DETROIT -- General Motors has contracted with Navistar International Corp. to build some of its commercial vans, a move aimed at enabling GM to produce more hot-selling Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups.
Navistar said today that it will manufacture cutaway versions of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, which are made at GM’s plant in Wentzville, Mo. Offloading some van production to Navistar’s plant in Springfield, Ohio, starting in the first half of 2017, should enable the Wentzville plant to crank out more Colorados and Canyons.
A person with knowledge of GM’s plans said the move will enable the Wentzville plant to build roughly 40,000 additional Colorados and Canyons in 2017. GM spokesman Tom Wickham declined to comment, beyond saying that production of the pickups would be increased.
In a statement, Cathy Clegg, GM’s head of manufacturing and labor relations in North America, said the Navistar deal “will provide our Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant more flexibility to keep up with continued demand for mid-size trucks and full size vans.”
GM’s discussions last year with contract manufacturer AM General to build cutaway models didn’t pan out, the source said. Automotive News reported in November that a note distributed to workers in Wentzville said GM was “studying a partnership” with Indiana-based AM General for cutaway production.
Cutaway models are incomplete versions sold to upfitters for a specific use, such as an ambulance. They account for roughly one-third of the vans built in Wentzville, the source said.
Combined, GM sold 56,142 Colorados and Canyons in the U.S. through the first five months of the year. It sold 36,639 Express and Savana vans combined in the same period.
GM has strained to keep pace with demand for the midsize pickups since they were launched in fall 2014. Inventories remain tight: There was a 41-day supply of Colorados on dealer lots or en route to stores as of June 1, according to the Automotive News Data Center. There was a 58-day supply of Canyons.
The Wentzville plant will continue to assemble the cab for the cutaway models, which will be shipped to Navistar to attach it to the chassis and install the interior, Wickham said. He declined to discuss the projected volume that Navistar will produce.
Navistar CEO Troy Clarke was a 35-year GM executive before going to Navistar in 2010. He became CEO at Navistar in 2013. He last served GM in 2009 as president of GM North America.
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