Kelsey Mays, Cars.com
Come the 2015 model year, shoppers will find no more light-duty full-size vans from GM. Taking a cue from their full-size peers, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana will drop their 1500 light-duty versions for 2015.
That means all remaining Express and Savana models will exceed the 8,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating — the government's threshold for light- and heavy-duty vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter doesn't offer a 1500 version, and the E-Series' light-duty E-150 passed the 8,500-pound line after the 2006 model year — as does the 2014 Ram ProMaster and most versions of the new 2015 Ford Transit.
We chatted with GM about the decision.
"We recognize that the van space has changed radically," Joe Langhauser, product manager for GM's full-size vans, told us. "The 1500-series van was the last vehicle [of its type] that has been produced in North America that was under 8,500 pounds, and it had some very unique attributes to it."
Those included a unique front suspension and GM's old, fourth-gen 4.3-liter V-6 — "the last gen-four engine that GM made," Langhauser said.
GM builds the Savana and Express at its Wentzville, Mo. plant — a facility northwest of St. Louis that's received more than half a billion dollars' investment, including a new stamping plant, to accommodate the upcoming next-gen Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickup trucks.
Customers for the full-size vans, meanwhile, overwhelmingly prefer the 2500, 3500 and 4500 versions. Light-duty (1500) versions account for just 23 percent of Express and 7 percent of Savana sales, GM sales spokesman Jim Cain said.
The 1500s "would become a very low-volume-production product," Langhauser added. "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."
What about those 1500-series shoppers? GM officials didn't seem worried.
"We knew we could move a lot of our 1500 customers into 2500-series territory," Langhauser said. Others would switch to a smaller van.
"Customers are either getting a lot bigger or a lot smaller," said GM fleet and commercial spokesman Robert Wheeler. "For GM, the 1500 was the only option out there. That was our smallest van, if you will. Now that we've added the [Chevrolet] City Express," a reference to GM's new-for-2015 small cargo van.
That doesn't mean the Express and Savana 1500 are gone for good. But anything below 8,500 pounds GVWR — which necessitates everything from domestic-parts content to fuel-economy ratings — won't return.
"Would we ever bring back that  badging and that labeling? Potentially, but it will always be over 8,500 pounds in that space," Langhauser said. "There are a lot of regulatory changes that occur at 8,500 pounds."