Navistar to build Chevy Express, GMC Savana Cutaways starting in 2017

The demand for mid-size pickup trucks is apparently overwhelming GM’s Wentzville, Montana assembly plant’s capabilities. In response, GM and Navistar have entered an agreement to free up space at Wentzville by moving production of the cutaway versions of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans to Navistar’s Springfield, Ohio plant.

The move will happen in the first half of 2017 and will not affect production of the standard cargo and passenger version of the G-series vans. The move will also add roughly 300 new jobs at Navistar as the company recommissions its second assembly line.

"We’re very pleased to partner with GM on this important manufacturing opportunity," said Persio Lisboa, president, Navistar operations. "Our Springfield plant is an important part of our manufacturing footprint, and we’ve been preparing it for a higher volume concentration of light- and medium-duty products as part of our manufacturing strategy.”

GM’s Cathy Clegg, the company’s North American Manufacturing and Labor Relations VP, voiced the positives for GM, saying, "This partnership will provide our Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant more flexibility to keep up with continued demand for mid-size trucks and full size vans."

This isn’t the first we’ve heard news of GM and Navistar teaming up. Back in July of 2015, we reported the pair was entering a mutually beneficial relationship to build Class 4, 5, and 6 medium-duty trucks. The relationship would put GM back in the medium-duty truck segment while giving Navistar the use of GM technology.

You likely remember the Navistar name for its long-standing relationship with Ford, however, which dates back to the 1980s with engine-sharing deals. Navistar also built Ford’s medium-duty trucks from 2001 through 2010. Perhaps the most memorable product was first version of Ford’s Power Stroke engine, the 7.3-liter V-8 turbodiesel. Ford and Navistar parted ways in 2010.

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Why It Matters

General Motors’ relationship with Navistar has been short-lived yet seemingly productive. Plans were first made in 2015 for the pair to begin building medium-duty trucks, though products have yet to be official revealed. This makes the Chevy Express/GMC Savana cutaway van announcement the first concrete evidence of the partnership.

On a different note, this move could be seen as preparation for GM’s next iteration of its full-size van. The G-series van has been around since 1996 with only one generational change and mild updates along the way. The Express and Savana now have to contend with the Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Euro-vans, not to mention the body-on-frame Nissan NV2500/3500. Of those competitors, the Nissan provides the closest competition, though it’s the oldest of the bunch – second only to the GM vans, of course.

Will GM go the way of Ford and Ram in offering a Euro-van-style product, or will it continue to compete with Nissan with a traditional body-on-frame, front engine, rear-drive van? It’ll be interesting to see how GM plays this one.

Press Release

NAVISTAR PARTNERS WITH GM TO MANUFACTURE CUTAWAY G VAN
LISLE, Ill., June 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Navistar, Inc. today announced it has reached an agreement with General Motors (GM) to manufacture the cutaway model of GM’s G Van at Navistar’s Springfield, Ohio plant starting in the first half of 2017. With this multi-year contract, Navistar will add at least 300 jobs and recommission its second line at the plant.

"We’re very pleased to partner with GM on this important manufacturing opportunity," said Persio Lisboa, president, Navistar operations. "Our Springfield plant is an important part of our manufacturing footprint, and we’ve been preparing it for a higher volume concentration of light- and medium-duty products as part of our manufacturing strategy. This is an important step towards our goal to drive automotive quality into the commercial vehicle industry."

GM produces cutaway vans for commercial customers. The company’s Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, which are full-length on frame, are upfitted into utility or service vehicles, ambulance or rescue vehicles, shuttle buses or school buses.

"This partnership will provide our Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant more flexibility to keep up with continued demand for mid-size trucks and full size vans," said Cathy Clegg, GM North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations Vice President.

Navistar and GM are not disclosing any further details of the agreement at this time.
Navistar primarily manufactures its DuraStar® and WorkStar® models at the Springfield plant. Last September, Navistar and GM announced a separate long-term agreement to develop and assemble a medium-duty, conventional cab Class 4/5 commercial vehicle at Navistar’s Springfield plant starting in 2018. The future products will be jointly developed using Navistar’s expertise in rolling chassis configurations and manufacturing capabilities, and GM’s commercial components and engines. The trucks will be available under both the International® and Chevrolet brands, and will mark Navistar’s reentry into the Class 4/5 market.

About Navistar
Navistar International Corporation (NYSE: NAV) is a holding company whose subsidiaries and affiliates produce International® brand commercial and military trucks, proprietary diesel engines, and IC Bus™ brand school and commercial buses. An affiliate also provides truck and diesel engine service parts. Another affiliate offers financing services. Additional information is available at www.Navistar.com.

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