Friday 24 May 2013

GM and Nissan unite in van deal

General Motors and Nissan Motor Company are to be reunited once more in a van project as Nissan aims to supply its compact NV300 to ‘The General’ as a Chevrolet-branded vehicle.

It will be recalled that some years ago, Nissan’s operations in Barcelona manufactured some versions of GM’s European van, marketed as the Opel and Vauxhall Vivaro. Plant managers from Vauxhall’s plant in Luton, UK visited the plant from time to time to study Nissan’s methods of manufacture.

Now the two manufacturers will join forces for the first time for a vehicle of this type in North America.

GM will source Nissan’s NV200 vehicles from the Japanese’s company’s plant in Mexico. The NV200 was first shown in concept form at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. In the US, GM’s version will be known as the 2015 Chevrolet City Express and will be available in the fall of 2014.

Until now, Ford has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the US with its Transit Connect delivery van. The new vans are being pitched to customers as small-engine, fuel-thrifty alternatives to aging full-size commercial vehicles in North America.

GM’s fleet customers have been calling for vehicles with “a lot of cargo space and great fuel economy”.

The City Express will fill the gap vacated by the Chevrolet HHR which was discontinued in 2011. Both versions, the LS and the LT (with cruise control), will be equipped with a 2-litre gasoline engine and a CVT – continuously variable transmission.

The tempo in the small van sector in the US is quickening as Chrysler will shortly roll out the Ram ProMaster based on the Fiat Ducato, which has been on sale in Europe for some 30 years. This is a further example of Fiat using Chrysler as an outlet for its products. Earlier this year, Chrysler announced it would use the VM Motori 3-litre V6 diesel in its Ram pick-up truck.

Readers will be aware that in 2006, major GM shareholder Kirk Kerkorian tried to coerce GM chief executive officer Rick Wagoner to team GM with Nissan-Renault in a bid to stem The General’s losses.

In 1989, proactive Nissan and Ford teamed up to create a joint design in the form of the front-wheel-drive minivans marketed at the Nissan Quest and the Mercury Villager.

In the case of the new Chevrolet City Express, GM presumably decided a link with Nissan offers a speedy (and cheaper) solution than the 36 months it would take its European design centre to produce a design proposal and implement a North American manufacturing strategy.  

In China, the NV200 is built in association with Dongfeng Motor and was released in 2010.

In Europe the NV200 is powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine which is reputed to return a fuel economy of 54 mile/gal. However, in the US with the 2-litre four cylinder gasoline engine the return is more likely to be 25 mile/gal.

Chevrolet dealers will receive the City Express from Nissan’s plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The NV200 is built also in Barcelona, Spain by Nissan Motor Iberica SA and Nissan Motor Company in Kanagawa, Japan.

Earlier this year, Nissan announced it would build 80,000 sub-compact cars at its Barcelona plant as a result of a €130 million investment. The plant will have the potential to make 200,000 units a year. In addition to the new car, the plant will also build 20,000 1-ton pick-up trucks a year. Car exports from the plant are regularly in the region of 80 per cent a year.                                                  

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