Not many HVAC contractors consider themselves fleet owners, but if you’re managing a field service and
installation team using two or more trucks, guess what: you are one. As such, the editors of Contracting Business.com wanted to share the newest in pickup and van-style vehicles that will be available starting  in late 2013. The automotive manufacturers are focusing on fuel efficiency and safety: so get ready to rumble, the 2014 trucks are rolling out soon. Here’s a preview. Thanks to sister magazine Fleet Owner (fleetowner.com) for sharing their data with us. — The Editors

Ford F-150: Aluminum Body is 2014’s “Biggest Loser”
Though Ford had completely redesigned its F-150 for the 2012 model year, followed by enhancements to the 2013 iteration, Ford is reportedly now engaged in what’s being termed a “radical redesign” of the iconic pickup that will incorporate a largely aluminum body to help increase fuel efficiency. Switching to the lighter metal in place of steel should cut the weight of the F-150 by some 700 lbs.—roughly a 15% reduction—to boost fuel economy while allowing for the use of smaller yet more efficient engines.  Ford will also offer the 2014 F-150 with the ability to run on compressed natural gas, which sources say makes Ford the only manufacturer with an available CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup.

The 2014 Ford F-150 with 3.7-liter V6 engine will be available this fall with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings so it can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems. When the 3.7-liter V6 F-150 is equipped with a CNG/LPG engine package, it is capable of achieving more than 750 miles on one tank of gas, depending on the tank size selected. The Ford F-150 averages 23 mpg on the highway. CNG/LPG engine prep from the factory costs approximately $315 before the customer chooses a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier to supply fuel tanks, fuel lines and unique fuel injectors. Upfits run approximately $7,500 to $9,500 depending on fuel tank capacity. ford.com

Toyota Tundra: Three Styles, Three Engines
The 2014 model Toyota Tundra full-size pickup represents the first major change to the Japanese OEM’s U.S. pickup truck line since the launch of the current generation back in the 2007 model year, says Bill Fay, Toyota Div. group vice president and general manager.
According to Fay, to satisfy the growing number of “premium” pickup buyers, the Tundra will come in five distinct grades, each of which will be immediately recognizable due to such design cues as a different front grille.  He says the Tundra SR grade will remain its entry-level offering and is “designed primarily for the work-use buyer who will value its excellent utility on the job.”

The Tundra will be offered in three cab styles: two-door regular cab, four-door double cab, and four-door CrewMax — all of which will be available either as 4x2 or 4x4 versions. Three engine offerings will also remain.  A 4L dual overhead cam (DOHC) V6 will be standard on Tundra regular and double cab models and will produce 270 hp. and 278 lbs.-ft. peak torque.  It will be paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission with uphill/downhill shift logic. The available 4.6L DOHC i-Force V8 will offer 310 hp and 327 lbs.-ft. of peak torque while the 5.7L DOHC i-Force V8 will produce 381 hp. and 401 lbs.-ft. of peak torque, in both gasoline and Flex Fuel variants.  Both V8s come standard with a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

Fay says the Tundra’s 5.7L V8 will allow it to carry more than 2,000 lbs. and tow over 10,000 lbs.  Other key features include new front and rear bumpers that change from one to three pieces for lower replacement costs; a more ergonomic “driver-centric” cab that places the center stack 2.6 in. closer for easier access; and an added trailer brake controller for the towing package, with 4- and 7-pin trailer connectors that have been moved up next to the license plate to make them easier to use and less susceptible to damage.    
toyota.com

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Engineered for Extra Stability, Safety
A brand new iteration of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is hitting the road for the 2014 model year, boasting a 4-cyl. diesel engine, a 7-speed automatic transmission,  five new safety systems, and improvements and refinements both to the interior and exterior of  the vehicle.

The biggest upgrade comes in the form of fuel economy improvements due to the introduction of the 156-hp. diesel engine in combination with the G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission.  Mercedes-Benz executives say this pairing delivers an 18% improvement in fuel efficiency versus the previous 6-cyl. diesel mated to a 5-speed automatic.  An “Eco-Gear” 6-speed manual transmission is available.
The Sprinter is also available with supercharged 4-cyl. gasoline engine featuring direct injection that cranks out 156 hp. from a total displacement of 1.8L. The engine is available in a natural gas variant with the same performance.

Safety systems being offered on the Sprinter include crosswind assist, which helps steady the van during highway operation; collision prevention assist, which involves automatic braking; blind spot assist, which is radar-based to detect vehicles in driver blind spots; highbeam assist, which automatically maintains highway illumination without blinding oncoming vehicles; and lane-keeping assist, which alerts the driver if the vehicle leaves its roadway lane.

Sprinter executives say that crosswind assist, which only activates once the vehicle exceeds roughly 50 mph, will come standard as part of the Sprinter’s electronic stability program system; the others will be offered as stand-alone options or as part of safety system packages. Ordering such technology as a complete package would cost roughly $1,780 MSRP, according to numbers given out by Mercedes-Benz officials.

The Sprinter also features a redesigned front grille and headlights along with other body style tweaks to help improve airflow around the vehicle.  The chassis has been lowered to improve the van’s drag and fuel consumption profile while making it easier to load and unload cargo.

New upholstery, a redesigned steering wheel, shift knob, instrument panel, and optional Becker map pilot navigation system round out the changes.  
mbsprinterusa.com

Ram ProMaster: Quieter, More Low-end Torque
Several new efforts are in the works for Chrysler’s Ram Trucks division for the 2014 model year, including the rollout of a new diesel-powered version of its Ram 1500 half-ton pickup and a new commercial van dubbed the ProMaster, both of which will start production in the third quarter of this year.

Ram plans to introduce a 3L V6 version of its EcoDiesel engine mated to its 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission in an effort to boost both fuel economy and low-end torque for its half-ton Ram 1500 pickup. The OEM expects an engine-transmission package will help reduce noise by 60%.  
The Ram ProMaster full-size van is based on the Fiat Ducato van built for the European market.  It is available in two roof heights (90 or 101 in.), three wheelbases, and four body lengths, with both chassis cab and cutaway model options.  

Its unibody frame architecture provides payload capacity of up to 5,145 lbs. and a maximum towing capacity up to 5,100 lbs.  The GCWR for the ProMaster is 11,500 lbs. when equipped with a 3.6L PentaStar V6 gasoline engine cranking out 280 hp. and 260 lbs.-ft. of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic.  Customers can also spec the 174 hp. 3L I-4 EcoDiesel, which generates 295 lbs.-ft. of torque and is mated to a 6-speed manual, for a GCWR of 12,500 lbs.

The ProMaster also features a standard sliding door on the passenger side with an optional sliding door on the driver’s side. The sliding door openings are based on roof height: 49x60 in. for the low roof model and 49x70 in. for high roof models. In the rear, an available two-position rear clamshell door swings open up to 260 deg., folding almost flat to the side of the van.  It also comes equipped with more than 35 active and passive safety features, with electronic stability control as a standard offering.

Ram also announced plans last month to introduce a small commercial van based on the Fiat Doblo.  That vehicle, which has not been named yet, will debut in 18 to 24 months, the company said.    
ramtrucks.com

Nissan NV200: Large Capacity, Smaller Footprint
The Nissan NV200 compact cargo van, introduced last year as a smaller sibling to the NV Cargo van and NV Passenger van, is designed to offer what Nissan dubs a “large cargo capacity with a small exterior footprint.”  This will make it highly maneuverable in traffic or for negotiating city parking spaces.

Yet, Nissan stresses its commercial platform allows for an estimated 1,500-lb. maximum payload.  The roomy cargo
area allows for loading standard U.S. 40x48-in. pallets.  Added utility is provided by the standard integrated mounting points, which allow installation of racks and shelves without drilling into the sidewalls.

The 2014 Nissan NV200 features a 2L 16-valve DOHC 4-cyl. engine mated to an Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) for smoother operation and responsive performance.

Joe Castelli, vice president-commercial vehicles and fleet for Nissan North America, says one reason more light-duty commercial vehicle models are now being introduced is because the U.S. is undergoing “segment fragmentation” in this market niche.  “The cost of operation is key now, which is why you are seeing different van platforms, engine options, and the like,” he explains, noting that the NV200 compact cargo van is but one result of that fragmentation.

“The compact market is running maybe 40,000 units a year compared to 225,000 for big vans,” Castelli says.  “But [the NV200] is a vehicle that can get 24 mpg city/highway combined.  It won’t work for every operator, but if someone can get away with a 700-lb. cargo capacity for their operation and thus can switch to a smaller yet more fuel-efficient cargo van, they will do it.”

For those needing a larger van, Nissan offers the NV Cargo van in three variations, the NV1500, NV2500 and NV3500.  Nissan is also preparing to field what it calls an “all-new” model of its Titan full-size pickup, first introduced back in 2003.

Pierre Loing, vice president-product and advanced planning and strategy for Nissan Americas, says that Nissan’s truck team is looking at broadening the Titan product portfolio to reach more personal-use buyers while also appealing to commercial owners and fleets.  
nissancommercialvehicles.com

GMC Sierra and Chevrolet City Express: Combining Style & Efficiency
GM’s completely redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups are arguably more differentiated from each other in looks than their predecessor models.  In addition, they both boast a new family of fuel-efficient yet powerful EcoTec3 gasoline engines.  Dramatically styled exteriors and cabs are described as quieter as well as more comfortable and functional.

The GMC Sierra includes a new interior with two glove boxes, center console and door panel storage, and a six-gauge cluster.  Four upfitter switches with 30 amps of power can switch between battery or ignition power as needed.  The extended cab model has been eliminated in favor of a double cab, which includes forward opening rear doors.
The three available engine choices (4.3L V6, 5.3L V8, and 6.2L V8) offer increased power, torque and fuel
efficiency.  The new engines feature direct fuel injection and continuously variable timing along with cylinder
deactivation—switching down to four cylinders when maximum power is not required—to provide what the OEM dubs “maximum performance and minimum fuel consumption” in real-world conditions.

GM points out the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the 2014 Chevy Silverado regular cab is equal to that of the 2013 Silverado model.  The company adds that the base price includes several new features: the new 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine; a 6-speed automatic transmission; an all-new cab interior; four-wheel disc brakes with
Duralife rotors; and a new bed with standard box rail protectors and “corner step” bumper.

The base MSRP for the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 double cab, which replaces the 2013 extended cab model, and the crew cab models, will mirror the 2013 base MSRPs, GM notes.  Fuel economy numbers for the 2014 Chevy Silverado are 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined for its 2WD versions and 16 mpg city,
22 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined for 4WD models.

GM also plans to introduce small pickup models within two years to replace the discontinued Chevrolet
Colorado and GMC Canyon.  Those models were cut from the GM lineup in 2012.
GM also plans to introduce the Chevrolet City Express, a new small cargo van, by the fall of 2014.  It will be based on Nissan’s NV200 van but badged with the Chevrolet nameplate as part of a partnership deal between GM and Nissan that the OEMs say should last several years.

The City Express will use the Nissan powertrain, which includes a 2L 16-valve dual overhead cam 4-cyl. engine rated at 131 hp. and 139 lbs.-ft. of torque.  It will be available in two trim levels, the LS and LT, and feature 1,500 lbs.of payload capacity and 122.7 cu. ft. of cargo space.
The van, which will be built in Cuernavaca, Mexico, was initially available only in cargo configuration.    
gm.com

AMP Workhorse: An Electrifying Transport
The Workhorse walk-in electric-powered medium-duty brand, related patents and its Union City, IN, assembly plant were purchased by Amp Holdings from Navistar International earlier this year via Amp Trucks Inc., a newly formed subsidiary. Amp plans to recommence Workhorse production at the 200,000-square-foot factory in Union City, Ind. with a decided emphasis on battery electrics.

The Workhorse uses power-dense Remy motors and large format prismatic lithium iron phosphate battery cells primarily from China Aviation. Amp builds its own battery packs using a commercially available BMS (battery management system). Amp employs PSI powertrains with 4.8- and 6.0-liter GM engines for gasoline, propane, and CNG-fueled Workhorse models.
ampelectricvehicles.com