The 2015 Chevrolet City Express, which debuts today at the Chicago Auto Show, will be available in dealerships in U.S. and Canada in the fall. (GM)
General Motors Co. will debut Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show its 2015 Chevrolet City Express small van and a version of the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado HD that runs on compressed natural gas or gasoline.
Chevy expects the City Express to be popular with small-business owners. The van is based on the Nissan NV200, but looks “entirely Chevrolet” from the front, said Ed Peper, vice president of GM fleet and commercial sales.
Peper said there are more differences between the two: The Chevy comes with standard tie-down straps, side glass options and more interior lighting. It has 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
Chevy and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. announced in May 2013 that Chevy had contracted with Nissan to build the van in Mexico. GM is not disclosing terms of the deal.
Chevrolet’s front-wheel drive, two-seat van is expected to go on sale this fall and will be available for retail and fleet customers at U.S. Chevrolet dealers. It will be available in Canada.
“We see a great opportunity for us in the commercial and small-business space for this vehicle,” said Peper, adding the City Express would be good for florists or computer repair companies.
He said it likely will attract full-size van users who want something more fuel-efficient. “We see a growing segment and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
GM chose to partner with Nissan to get a vehicle out quickly. The segment has been dominated by Ford Motor Co.’s Transit Connect, but will grow to include four models by the end of the year, including the NV200 and the 2015 Ram ProMaster City, based on the Fiat Doblo.
Last year, Ford sold 39,703 Transit Connect vans, up 12.7 percent, while Nissan sold 4,619 NV200 vans. The Nissan went on sale in April.
IHS Automotive predicts the small commercial van segment will grow, reaching a peak of 118,000 U.S. annual sales by 2017. The research firm expects the City Express could hit 25,000 annual sales by 2015, but the Transit Connect is expected to remain the top seller, growing to about 55,000 vehicles annually in 2017.
“Having this option (compact cargo vans) gain some ground can help automakers serve the commercial segment with vehicles that are closer to (federal fuel economy) targets than full-size vans,” Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst for IHS Automotive, said in an email. “The smaller commercial van delivers better fuel economy in a more maneuverable size.”
Chevy isn’t releasing pricing, but Peper said the City Express will be competitive. The 2014 Transit Connect starts at about $23,000; the 2014 NV200 starts at about $21,000.
Available in LS and LT trim models, the City Express will have the NV200’s 2-liter, four-cylinder engine, which Nissan says has combined city/highway fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon.
Chevy didn’t release the City Express’ fuel economy but hinted it could be improved with its more aerodynamic front end.
GM also plans to show a bi-fuel model of its updated 2015 Silverado HD pickup, which retail and fleet customers can order now. The Silverado and heavy-duty GMC Sierra can run on compressed natural gas but have a backup gasoline engine, a special 6-liter V-8, that gives the truck a 650-mile total range.
Drivers can flip a switch to change fuel. Once the natural gas tank is empty, the vehicle seamlessly switches to gasoline, GM says.
The bi-fuel system is an $11,000 option on GM’s heavy-duty trucks that start at about $35,000.
The company has offered a compressed natural gas and gasoline-powered Silverado HD since the 2013 model year, but only on three-quarter ton extended-cab trucks. Now, compressed natural gas variants are available on every Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD models with single rear wheels. Some models are available now; others will be by July.