New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

  1. Welcome to GM Inside News Forum – General discussion forum for GM

    Welcome to GM Inside News Forum - a website dedicated to all things GM.

    You are currently viewing our forum as a guest, which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our community, at no cost, you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. Registration is free, fast and simple, Join GM Inside News Forum today!
     
Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 62

Thread: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

  1. #1
    GMI Contributor Premium Member Ming's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    An Alternate Timeline
    Posts
    14,692
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?
    Editorial by Ming
    www.gminsidenews.com
    3/13/2005



    If you've been under a rock for the past few months, you might have missed that the 70-year-old Baltimore plant that has produced the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari mid-vans is shutting down: http://forums.gminsidenews.com/showthread.php?t=11106

    Speaking as someone who just got an amazing deal on a near-new condition 2004 GMC Safari SLE AWD, I can see why some people would miss these vans. Hardly fresh, but useful in their niche, the downside to the Astro & Safari mid-vans was the lack of updates to keep the models relevant in today's market. A sliding door on the driver's side, fold-away seating, an engine providing better fuel economy, and slightly updated interior styling would have kept the vans alive in their niche as the "do everything" vehicle. Hauling 8 passengers, having a good tow rating, and offering a much larger-than-SUV cargo area with the seats removed is what made these vans popular, and convinced me recently to pick one up for nearly half the price of a new one. Considering that many passenger cars sell for more, sometimes bigger really IS better.



    And 'bigger' brings me to the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana. Long considered the bigger brothers of the outgoing Astro and Safari, the Express & Savana have also long been overlooked, in my opinion, as alternatives to big and pricey SUVs. Although from some angles of the exterior it is hard to tell, in 2003 the big vans got a rather extensive redesign, that included improving their steering setup to rack & pinion, and a strenthened body structure. The interior was also updated with a more solid-feeling dash and a more modern and slightly angular design. Having owned a 2001, I can vouch for the quality feel of the improvements. Compared to the long-unchanged Astro and Safari, these vans are positively "modern". Some might claim that the big vans are too huge - and ponderous to handle. But it is simply a matter of getting used to driving them, and the sense of being up too high or in too long a vehicle is nothing a 24-hour test drive won't fix. I used to drive my Express like a hot rod, so I should know.

    Made in the Wentzville, Missouri Assembly Facility, these rugged behemoths are primarily used in their extreme forms: as bare bones Cargo Vans, or fully trimmed out Conversion Vans. It seems that only airports, churches and a few saavy customers actually order them in their mid-level "Passenger" trim, as I rarely see them on dealership lots or being driven around town by families. I bought mine in 2000 as an alternative to a pickup truck with a bed cover. I left the last row of seating out of an 8-passenger version, and used the huge cargo space most of the time like I would with a truck bed. And I had the extra flexibility of seating 8 when I needed to, or securely loading and keeping items like antique dressers in it, unlike a pickup.

    Whenever I've inquired about an Express or Savana Passenger van, I've usually been met by a raised eyebrow, a stunned silence, or a answer like "I think we have one..." followed by a fruitless walk around the dealership that mysteriously always leaves me standing in front of a Suburban.

    "Have you considered a full-size SUV, like this Suburban here?"

    "Yes, of course. I've also considered that the Suburbans are about 10 thousand dollars more - and with far less potential cargo space."

    That answer usually leads to a discussion of ordering a full-size van. This is on dealership lots with 100 or so Suburbans lined up in rows. The few times I do stumble upon a nice looking "passenger" van, it tends to be a Conversion model priced up in Suburban territory, and with enough fabric inside to trim out a 2-story house.



    With the "do it all" mid-van twins leaving GMC and Chevy dealerships with the 2005 model, will the people who loved the van utility, towing capability, and high seating position of van-life find themselves considering an Express or Savana? As a previous Express owner myself, I find it very likely, with a little effort on GM's part.

    The front-wheel-drive Crossover Sport Vans (Uplander, Montana SV6, etc.), unfortunately, offer a smaller cargo opening bay when compared to the Astro or Express. And when equipped with the optional cargo storage system, even with the 3rd row seats folded, the cargo area is not much bigger than many of the SUVs in GM's lineup. And despite the increase in horsepower and torque over the last generation of minivans, the CSV's are not rated to tow any more than the Ventures and Sihouettes that went before them. So the CSV's, though I had at one point hoped they would be, are not really a viable replacement for the Astro & Safari.

    In any case, the last of the Astros and Safaris will have left the dealership lots soon, and only time will tell what choice their loyalists make. GM should hope their choice doesn't involve a Honda, Toyota, or Dodge emblem - which is the direction the automotive magazines and web sites will push them in.



    But before GM lures long-time Astro buyers into considering the larger Express, there are a few small things they need to do to the Passenger version of the van to improve their appeal - without pricing the vans in Suburban territory:

    1. Improve the fit & finish of some of the interior trim in the 2nd row and back. I was appalled at the lack of attention given to the plastic trim surrounding the second row driver's side window in one of the passenger models I sat in. The bits were loose and clearly not well assembled. Whether that is a design-engineering issue or an assembly issue I couldn't tell, but it looked cheap and like something that might be fine for Airport duty - but not for daily rides with the kids - or for showing off to friends.

    2. Improve the insulation. I'm not demanding "Quiet Tuning" here. It's not much to ask to expect the doors not to slam with a hollow 'clang' befitting a Cargo van. If the conversion companies can make the doors close with a satisfying thud - if Lear was able to do it with the Express LT and Savana SLT, then GM can at least meet their efforts half-way on the Passenger models.

    3. Promote the vehicles for more than just Fleet duty - to Families and the Dealerships. I can't recall the last time (if ever) I saw a commercial for the Savana and Express vans. This is one likely reason why when I go to the dealership they are rarely in stock as Passenger vans, and why when I owned an Express so few people were able to relate to the names of GM's full-size vans.

    4. Another alternative: Ask the conversion companies for less-expensive models, with less frou-frou decoration inside and out - just a step above the utilitarian base Passenger van trim. I would have considered a "conversion van" of this type if the curtains, beds, and over-the-top ornamentation didn't look like it would get in the way of utility. I know that the conversion companies are looking to turn a profit, but they might consider that people like me actually like to use the area from the 3rd row back as a rough & tumble cargo area, even if we like the other creature comforts the converters provide. Fancy curtains on the rear windows and Berber carpet do not facilitate a useful rear cargo area.



    If GM is content with sales as they are, with the status quo that dictates that their big vans are only good for conversions and cargo vans for the most part, then they will ignore this opportunity. They might look at the relative sales failure of the pre-redesign "LT" models and conclude that the public isn't ready for an Astro-replacement at the full-size van level (which I think was due more to a sky-high price than anything else). But with the right advertising, attention to details, and price, I think that Wentzville can pick up Balitimore's slack, and provide Chevy and GMC with another popular pair of niche vehicles in lieu of the Astro and Safari.

    ***
    Last edited by Ming; 03-14-2005 at 07:29 AM.

  2. Remove Advertisements
    GM Inside News
    Advertisements
     

  3. #2
    327
    327 is offline
    Guest
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    6,649
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    ive seen them used not only by airports/ taxi services. and churches, BUT Lots of schools/ high schools/ smaller colleges, Construction companies, plumbers telephone companies, A/C heating companies. along with rental companies and regular people that buy them. O and delivery companies too.

  4. #3
    Guest
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    1,680
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    For 2006 the Duramax diesel will be available too. The GM press release I saw mentions "commercial models". I'm not sure if this means cargo only or if the passenger van is considered a commercial. From what I see, most of the passenger vans are commercial in a way; e.g. churches and schools, rather than for private use as Ming suggests. And I don't know what the starting point is for the conversion vans. I'd think they would start with a cargo van. I agree with Ming. The full sized van has it all over a pickup. Way more capacity, even without going to the extended version, and your cargo is covered and heated/cooled.

  5. Remove Advertisements
    GM Inside News
    Advertisements
     

  6. #4
    6.2 Liter LS3 V8
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Rockville MD/ Columbus OH
    Posts
    3,528
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    I think the reason that these vans aren't advertised towards families is because GM can make a bigger profit selling full-size SUVs
    Proud driver of a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee
    5.2 Magnum V8
    164,000 miles

  7. #5
    3.6 Liter SIDI V6 SpeedFever's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    813 Florida
    Posts
    1,036
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    Quote Originally Posted by 86fleet
    I think the reason that these vans aren't advertised towards families is because GM can make a bigger profit selling full-size SUVs
    All too true

  8. #6
    4.4 Liter Supercharged Northstar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta
    Posts
    2,979
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ming
    [1. Improve the fit & finish of some of the interior trim in the 2nd row and back. I was appalled at the lack of attention given to the platic trim surrounding the second row driver's side window in one of the passenger models I sat in. The bits were loose and clearly not well assembled. Whether that is a design-engineering issue or an assembly issue I couldn't tell, but it looked cheap and like something that might be fine for Airport duty - but not for daily rides with the kids - or for showing off to friends.

    2. Improve the insulation. I'm not demanding "Quiet Tuning" here. It's not much to ask to expect the doors not to slam with a hollow 'clang' befitting a Cargo van. If the conversion companies can make the doors close with a satisfying thud - if Lear was able to do it with the Express LT and Savana SLT, then GM can at least meet their efforts half-way on the Passenger models.
    If GM hasn't fixed their fit and finish problems on interiors by now, I give up. Everytime they fix the interior on one vehicle, we find another dog that has been ignored. It's a never ending story.

    Same with sound insulation. Doesn't anyone who designs these vehicles ever drive one?? And why not Quiet Tuning? Is it too good for customers?

    GM killed the Safari and Astro because they milked a tired old platform for 20 years. With modest improvements every several years, they could have kept these two vehicles alive. They were a perfect size for many and now your only choice is to move up to the mammoth full size vans that are much too large for most people.

    But we've seen this all before. I know, GM is like a huge ship that is hard to turn around. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been hearing this about GM for 20 years now. But is the ship turning around or is it just sinking?

  9. #7
    Guest
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    582
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    Those vans are awsome.They are the most veritile things GM makes.

  10. #8
    6.2 Liter LS9 Supercharged V8
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    8,853
    Thanks
    236
    Thanked 29 Times in 10 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    What a great idea for an editorial, Ming. I have seen several of these conversion vans on the road, and reluctantly admit that I find the Express & Savana vans actually attractive. Their features, including engine choices and general versatility, make them all the more attractive. And I say this as one who is inclined to smaller, sportier sedans. Though I don't imagine myself purchasing one in the near future, I definitely think these vans serve a purpose and make sense within the GM lineup.

    Perhaps, as you suggest, Ming, the demise of the Safari and Astro will breathe new life into this great vehicles.

  11. #9
    6.2 Liter LS9 Supercharged V8 goblue's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Posts
    7,170
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 16 Times in 8 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    A short wheelbase option on the fullsizers would effectively recreate this niche, no?
    Pair it up with the 4200 and a 6K towing capacity and that would be a great vehicle. Avail V8 (5.3) for extra power and 8K towing if necessary. Also, I personally (and others) hate sliding doors - so this would solve that dilemma for some.

    Also, it appears that Lambda may accomodate the 4200 as well, so maybe, just maybe the new minivans could pull 5K and grow in size a touch. That would be a great vehicle. Pair it up with the truck hybrid system making 2-3kW generated power, and thats a convincing package. The ultimate camping / activity vehicle with fuel econ to use as a daily driver and the ablility to really move a kid into a dorm unlike using a TB. Lets see the Sienna do that! Also, with the 4200 and a 6 speed auto that thing would move.

    These 2 potential vehicles would attack a niche no other company is filling from either end - using 2 platforms instead of 3, and provide standard FWD vs RWD with both hopefully offering AWD. I can't imagine it would be all that hard to do.
    Last edited by goblue; 03-13-2005 at 10:51 PM.

  12. #10
    GMI Contributor Premium Member Ming's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    An Alternate Timeline
    Posts
    14,692
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    Quote Originally Posted by stormwatcher
    If GM hasn't fixed their fit and finish problems on interiors by now, I give up. Everytime they fix the interior on one vehicle, we find another dog that has been ignored. It's a never ending story.

    Same with sound insulation. Doesn't anyone who designs these vehicles ever drive one?? And why not Quiet Tuning? Is it too good for customers?
    Well, the problem for that one I sat in was mostly from the 2nd row back. Where the driver sits, touches and looks, the fit & finish is good. Perhaps that is because that particular part of the van is available across the line-up, including box vans. The "Passenger" trim is only from the 2nd row back, and there aren't a whole lot of them made, relatively speaking - and they aren't apparently being targeted towards families currently. (That didn't stop pickups from becoming popular years ago, though).

    The insulation thing is a cost matter. I wouldn't ask for the cost of laminated glass windows, for instance, but I expect GM to put more insulation at least in the hollow sounding doors without adding too much cost.

  13. #11
    2.8 Liter Turbocharged V6 slowinthefastlane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Posts
    876
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 29 Times in 15 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    How about a shorter wheelbase version of the vans - one that will fit into most people's garages? That would make a better Astro/Safari replacement.

  14. #12
    2.4 Liter SIDI ECOTEC jarsworldcom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    St. Louis
    Posts
    341
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    My Ride
    2012 GMC Terrain

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ming
    But before GM lures long-time Astro buyers into considering the larger Express, there are a few small things they need to do to the Passenger version of the van to improve their appeal - without pricing the vans in Suburban territory:

    1. Improve the fit & finish of some of the interior trim in the 2nd row and back. I was appalled at the lack of attention given to the plastic trim surrounding the second row driver's side window in one of the passenger models I sat in. The bits were loose and clearly not well assembled. Whether that is a design-engineering issue or an assembly issue I couldn't tell, but it looked cheap and like something that might be fine for Airport duty - but not for daily rides with the kids - or for showing off to friends.

    2. Improve the insulation. I'm not demanding "Quiet Tuning" here. It's not much to ask to expect the doors not to slam with a hollow 'clang' befitting a Cargo van. If the conversion companies can make the doors close with a satisfying thud - if Lear was able to do it with the Express LT and Savana SLT, then GM can at least meet their efforts half-way on the Passenger models.

    3. Promote the vehicles for more than just Fleet duty - to Families and the Dealerships. I can't recall the last time (if ever) I saw a commercial for the Savana and Express vans. This is one likely reason why when I go to the dealership they are rarely in stock as Passenger vans, and why when I owned an Express so few people were able to relate to the names of GM's full-size vans.

    4. Another alternative: Ask the conversion companies for less-expensive models, with less frou-frou decoration inside and out - just a step above the utilitarian base Passenger van trim. I would have considered a "conversion van" of this type if the curtains, beds, and over-the-top ornamentation didn't look like it would get in the way of utility. I know that the conversion companies are looking to turn a profit, but they might consider that people like me actually like to use the area from the 3rd row back as a rough & tumble cargo area, even if we like the other creature comforts the converters provide. Fancy curtains on the rear windows and Berber carpet do not facilitate a useful rear cargo area.
    I will pass this list along to my superiors.

  15. #13
    2.4 Liter SIDI ECOTEC jarsworldcom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    St. Louis
    Posts
    341
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    My Ride
    2012 GMC Terrain

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    Quote Originally Posted by slowinthefastlane
    How about a shorter wheelbase version of the vans - one that will fit into most people's garages? That would make a better Astro/Safari replacement.
    They tried to do something like that. The cost was to high I am told.

  16. #14
    Guest
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    848
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    The fact is I would spend hardly any amount of time taking a vehicle off-road. And since you can get AWD on these full-size vans for a cheaper price than a Tahoe or Suburban, it would make sense to get an Express/Savana. The handling of those full-size vans are not as crisp as a Tahoe or Suburban, but then again, how many of those full-size SUV drivers consider taking their vehicles to perform record slalom times? A lot of SUV drivers can save money by buying a full-size. I would like to see GM produce some new mid-sizers if they aren't going to increase the size of the Uplanders and Terrazas. The problem with the Uplander and Terraza is that they are smaller than competitive FWD minivans. The Sienna, Odyssey, and Caravan clearly outclass it in terms of interior spaciousness and seating versatility. A new mid-sizer about the same size as or a tad larger than the Safari/Astro would give people more reason to buy GM when it comes to a good people hauler.

  17. #15
    Guest
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    1,921
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Re: New Life for Express & Savana to spring from Astro & Safari's Demise?

    I think the conversion van companies use the cargo version because the bigger windows in the back and alot of the interior trim is different. I've seen some really cool black and gold ones with the body skirt and chrome wheels and without that high-roof thing that were done by conversion companies and selling for around 30K.

    http://www.explorervan.com/
    http://www.explorervan.com/photo.html
    http://www.classicvans.com/vannew.html
    Last edited by gmsickofan; 03-14-2005 at 11:17 AM.

  18. Remove Advertisements
    GM Inside News
    Advertisements
     

Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v4.1.2