Minivans/MPVs auto news

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Chevy Express 1500, GMC Savana 1500 get the axe

07/16/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Chevrolet, GMC, Special/Limited Editions

Chevrolet Express 1500

Fans of truck-based, light-duty vans can officially pour one out for the Chevrolet Express 1500 and GMC Savana 1500, as General Motors has officially put its long-serving big/little rigs out to pasture. Things aren't quite as sad as they sound, though. The heavier-duty 2500 and 3500 vans will soldier on, in order to duke it out with the largest members of Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter families.

The move does seem to make a lot of sense. According to GM, customers only purchase the 1500-spec Chevrolet 23 percent of the time, while the GMC captures a mere 7 percent of the Savana family's sales. With numbers like that, it's no shock that GM thinks it can shift some of its buyers into its van family's more capable variants. "We knew we could move a lot of our 1500 customers into 2500-series territory," said GM's Joe Langhauser, the product manager for the company's full-size vans.

It's not just simple sales figures dictating the move, though. The 1500 line is taking up some valuable factory space that will be better spent on an eagerly anticipated new product.

"With the Colorado coming into the [Wentzville] facility, there was a lot of unique space that was dedicated to the 1500-series van line. We were able to utilize that space much more effectively for [the midsize] trucks," Langhauser said.

The last 1500, a Chevy-badged cargo van (pictured above), was screwed together last week.

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Nissan alters all CVTs to act less like a stretched rubberband

07/15/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Sedans/Saloons, Tech, Crossovers/CUVs, Hatchbacks, Nissan

2015 Nissan Versa Note

Among automotive enthusiasts, no one seems to hold a neutral opinion when it comes to continuously variable transmissions. CVTs are either praised for their ability to boost fuel economy or chided for their occasionally poor driving dynamics. Nissan is among the masters of these un-shifting gearboxes in the US, and it uses them in many vehicles in its lineup. However, for the 2015 model year, several models are getting a software update to make their CVTs a bit more like a conventional automatic.

To give drivers the option of feeling gearshifts while on the road, Nissan is adding its D-Step Shift Logic feature to the CVTs in multiple vehicles. Steve Powers, Nissan's senior manager of powertrain performance, told Autoblog the system forces the transmission to "hold a ratio and then shift" to simulate the way that a traditional automatic would. It's simply a change in software, but the company "can't do it to older CVTs," he said, because it would require changes to transmission logic, as well. According to Automotive News, the upgrade is coming to the 2015 Versa, Versa Note (pictured above), Sentra, V6-equipped Altima, Pathfinder and Quest. "We're rolling it out to all programs," said Powers.

Interestingly, buyer perception appears to be pushing the upgrade. John Curl, a Nissan North America regional product manager, told Automotive News that the decision to add the tech partially comes because some owners are bothered that the CVTs aren't changing gears. According to Powers, D-Step "avoids the rubber band feel," that many drivers didn't like. The different sensation of these transmissions seems like something consumers would notice during the test drive, or that the salesperson would inform them about. The same issue cropped up last year when the company was facing customer satisfaction problems among new buyers customers' unfamiliarity with the gearboxes.

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Mercedes takes VW Westfalia Camper idea upscale with new Marco Polo

07/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Euro, Mercedes Benz, Misc. Auto Shows, Special/Limited Editions, Luxury

Mercedes-Benz V-Class Marco Polo

Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz revealed the new V-Class. Slotting in below the popular Sprinter, the new V-Class replaced both the Viano and Vito upon its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. But Mercedes isn't quite done with it just yet. At the upcoming Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, Germany, Mercedes will reveal the Marco Polo - a versatile, stylish and decidedly contemporary take on the classic camper van.

Named after the famous Italian explorer, the Marco Polo was converted by Westfalia, an outfit which you might more closely associate with classic VW camper vans but which Daimler absorbed over a decade ago. Offering, according to the press release below, "a maximum of opportunities to be independent, free and spontaneous," the Marco Polo sleeps four thanks to the rear bench that electrically folds flat into a bed and the second berth under the pop-top. The flexible interior is decked out like you'd expect a modern Mercedes to be, with ambient LED lighting as well as wood, metal and piano black trim.

It's got an onboard kitchenette with two gas burners, a sink and fridge with a 10 gallons of fresh water and an even bigger waste tank. All that gear is shlepped around by a choice of four-cylinder turbodiesel engines ranging in output from 136 to 190 horsepower. The relatively compact form boasts a turning circle similar to a full-size sedan and a height designed to fit into most garages and car washes. All of which just might make us reconsider the appeal of traveling by camper van.

Continue reading Mercedes takes VW Westfalia Camper idea upscale with new Marco Polo

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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer corners surprisingly flat on 'Ring

07/08/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Spy Photos, Minivans/MPVs, Videos, Hatchbacks, BMW, Luxury

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 7-Seater prototype on the Nurburgring

With seven seats and front-wheel drive, you might not expect the upcoming long-wheelbase version of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer to live up to the Ultimate Driving Machine reputation that BMW has fostered over the years. But the latest spy clip from the Nürburgring suggests otherwise.

The Bavarian automaker has apparently been testing its new people mover on the Nordschleife, getting it ready to join the growing 2 Series family. And though it's wearing heavy camouflage, we can clearly see from the video below that it's cornering impressively flat - which bodes well for those who'll need to transport their expanding family but aren't prepared to give up on handling.

Continue reading BMW 2 Series Active Tourer corners surprisingly flat on 'Ring

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Dodge lets us drive 100-years' worth of history [w/videos]

07/03/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Time Warp, Convertibles, Coupes, Minivans/MPVs, Sedans/Saloons, Sports/GTs, SUVs, Videos, Chrysler, Dodge

A raft of important production models from the last hundred years were available for me to either drive or ride in.

Dodge is 100 years old this year. So, as happened on Ford's recent centennial, the 50-year birthday of the Porsche 911, and others, the company has an excuse to trot out the highlights of its history next to its upcoming model lineup, and declare that "these are the fruits of the Dodge Boys' tree whose roots have grown strong." Or something like that. Never so hampered by marketing skepticism that I'll pass up the opportunity to burn someone else's rubber, I was happy to drive out to Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, MI - former grand estate of the Dodge family - to hear the spiel.

Chrysler Group Historian Brandt Rosenbusch, the lucky so-and-so that manages the corporate museum, brought out an insanely great selection of motoring history for myself and my colleagues to take in, photograph, and drive. Greeting us in the swanky circle drive in front of the Dodge manse was a smattering of Dodge concept cars from the last twenty years or so, Viper, Sidewinder and Demon concepts included. Continuing out the gates, however, were a raft of important production models from the last hundred years, all available for me to either drive or (in some delicate instances) ride in. My mission, beyond keeping the stupid grin off my face long enough to look like a serious journalist, was to suss out any link between the past and the future of Dodge.

Spoiler: I found it. And I only broke one car in the process.

Continue reading Dodge lets us drive 100-years' worth of history [w/videos]

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Chrysler recalling 700k minivans and Dodge Journey for ignition switch woes

07/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Crossovers/CUVs, Chrysler, Dodge

2010 Dodge Grand Caravan

General Motors isn't the only automaker with ignition switch problems. Chrysler is fighting it too and is now announcing a recall of 695,957 examples worldwide of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans from the 2008-2010 model years, plus the 2009-2010 Dodge Journey.

According to a statement from Chrysler, the models have a bad wireless ignition node detent ring in the ignition switch, making it possible for drivers to appear to have the key in the "Run" position but for the spring not to fully engage. It can then slip back to the "Accessory" position and shut the car off. If this happens, the vehicle loses power steering, brake boost and the airbags.

There is some disparity about the number of vehicles affected under this recall. In its statement, Chrysler claims that it covers 525,206 vehicles in the US, 102,892 in Canada, 25,591 in Mexico and 42,268 elsewhere. However, the recall announcement posted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists an estimated 438,109 vehicles in the US. Chrysler spokesperson Nick Cappa told Autoblog via email that the reasoning for the different figures "will become clear at a later date."

To fix the problem, Chrysler will install a new detent ring in the vehicles. It will begin contacting owners soon, and obviously the repair will be free of charge.

This isn't the first time this problem has cropped up in these models. Chrysler issued a recall for 248,437 vehicles in 2011 for certain 2010 model year examples. A few weeks ago, NHTSA also began investigating the 2008-2010 model years of the affected models for ignition switch problems. At this time, it's not clear whether that evaluation and this campaign are linked.

Chrysler told Autoblog that it has no reports of injuries related to the problem. Scroll down to read the company's statement and the NHTSA recall report.

Continue reading Chrysler recalling 700k minivans and Dodge Journey for ignition switch woes

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2015 Ram Promaster City is ready to take a load off [w/videos]

06/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Commercial Trucks, Special/Limited Editions, Ram

2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon

2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman CargoThere are a few segments of the auto industry that are growing rapidly. Weirdly, though, one of the most notable is the compact cargo van market. What use to be the sole terrain of the Ford Transit Connect and the occasional Dodge Grand Caravan-based Ram C/V Tradesman is becoming a notable battleground. Nissan has dove headfirst into the market with its NV200, which will also be sold as a Chevrolet City Express and Ford recently released a heavily redesigned, more user friendly Transit Connect. Now, Ram is releasing its entry into the compact cargo segment.

Like the Transit Connect and NV, the all-new Ram ProMaster City is billed as a diet version of the full-sized workhorse van, the ProMaster. Also like its big brother, the 2015 ProMaster City is based off a commercial offering from Fiat Professional, the Doblò (the full-size ProMaster is based on the Fiat Ducato).

But while the ProMaster gets a pair of six-cylinder engines and a wide array of wheelbase and roof heights, the ProMaster City is simpler. The sole engine choice is the familiar 2.4-liter, Tigershark four-cylinder that's found in the vehicles Fiat Chrysler's compact-wide platform, such as the Chrysler 200, Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee. Power output sits at 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. According to Ram, the ProMaster City boasts class-leading output and can sprint to 60 in 9.8 seconds. Perhaps knowing that's a ridiculous stat in a cargo van, Ram also cites a more useful 3.7-second run from zero to 30 miles per hour. The Tigershark sends its power through a nine-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.

There will be two configurations when the ProMaster City arrives in dealerships - the Tradesman Cargo and the Wagon. The former is a classic, two-seat cargo van with 131.7 cubic feet of cargo volume, which spans 60.4-inches wide and 87.2-inches deep. Moreover, there's 48.8 inches between the rear wheel wells. The 60/40-split doors can be opened to 180 degrees when necessary, although they only open to 90 degrees unless a release is pushed.

Regardless of its purpose, these doors come standard, along with a pair of sliding doors on both driver and passenger sides. For the passenger version of the van, a 60/40-split folding bench seat takes some of the cargo volume up. Still, there's about four-feet of depth when the seats are up and six feet when flipped up.

Take a look below for the official press release from Ram, as well as a quick pair of videos, the first of which is an overview of the new ProMaster City while the second video covers the history of Dodge/Ram vans. Scroll down and have a look.

Continue reading 2015 Ram Promaster City is ready to take a load off [w/videos]

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The British require more of their delivery vans

06/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Videos, Commercial Trucks, Vauxhall, Humor

Vauxhall Vivaro van

In the United Kingdom, work vans are big business. They're such a big deal that an entire sub-culture surrounds their drivers, known as white van men. White van men tend to look at their vans the same way that die-hard American pickup owners look at their trucks - as tough, do-everything workhorses. So Vauxhall's cheek with this ad will certainly be appreciated.

It focuses on the General Motors subsidiary's cargo van, the new Vivaro, and how it can handle just about anything that's thrown at it. Rather than demonstrate this by showing off its hauling prowess, though, Vauxhall instead handed the keys over to precision driver Paul Swift, who it has dubbed "Stig-aro" as an ode to his work with Top Gear Live. Swift puts the Vivaro through its paces at the van's Luton factory. According to Vauxhall, Swift's work is now "seen as commonplace among the 1200-strong workforce at the historic Luton factory."

"As Britain's largest LCV manufacturer, we want to ensure that every customer receives the very best van that we can produce, and that means putting it through the most demanding maneuvers we can think of," said Plant Director Mike Wright.

Take a look below to see Stig-aro and the new Vivaro in action, and then scroll down for the official press release from Vauxhall.

Continue reading The British require more of their delivery vans

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Nissan announces 5-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty for commercial vehicles

06/20/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Minivans/MPVs, Commercial Trucks, Nissan

2013 Nissan NV200

Nissan is a relative new-kid when it comes to the commercial van market in the US, with its commercial vehicles division only introducing the first NV vans in February 2011. But Nissan isn't letting its newcomer status keep it from challenging the established players in the segment. The company's latest shot over competitors' bows is announcing that, starting for the 2014 model year, its NV Cargo, NV Passenger and NV200 Compact Cargo vans carry a best-in-class, five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Their powertrain coverage also gets a 40,000-mile increase to five years/100,000 miles.

The new warranty is a huge leap over adversaries in the segment and should lure in some buyers looking for a longer term of coverage. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit and Transit Connect all carry a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The Fords offer five years and 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage, while all of the others increase that to 100,000 miles. Until this announcement, Nissan had the standard thee years of coverage, as well.

The Japanese automaker is clearly hungry to grab a bigger piece of the commercial van pie. Its heavy-duty NV vans have a relatively small 5.3 percent market share in their segment as of May 2014, according to the company's figures, but the NV200 is doing better with a 19.4 percent share. The division as a whole is on the upswing, though, with sales up 88 percent so far in 2014. With just a few years under its belt, Nissan Commercial Vehicles seems unafraid to challenge the status quo in the segment. Let's see how buyers respond. Scroll down to read the full announcement about the new warranty.

Continue reading Nissan announces 5-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty for commercial vehicles

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NHTSA investigating Chrysler for airbags, ignition switches

06/19/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, SUVs, Government/Legal, Recalls/TSBs, Crossovers/CUVs, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep

Dodge Grand Caravan

Chrysler is being targeted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a pair of actions that focus on over 1.2 million Jeeps, minivans and crossovers.

The first is a "preliminary investigation" that focuses on an airbag issue afflicting the Jeep Commander built in model years 2006 and 2007 and Grand Cherokee from 2005 to 2006. In total, 700,000 vehicles could potentially be affected. It's not entirely clear what the airbag issue is, with The Detroit Free Press simply stating that the restraint systems in the affected Jeeps may be "faulty."

The other investigation is what's called a "recall query" and it covers a problem that General Motors should be familiar with. In this case, there could be a problem with the ignition switches of 525,000 vehicles, ranging from 2008 to 2010 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, to the 2008 to 2010 Dodge Journey crossover. Again, it's not entirely clear what sort of behavior prompted the 32 complaints that NHTSA has received on these vehicles.

"Chrysler Group is awaiting additional information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Company has begun its own investigation and is prepared to cooperate fully with the agency," Chrysler told Autoblog in a short, emailed statement.

Of course, we'll stay with this story as it develops.

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