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Cargo vans stay much the same for 2005.
2005 Cargo Vans
What's new in cargo vans?
By Bill Roebuck
For the past few years, manufacturers of cargo vans have been investing in two main areas: more power and more comfort. For 2005 models, however, there are not many new developments on those fronts. It's a small and mature market, with not much cry for innovation.
For most companies in the service business, cargo vans are offices, service centres and warehouses on wheels. Size certainly matters when it comes to usable storage space, but so do such things as driver comforts, powerful engines, wide-opening doors, safety and reliability. Models introduced over the past couple of years enhanced those features, and this year, it's mainly status quo.
Cargo vans are part of a unique market in North America. It's the only one where the Big Three automakers have 100% market share. All the vans available come from either Ford, General Motors or DaimlerChrysler.
The newest offering in this category is the Dodge Sprinter, introduced last year. It's an oversized van based on an existing Mercedes-Benz design that's been available in Europe for years. Although DaimlerChrysler's Sprinter van is a German design, it is marketed directly here by Chrysler/Dodge dealerships, so it counts as a Big Three offering. In the U.S., it's sold as a Freightliner model.
Gone this year is the Dodge Ram Van, which was removed from the company's offerings in 2004 after the Sprinter arrived.
Dodge Sprinters have a sliding side door on the passenger side and swing-out rear doors. Two models are offered, a 2500 and 3500. Each is available in standard or high-roof form and comes in three wheelbases: 118, 140 and 158 in. The high roof adds nine inches of interior room.
The Sprinter is powered by a 2.7-litre, five-cylinder turbodiesel and a five-speed automatic transmission. New for 2005 are a standard-equipment on-board diagnostics system, identification lamps on the front of the roof's cab, and a third brake light on the rear of the roof.
The next newest design comes from General Motors, with its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana twins, which were dramatically redesigned inside and out in 2003. The Savana has five-star frontal crash safety ratings for the driver and front passenger. It's also the only model in the segment to offer all-wheel drive as an option.
For 2005, the Savana and Express offer GM's StabiliTrak anti-skid system on a wider range of models. Half-ton 1500 models are offered in regular length only, while the three-quarter-ton 2500 and one-ton 3500 come in regular or extended lengths.
Each of these models has two swing-open rear cargo doors and either 60/40 'barn' doors or a sliding door on the passenger side. The 60/40 doors also are available on the driver side as an option.
A stalwart model in the cargo van market is found in Ford's E-Series (formerly Econoline), which has been refreshed over recent years but still retains some of its old-style roots. The 2005 model is much the same as last year's offering. A new rack-and-bin system is available this year, though.
The Ford E-Series is the only full-size van to offer a choice of gasoline or diesel engines.
Models include the half-ton E-150, three-quarter-ton E-250, and one-ton E-350. E-250/350 versions come in regular or extended-length bodies. All have centre-opening rear cargo doors and either a 60/40-split side door or a sliding door on the passenger side.
One of the reasons you don't see big changes year over year in cargo vans is that it is not that big a market in Canada; just 28,506 large vans were sold here in 2004.
Compare that figure to the small van or minivan market. Although there is competition from foreign models in the small van segment, the Big Three claim more than 78% market share. It's a much larger segment because of the popularity of these models with consumers, with sales of 144,428 units last year -- five times as many as sales of cargo vans.
© Bill Roebuck, Cartest.ca 2005