2014 CHICAGO AUTO SHOW

GM adds Nissan-built van to take on Transit Connect

The City Express will offer 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space and an estimated payload capacity of 1,500 pounds.

Photo credit: GM
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DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors is introducing a new cargo van, built by Nissan Motor Co. under a supply alliance formed last year, to compete with Ford Motor Co.'s Transit Connect in the U.S.

"There is so much opportunity in this particular segment," Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of fleet and commercial sales, said in an interview before today's announcement. The 2015 Chevrolet City Express will go on sale later this year, the company said in a statement.

GM wants to expand its commercial-vehicle business with the new van as well as redesigned heavy-duty pickups and new midsize trucks. The City Express, being revealed at the Chicago auto show today, is based on Nissan's NV200. The companies announced the project in May.

"Our goal is to grow commercial share," Peper said. The potential market for the Chevrolet van includes "everything from computer repair, catering, floral, radio/TV folks, graphic designs," particularly small businesses, he said.

With compressed natural gas currently priced about 62 percent less per gallon than gasoline, a pickup driven 26,000 miles a year can save more than $2,000 annually -- based on 75-percent compressed natural gas usage and comparable efficiency to gasoline, GM said today.

Photo credit: GM

GM also said today that Chevrolet is expanding its optional bi-fuel engines, which can run on compressed natural gas or gasoline, to all cab styles of the 2015 Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD pickups.

A separate CNG fuel tank enables the driver to switch between fuels at the flip of a switch. When the CNG tank is depleted, the system automatically switches to gasoline.

GM said the 2500HD double cab and crew cab models with compressed natural gas are on sale now, and 2500HD regular cab and all 3500HD models will reach U.S. showrooms in July.

The City Express will offer 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space and an estimated payload capacity of 1,500 pounds, GM said.

Nissan, which introduced the NV200 in the U.S. last year, reported full-year sales of 4,619 of the vans. Ford sold 39,703 Transit Connects in 2013, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

The cargo-van supply arrangement is a first in North America for GM and Nissan, which builds the NV200 in Mexico. While GM has worked with Nissan alliance partner Renault SA in Europe, and the U.S. and Japanese companies make a van in Europe, they've not previously had a similar project for the U.S. and Canada, Nissan said in May.

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