nissan might make life a little tough for Ford.

    Ford of late have been using some poor judgment with the pickup truck market.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I have to ask… why not put a sliding door on the van rather than two conventional barn doors?

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    Being a NE OHIO native (In Phoenix now)…I grew up only a few miles away from where the Ford Econoline E Series was manufactured. They couldn’t build them fast enough. Now that the new Transit is out, I don’t see why GM even bothers to continue building this old awful vehicle. Even Dodge has a better van than this thing. 1996 was a long time ago, and that’s when this came out. Why can’t they bring out something new? I mean if they really want to be in the market…after all.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I think this is more than just the expansion of capacity of the Colorado/Canyon. GM is most likely getting ready to transition to a new van and will probably move it to a new plant. With the Ford Transit and the new Ram van it is just a matter of time till GM brings either a van from Europe over to the US or creates a new van.

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