The rear-wheel drive van will get 25 percent better fuel economy than a comparable E-Series van, he says, and will use the same V-6, 3.5-liter engine used in the F-150.
Isuzu has exited the pickup market in the U.S. entirely, concentrating on its low cab forward (LCF) vehicles in Class 3 to Class 5 categories. (The Class 3 truck GVWR ranges from 10,001 to 14,000 pounds.) In addition, Isuzu has launched a new walk-in van.
“Ultimately, our truck is a work truck,” says Brian Tabel, retail marketing manager for Anaheim, Calif.-based Isuzu Commercial Truck of America. “The key thing is dependability, getting from point A to point B and back without downtime.”
The typical market for the LCF trucks tends to be larger businesses that find pickups just don’t fit every area of their enterprise. Contractors can select a van body or a chassis cab configuration and add a custom cargo container. Other manufacturers offer similar chassis cab choices with conventional engine/cab configurations.
In keeping with its commercial emphasis and the priorities of those who buy this class of trucks, all Isuzu N-Series diesel engines carry a B10 durability rating of 310,000 miles, meaning 90 percent of these engines should reach that mileage before requiring an overhaul, Tabel explains.
Diesel versus gasoline engines are a significant choice facing remodelers in the market for a new truck. “It’s a question of need,” Ford’s Levine says. “You have to need that diesel engine to justify it. It’s going to most suit the person who is towing heavy trailers. You’ll get better off-the-line performance and better towing performance because of the greater torque.
“Keep in mind there is a price premium for a diesel engine, although you are getting better fuel economy relative to a gas engine, especially when you’re towing,” Levine says. The price premium comes about, he explains, because the construction of a diesel engine must be more robust to handle the compression ratios and because of emissions hardware that is not required on a gasoline engine.
Beyond diesel and gasoline, especially for fleet owners, is compressed natural gas (CNG), which is quite a bit cheaper than gasoline, Levine says. Engines in most of Ford’s vehicles can be prepped with hardened valves and seats to accommodate CNG, and the full powertrain warranty would be honored. Access to a CNG fueling infrastructure, of course, is essential.
At the March National Truck Equipment Association show in Indianapolis, GM unveiled an extended-cab Bi-fuel CNG pickup, which will operate on CNG or gasoline. Orders are being taken and deliveries are expected in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Remodeling contractors frequently find themselves using their trucks as offices, so power outlets for laptops and other devices are often popular, Levine says. He also suggests an option that allows fleet owners to keep tabs on where drivers are and what they’re doing. “Fleet operators have been able to reduce operating costs by up to 20 percent,” he says.
Tigges agrees many commercial customers use their truck as a mobile office, noting GM offers a modem that can make the vehicle a mobile WiFi hot spot. Not only can drivers use their laptops and smartphones inside the vehicle but also within 150 feet of it. “It’s a simple one-wire installation,” he says, “so you can move it to another vehicle if the vehicle is sold or out of service for any reason.”
Vanity and appearance options are important, too. Of particular interest are vinyl wraps that add graphics and text to a vehicle without the need to paint the truck and which can be removed if the truck is sold.
Trucks are more user-friendly, as well. Ford, for example, offers a tailgate step that pops out so drivers don’t have to put a knee on the tailgate to climb into the box. “Let’s say you’ve been remodeling for 20 or 30 years; not everyone wants to drag themselves into the back of the cargo box,” Levine explains.
For remodelers, trucks of one sort or another will always be tools of their trade, and choosing just the right one is not a small task.