By on March 21, 2018

Image: GM

General Motors, the automaker that once took badge engineering to dizzying new heights, is culling a slow-selling carbon copy from its lineup. The Chevrolet City Express, a small, front-drive panel van you’ll be forgiven for not remembering, will no longer be available to commercial buyers, GM says.

Essentially a Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo with a chrome grille and bowtie badge where the word “Nissan” should be, this body double gave GM a cheap North American entry in a small commercial van market dominated by Ford Motor Company. It seems buyers preferred Ford by a wide margin. Don’t worry, though — there’s still a CVT-equipped van available for repairmen with oddball tastes.

News of the City Express’s quiet demise comes by way of GM Authority, which secured word from GM that dealers are no longer taking orders for the lumpy little van. The vehicle went on sale in late 2014 as a 2015 model.

A straight-up badge engineering job, the hardly Americanized City Express was assembled in Mexico and made do with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (131 horsepower, 139 lb-ft of torque) and a continuously variable transmission. Its starting price split the difference between the Compact Cargo S and SV.

If owning a small, cheap, Japanese panel van is a must, Nissan will still happily sell you an NV200 Compact Cargo for about the same money Ford demands for its base Transit Connect. For those with a taste for the exotic, the Fiat Doblo Ram ProMaster City is ready and willing to haul your crap around.

From the get-go, buyers had little time for the City Express. The first full year of sale proved to be the model’s best, with 10,283 units sold in the U.S. in 2015. Last year’s volume amounted to 8,348 vehicles. In contrast, Ford sold some 34,473 Transit Connect vans in the U.S. last year, which is down from the model’s high point of 52,000-plus vehicles in 2015. (Ford is determined to expand its smallest van’s footprint with a host of 2019 updates.)

Production of the larger Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans continues at GM’s Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant.

[Image: General Motors]

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41 Comments on “General Motors Discontinues a Chevrolet That’s Also a Nissan...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m a little surprised to hear that this flopped, since I see a fair number of them (and the Nissan versions), usually used by plumbers or electricians, or delivering dry cleaning.

    And, they’re still building the “toaster” vans, the Express and the Savana? It’s like GM’s not even trying. They’re just about to tie the old G-Van in terms of years of availability.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      They were awful little creatures that sold on price to budget conscious fleet managers. If anyone buying them bothered to test drive a Ford or Ram city van, they didn’t buy the Chev/Nissan.

      The Saxpress vans still sell in decent numbers because they can be had in big enough sizes and GM blows them out stupid cheap to fleets. Again, the Transit, ProMaster and Sprinter are all much better vehicles at the intended tasks but cost more.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        danio3834

        A van is basically a box on wheels. Redesigning the box would force tradesmen to buy or build new shelving units and roof racks for the new box.

        Ford has had a new box(Transit) for years, but they still sell just as many of the old box (Eseries)

        • 0 avatar
          eggsalad

          The only remnants of the E-Series still available is the E-350 and E-450 cutaway vans, as used for box trucks, ambulance, RV, etc use. The shelves you used in your E-250 won’t fit in the back of a cutaway, because there IS no back.

          You’re saying they sell as many E-Series cutaways as they do Transit vans?

          YTD Transit: 17,178
          YTD E-Series: 8,709

          Please explain your statement: ” still sell just as many of the old box (Eseries)”

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            The only explanation is that its a completely false assumption. Thank you, eggsalad, for posting the correct info (here and elsewhere in this article’s comment section).

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            However E-series sales are on the rise as are the GM twins, while Transit sales have been dropping. Fact is the primary concerns for the people who buy vans are up-time and TCO and the Transit doesn’t hold a candle in those areas to the E-series and GM twins.

      • 0 avatar
        colin42

        I’d buy one because of this…

        https://www.reconcampers.com

        (If I had $25,000 burning a hole in my pocket), after buying the van.)

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Every time that I’ve seen one on the street I’m struck by how narrow they are. I imagine that the unfortunate employee forced to use it finds it pretty miserable.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Fact is that Sexpress numbers are up while the Transit is down. The GM twins are now the lowest TCO units on the market and it doesn’t hurt that they old equipment can be transferred if desired.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I’ve seen several of them but barely bother to notice whether they’re Chevy or Nissan.

    A few months back I saw one on the shoulder of US Hwy 50 east of the DC Beltway on fire. I couldn’t tell if it was a Chevy or Nissan because it was dusk, I was going the other way, and because 20ft flames and black smoke rather obscured the badging.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I hate that stretch of road between DC and Annapolis. Every .5 mile is a broken down car, and its the only place I can think of were it is not unusual to be passed on the right, or be passed on the right when you’re travelling at 75, or to be passed on the right by a rice rocket popping wheelies. Or be passed on the left and right by a motorcycle or car convoy doing about 85. I’m convinced Maryland must not have: vehicle inspection, driver education, police.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Hmmm… You must not drive on US 1 all that much, do you?

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Driver ed in Maryland was minimal when I was a teen and worse now (do they even still teach it in high schools?). Passing on the right is common on all the big thoroughfares; they’re all too crowded for most people to think of the left lane as the passing lane. Vehicle inspection occurs only when selling your used car, and every two years for emissions only.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I wrote a piece last year in which I called the City Express “The worst new vehicle available in 2017”. Even the Nissan variant is better, because their dealer techs know how to service it.

    Nobody, but nobody buys these to drive. They buy them for their *employees* to drive. And the only reason the Chevrolet version exists is because “I buy all my work trucks from Clem down at the Chevy store. Been buying trucks from Clem since 1978.”

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It has a bug deflector though. Don’t want anything happening to that baby, no sir.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The few Ford Transit Connect owners I know have all gotten rid of them. Admittedly, I haven’t known any City Express owner, though I see several out and about.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      I’m quite sure your knowledge of commercially used vans is as extensive, if not larger than your exhaustive knowledge of commercially used full-sized trucks. Or yeah, except for the Transit Connects you see at 7-11, McDonalds, Panera, and those ones at the traffic light painted in company logos. Just please take your hands off the shovel, we’ll be better off.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Sorry, in this case I’m talking about business people I know, who have used them for their businesses. When they bought the TC they loved its convenience but every one of them got rid of their TCs within about four years. And no, in no case did I try to talk them out of it. I asked questions about fuel economy, ease of driving, that sort of thing without ever mentioning a different brand. In sort, I was collecting data.

        The big Transits seem to still be doing pretty good, though I admit I’m seeing more ProMasters and ProMaster City models on the roads today and fewer of the TCs.

        • 0 avatar
          rudiger

          Everything I’ve read about these small, ‘city-sized’ vans is they’re all pretty bad, with the Ram Promaster City (aka Fiat Doblo) being even worse than the Nissan NV200 because of the Promaster City’s horrid transmission.

          It’s a pisser because, prior to Fiat taking over Chrysler, they had a much better small van in the Ram C/V, because it was simply a converted Grand Caravan. That meant it had enough of the Grand Caravan’s DNA to make it livable, including offering many of the same civilian options. Yeah, it was larger than the new small vans, but it had a much more powerful V6 engine, too. Even worse is how the new Chrysler Pacifica hybrid is unavailable in a cargo variant. A hybrid drivetrain would seem perfect for a city cargo applicstion.

          All of the newer, smaller city vans are strictly purpose-built commercial penalty boxes that, as others have mentioned, are bought by people who don’t have to drive them. That’s how the Chevy Express and GMC Savana have managed to continue unchanged with truly ancient architecture for a half century. One of the worst traits is, just like the old sixties mid-engined vans, the Express/Savana have cramped, non-ergonomic footwells that are oriented far outboard. Again, if you’re not driving/riding in them, you don’t care how uncomfortable they are.

          • 0 avatar

            I own a 2012 Ram C/V – an ex-Enterprise lease vehicle – that I use for my side ebay/flea market business. I like that it handles like a car, and it’s a good size – bigger than the small city vans but smaller than the big Euro or old-school American ones.

            We actually needed a van at my day job, and I ended up finding a similar one for them to buy.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You may not like the ProMaster’s transmission, but if it’s the same 9-speed that’s in the Cherokee, then it’s a lot better than you give it credit for. The problem has been with drivers unwilling to give it a chance to learn their driving habits while the transmission is default programmed to give the best possible fuel economy first… with performance secondary. It took my Renegade less than three months to learn my driving habits (9-speed automatic, just like the Cherokee’s) and now downshifts and upshifts smoothly and typically when I would shift manually. It doesn’t hunt; it doesn’t lurch and it hasn’t, yet, failed in any way to perform as I want after that initial learning period.

          • 0 avatar
            2000ChevyImpalaLS

            In my previous job, part of my responsibilities included occasionally driving a work van to various locations. In our case, it was a ’99 Savana LWB. I don’t know what you’re talking about with the footwells. I drove that van for thousands of miles through the years and never once was I uncomfortable. I’m not some giant, but I am 6′ tall. We also had a late 80s Chevy full-sized van (pre-Express), and it had the most comfortable seat I’d ever known in a vehicle, including the one in my own car at the time.

            Respectfully disagreeing.

            As for the small City Express van, I’ve seen a few in my area, but I thought it was an odd choice to partner with Nissan. Apparently enough people agreed.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          LOL

          I see 4 or 5 Transit Connects around the job site a day. I can’t remember when the last time I saw a ProMaster City.

          The sales numbers prove the Ford is far more popular, but that doesn’t mean anything because everyone in the country has gotten rid of them and are now basking in the glory of the ZF 9AT mated to the (3rd)World engine.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          And the big question is what did they replace those TC’s with?? A different small van, a real van, pickup?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Believe it or not, Scoutdude, in the most visible case (the business owner is a friend of mine,) an SUV. It turned out that the load floor was simply too low when the things he was hauling were usually picked up at chest level and had to be set down at chest level. He still needed the fully enclosed cabin but he needed a much higher floor, so he bought, of all things, a Suburban.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Ha, one of the things that many people complain about new pickups is the height of the bed floor and I’ve always found that a low bed floor like on the old mini trucks was a much bigger problem simply because you don’t typically carry things at knee level, it is usually waist level or higher. So having that high floor means you don’t have to pick it up to get it out of the vehicle or bend way over to put it down.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            And to that, Scoutdude, I disagree. With a pickup truck, the load almost always comes from or goes to ground level. The low bed can accommodate that much better. This guy operates a coffee shop with a little cafe-like diner which also caters to different events where having the tailgate at near-countertop hight is a strong advantage. Me? I carry paving stones, bagged landscaping materials, starter plants and other items which start at about ankle height for loading and usually carried at waist height (at the highest) when unloading–to ultimately be placed on the ground.

            Any time you have to put some sort of built-in step just to reach the bed of the truck, you KNOW it’s too high off the ground.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The announcement of this model’s addition to the Chevy line up was a real WTF? moment for me. Was there nothing in the worldwide GM catalog that could not be federalized quickly enough to meet the perceived need for a small van? Nothing from Opel or even the Chinese Wuling brand? Nothing? If FCA can federalize the Doblo for the US market, I would think GM could have federalized one of the Opel commercial vans for use here.

    As for the Toaster vans, they have the market all to themselves. Back when, DaimlerChrysler was a thing, they dropped their USDM vans for the Sprinter. This was the only German vehicle I have seen rust at the mention of moisture. Now they want you to buy a Metris. Sure… Better get the Tru-Coat on those. Ford dropped their USDM vans a little while ago. So, GM gets all the USDM van business now.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I think I’ve seen ONE of these, owned by the dude who installed the PPF (clear bra) on my Accord.

    OT, but when did Ford start selling the full-size Transit here? Just like the Sprinters, those things could be rust buckets: on my walk to my car after work today, a white high-roof LWB Transit cargo van passed by on the street, complete with a thick line of rust on the right side back door, below the hinge!

    I’ve ridden in one, and was impressed, but that kind of rust would give me pause as a fleet buyer.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    In England Nissan is selling an electric version of this called the ENV200. The powertrain is from the Leaf, I believe.
    We were just getting the gas ones in to the GM dealership I worked at before I retired. Our fleet manager managed to sell a few of them, but the Nissan dealer undercut us on the big contracts, such as the City. I remember thinking we should have some oil filters at least on hand. GM would only sell them in packages of (I think) thirty. They came in Nissan boxes, and I think they probably still have some of that original shipment on hand.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Side note: Fleet managers have to have some of the highest job satisfaction out of any profession. I have never once heard of one being unhappy.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    When I was in Washington State last year for a long time we had a Nissan van, the size of a Sienna. Boy, what a piece of sh!t to drive.

    If this van is anything like the van we had no wonder not many sell.

    As a person for a soft spot for Nissan, the company is almost as embarrassing at times as FCA.

    Worst still is GM would of tested this vehicle and yet they still chose it.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    The Chevy Sh¡Г¥ Express is no more? Awww. Literally 10s of people (who don’t otherwise know from articles like this one, or work for GM/Nissan) are going to notice.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Two years ago when I needed a vehicle in this class for our business I bought a “consumer” Dodge Grand Caravan. A much more comfortable and capable vehicle than any of the small work vans and cheaper to purchase brand new thanks to all the cash on the hood FCA put on them. I’m still happy with that choice.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    No big surprise, at the volumes they were selling it wasn’t worth it to stock those Nissan parts and print brochures.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Someone mentioned that Nissan makes an electric version of this. With enough range, that would make a cracking taxi.

    I wish Ford would put their C-Max Energi powertrain in a Transit Connect. I like my C-Max a lot. I’d like it even more if it looked like the box it came in and sat three rows of drunk Uberistas or half a ton of Ikea. Seems like a no-brainer. Folks don’t have much of an incentive to buy a smaller van unless it comes with a smaller fuel bill, and Ford’s current plan for that–downsize the already-marginal engines–doesn’t really jibe with big loads.

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