Demand for an electric cargo van that can only travel up to 50 mph isn’t strong enough to justify full production.
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General Motors announced today that it will begin selling a small cargo van based on heavily on Nissan’s NV200.
Normally, any story about car fires, recalls and safety hazards has the same content: “fill-in-the-blank automaker is recalling fill-in-the-blank cars because they might explode, fall apart or some other terrifying nonsense.”
Not this time. Instead, Ford is dodging a maelstrom of bullets after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that there is no need to recall roughly 1.1 million Ford E-series vehicles over faulty switches. The investigation, which lasted 27 months, began after 1,036 complaints were filed over blower motor control switches failing and causing fires.
Ford Motor Company has announced that it is pursuing a number of avenues aimed at easing the financial burden on small businesses and fleet companies, many of which are feeling the pinch of current gas prices.
A big aspect of Ford’s plan will be the introduction of a North American version of the ubiquitous Ford Transit commercial van, designed to supplement the long-running E-Series (née Econoline).
When it begins production at the Kansas City, Miss. assembly plant next year, the Americanized Transit will be offered with Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and also a diesel engine (though the automaker has yet to provide specifics on what this oil burning motor will be).
As a result, Ford says the Transit will achieve around 25 percent better fuel economy than the current E-Series, which is no doubt welcome news to many fleet operators.
In addition, during the Automotive Press Association conference in Detroit this week, Ford’s director of North American fleet, leasing and re-marketing programs, Kevin Koswick, said that the automaker is committed to providing a range of options to help fleets lower their operating costs. Besides introducing more fuel thrifty vehicles like the Transit, that also includes alternative fuel sources such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure electric, biodiesel and Compressed Natural Gas (which the current E-Series vans are designed to run on besides gasoline).
Also, in order to enable fleet operators to better keep track of their costs and monitor emissions output, Ford is also introducing a new tool dubbed the “Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Cost Calculator.”
This shows, via information such as the type of vehicle used, the type of driving situations, as well as local traffic conditions and energy sources available in a particular location, a specific map of fleet fuel consumption and emissions output.
The idea is that fleets can make an informed decision as to which type of vehicles they use and for what purpose when it comes to reducing costs and impact on the environment.
The proprietary program, which must be used in conjunction with the support of a Ford representative, enables customized scenarios to be created for fleet customers, using special formulas and variables to determine the actual level of environmental impact and fuel costs of specific vehicles.
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class ranks up there with Communism on the list of things no one else likes but the Chinese. And for that reason the unloved R model will live on.
According to Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche, the R-Class, redesigned in 2011, will soldier on until at least 2015. “We need it for the Chinese market,” confirmed a company insider to the UK’s Autocar.
No decision has been made beyond that point as to whether a second-generation R-Class will be offered. Until then, Chinese Benz lovers with
big families lots of comrades can rest assures the R-Class is sticking around.
Developed by Mercedes-Benz, MYVAN in an online community that’s designed to connect like-minded van enthusiasts and allow them to share experiences, opinions and knowledge. It will feature a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and content-specific videos.
The MYVAN site is for tradespeople who use specialized and customized vans for work. On the social networking site, they will be able to share ideas, pass on pointers and keep up with industry trends. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what new and happening in the world of vans.
Even though Mercedes-Benz is the driving force behind the site, it doesn’t matter what kind of van you drive – drivers all van makes and models are welcome on the site.
“MYVAN will offer tradesmen who come in contact with the subject of transport sustainable benefits,” said Mercedes-Benz Vans marketing VP Andreas Burkhart, Vice President Sales and Marketing Mercedes-Benz Vans. “We see MYVAN as an international format that has relevance beyond national boundaries.”
Ford has announced it expects its upcoming C-Max Hybrid multi-activity vehicle to achieve an average fuel economy rating of over 42 mpg, exceeding the rating of the recently released Toyota Prius v. In addition, the C-Max Energie electric vehicle will top the Prius plug-in hybrid’s electric only mode rating of 87-mpge (miles per gallon equivalent).
Both models will use a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine mated to Ford’s next-gen hybrid system. Ford also claims the plug-in model will be able to achieve a total range of over 500 miles, while it, along with the Focus Electric, will get a new version of the MyFord Touch system, designed to work with electric vehicles and integrate the MyFord Mobile app.
These two C-Max variants join the Focus Electric, expanding Ford’s 40-mpg range, which already includes special Fiesta and Focus models. Ford has also said it will add three more 40-mpg or more rated models in the near future, resulting in a lineup where one third of vehicles offered can be had with a 40-mpg version.
GALLERY: Ford C-Max Hybrid
GALLERY: Ford C-Max Energi
Zipcar’s growing success in the rental car business has encouraged the company to expand to cargo van rental services.
Aiming its sights at van rental companies, U-Haul and Budget, Zipvan will have a pilot release in the San Francisco and Oakland area, beginning with a fleet of only six Ford E-150 vans in three San Francisco neighborhoods and expanding by early January to 15 vans throughout the bay. The birthplace of the alternative rock sub-genre, grunge, Zipvan hopes to better serve young college students, local musicians, bands, and artists alike. Zipcar has long built its business by catering to college students.
While Zipvan’s starting price of $14.75/hour or $99 a day may not always undercut U-Haul, Zipvan believes its flexible options and convenience in ordering a van will ultimately make their business model more appealing. Zipvan members can skip extensive paperwork and simply log onto their account and reserve a van via four simple taps on their smartphone.
Another key differentiation between Zipvan and U-Haul is the convenience of renting either by the hour or by the day. What’s more, U-Haul and Budget usually charge a base rate while the renter will be responsible for purchasing gasoline. Zipcar, on the other hand, will include gasoline, insurance and up to 180 miles of travel per day in a complete package.
Finally, Zipcar will not apply extra fees for drivers aged 21-23. Budget Rentals, on the other hand, add on $18 per day for young drivers.
If the pilot proves successful, Zipvan will expand its service to other North American markets in 2012.
The notice comes after General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that airbags in 1,798 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans manufactured between June 2, 2011 and October 17, 2011 have faulty airbag systems that fail in their second stage during a severe frontal crash.
This isn’t the first time this year that GM issued recalls related to their airbag systems. Earlier this month we reported on an airbag recall for the Pontiac G8 after it came to light that many of the vehicles had issues with late deployment.
Owners can expect a call later this month when the recall begins if they own a qualifying vehicle.
[Source: Left Lane News]
Ford will debut an updated look for its Flex family hauler next week at the LA Auto Show. The new design is tipped to steer away from the polarizing boxy look of the original, with softer, more rounded lines.
Other updates to the 2013 model year Flex will include a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine with 20 extra horsepower, raising the total to 285-hp. Fuel economy will also increase slightly to 18/25-mpg. No changes will be made to the EcoBoost V6 engine option. Inside, updates will include an updated version of Ford’s MyFord Touch system while outside look for the Ford Blue Oval logo to disappear in favor of large FLEX lettering above the grille.
Ford’s other major debuts in LA include the Fiesta ST concept, the Focus ST.R race car and the all-new 2013 Escape, featuring a range of new EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines.
GALLERY: 2013 Ford Flex
The Fiat and Chrysler product osmosis continues. Chrysler first revealed its plan for a Fiat collaborated small commercial van for the North American market back in November 2009. Finally, here it is. Tofas Turk Otomobil Fabrikasi, Fiat’s Turkish joint venture, announced that it will supply Ram with 190,000 units of the Fiat Doblo small panel van over the course of seven years.
Launched in Europe early 2010, the Doblo is already proving to be very popular amongst businesses. But in North America, expect the upcoming Ram van to compete against the segment leader Ford Transit Connect. In the past year, Transit Connect sold 20,496 units in the United states, a 31 percent increase.
In addition, as the Ram Sprinter was discontinued in 2009, expect Fiat to fill in the gap by providing a larger commercial van for the North American market.
There has been no word yet regarding pricing.
GALLERY: Fiat Doblo
For its Ram division, since the loss of the Sprinter, Chrysler has been looking at a large van to fill the void. With no indigenous offerings at home, the logical step would be to tap Fiat’s resources in Europe and bring over variants of commercial vans already on sale across the pond.
Rumors have been circulating for some time, that versions of the small Fiat Doblo (a Ford Transit Connect competitor), the Fiat Ducato and larger IVECO Daily (shown), are all being considered.
If all three vans do make it over here, theoretically it would give Ram division a one-stop shop when it comes to catering to small and medium sized business, for in addition to these, the division already offers a commercial variant of its Dodge Caravan minivan.
In terms of cost effectiveness and durability, the Ducato and Daily probably make the most sense. The former, despite being front-drive, has a fairly low cost of ownership and a flat cargo floor ensures maximum space utilization. Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating on the Ducato is 8,818 lbs.
The rear-drive Daily by contrast, boasts a GVWR that’s almost double the Ducato’s and is offered with both single and dual rear-wheel configurations along with high roof van bodies, plus chassis cabs, making it adaptable to a wide variety of different roles.
However, although Ram’s Marketing Manager, Bob Hegbloom, in conversation with Ward’s Auto World has said the division plans to introduce two new vans to North America, so far, he’s stopped short of saying which ones.
If two, or even all three of these vans make it over here, it will be interesting to see how they fare. The large commercial van segment is currently dominated by Ford and General Motors, the Sprinter, of which Mercedes now handles sales and service, along with it’s Freightliner commercial truck division, is still very much a marginal product in the segment, it’s high price and relative complexity, seen as drawbacks by many fleets.
The only other current competitor in the segment is Nissan’s recently launched NV (see our review here), which adopts much the same approach as the current Ford E-Series and Chevy Express/GMC Savanna.
Whether the Fiat sourced vans can make much of an impact against the current best sellers remain to be seen, a lot of it will no doubt hinge on pricing strategy, servicing and overall running costs, not just fuel consumption. We’ll likely find out soon enough.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
In Europe, Mercedes parent company Daimler is well-known for its truck and commercial vehicle division. On this side of the Atlantic, however, the three-pointed star is almost exclusively regarded as a manufacturer of high-performance luxury cars. Now Mercedes-Benz of Manhattan will allow you to combine those two seemingly at-odds concepts with the Sprinter Grand Edition.
The Sprinter, as you may know, is a Mercedes commercial vehicle – the sort you might see a courier use to deliver packages. The Grand Edition, however, transforms that cargo hold into an ultra-luxurious space for high-powered execs to either relax or get some work done – with enough space inside to hold a meeting with your shareholders.
Referred to rather appropriately as a ‘stand-up Maybach’ the Sprinter Grand Edition is filled with luxury items like a pair of 32-inch TV screens, reclining and massaging chairs, a sofa, refrigerator, satellite radio and wireless internet; which is enough to perhaps skip the G6 and take a road trip instead.
Offered exclusively through Mercedes-Benz Manhattan the Sprinter Grand Edition sells for approximately $190,000 – a solid $150,000 more than the conventional van.
Official release and full specifications after the jump:
Large panel vans are perhaps the ultimate form of mobile blank canvas – the acres of sheetmetal representing the perfect opportunity to install your own logo. Increasingly, companies are using vehicle wraps to market their product or service on their own vehicles and it’s proven to increase public awareness.
Now, Nissan North America is teaming up with Lakewood, Colorado based Original Wraps Inc. to offer specific wrap applications for customers of the new NV commercial van. Original Wraps has developed a software program that allows owners of Nissan’s new commercial van to create their own logos and designs on the Nissan Commercial Vehicle Website. Once the design has been finalized, it can then be printed on 3M Scotchprint Vinyl and shipped to the customer within 7-10 days ready for installation.
“We’re pleased to offer high quality, customized vehicle personalization with hundreds of different graphic designs created specially for the new Nissan NV,” remarked Joe Castelli, vice president, Nissan Commercial Vehicles and Fleet, NNA. “It’s part of our innovative approach to thinking about how our customers use their vans – including as a vehicle for advertising their company and services.”
The program is scheduled to start in January 2011.
With all this talk about sustainable mobility, automakers from around the world are trying all kinds of things. In Europe, Opel has one in the shape of this a “green” commercial concept, based on its Vivaro delivery van. On display at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover, which runs from September 23-30th, the Vivaro e-Concept is, according to Chris Lacey (Director of International Operations for Opel/Vauxhall commercial vehicles), designed to “test the acceptance of our advanced propulsion technology for those attending the [IAA] show.”
The Vivaro e-Concept is a plug-in, extended range vehicle that uses technology similar to the Chevy Volt. It incorporates a 111 kilowatt electric motor that can provide a driving range of more than 220 miles on pure electric power, plus an internal combustion engine that acts as a generator to extend the vehicle’s range beyond that.
The batteries are stored under the floor to help protect them from the elements and can be recharged using a standard household 230 volt outlet. According to specs released from Opel, the Vivaro e-Concept can still haul loads of more than 1,500 lbs, which should make it a viable alternative to it’s regular, gasoline engined counterpart, particularly in parts of some European cities which are currently off-limits to cars and trucks because of noise and pollution restrictions. It’ll be interesting to see what the punters at IAA make of it.
Base LX models with features like keyless entry, cruise control, stability control an auxiliary jack, 8-way power driver’s seat and 4 LATCH positions start at $27,800. EX models add 17-inch wheels, five LATCH positions and power slide doors for $30,950 while the EX-L trim tosses in a power tailgate, heated leather seats, Bluetooth, XM Radio and a backup camera for $34,450. Both a navigation (with a lifetime subscription to Real Time FM Traffic and a 3-view backup camera) as well as a rear entertainment system (with 9-inch screen) can be included, although if you’re going to go all-out the $40,775 Touring model adds the 6-speed transmission (with improved fuel economy), 18-inch wheels, parking sensors and a memory seat. And for 2011 a new Touring Elite model tops out the range for $43,250 with that incredible home theater system.
Of note, most models come with a 5-speed automatic transmission with an EPA rated 18/27-mpg (city/highway), while top-trim Touring models get a 6-speed automatic with a 19/28-mpg rating.
Full pricing details after the jump: