Utilimaster Corp., a subsidiary of Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Motors Inc. specializing in walk-in vans and commercial truck bodies for the delivery and service market, and Anaheim, Calif.-based Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty trucks, jointly launched the Reach commercial van today (Oct. 25) at Spartan’s Utilimaster plant in Wakarusa, Ind.
Senior management from Utilimaster, Spartan and Isuzu held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and ceremonial gift exchange before an audience of customers, government officials, regional media and special guests.
“The Reach represents a great opportunity to impact our customers’ businesses, significantly reduce both fuel consumption across their fleets as well as their carbon footprint,” said Utilimaster President John Forbes. “Today is the culmination of a focused program that benefited from the global resources and power train capabilities of Isuzu and the market-specific knowledge and product development capabilities of Utilimaster.”
“We are leading – not following – the changing needs of the marketplace,“ Spartan President & CEO John Sztykiel told the assemblage, adding that the Reach is “the biggest breakthrough in the commercial van marketplace in the last 30 years” because of its styling, fuel-conscious drivetrain and durable chassis.
First introduced in March, the Reach – with a Utilimaster-designed body atop an Isuzu NPR ECO-MAX chassis powered by Isuzu’s 3.0-liter diesel engine – offers the functionality of a custom-built work truck along with the styling and ergonomics of a cargo van, Spartan reports. Fuel economy is a key selling point of the Reach, according to Spartan, which claims that it yields 35% better fuel economy than a traditional commercial van.
Spartan claims the Reach offers “best-in-class mileage” and meets EPA emissions standards, yet still provides true commercial truck capabilities and delivers a dramatically lower cost of ownership than traditional walk-in vans.
“The continued diligent work of everyone involved on this product has positioned us for further growth in the delivery and service market,” Sztykiel commented. “Today we celebrate the success of this team and their ability to produce a sustainable product that meets the duty-cycle demands of our customers, improved safety performance and driver ergonomics, as well as an exceptionally low cost of ownership.”
“Powering the Reach is Isuzu’s state-of-the-art, bio-diesel fuel compatible 4JJ1-TC 3.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to an Aisin medium-duty 6-speed automatic transmission,” Spartan’s release states. “Both the engine and transmission have class-leading B10 durability ratings of 310,000 miles, meaning that 90% of units will reach that mileage before requiring an overhaul.
“Utilimaster guided the development of the Reach’s aerodynamic shape, along with its use of composite materials, which together improve fuel efficiency and reduce interior noise,” the release continues. “The lightweight composite materials provide a 700-pound weight savings compared to traditional aluminum and steel materials. The Reach van also employs impact-resistant composite panels designed to reduce overall maintenance costs.”
Spartan’s new Reach, which some in the industry have speculated could have small motorhome applications, has a 151-inch wheelbase and is available in 12-and-14 foot body lengths. With an interior up to 27 inches higher than a conventional domestic van — and ten inches wider than imported vans — the Reach’s cargo area offers 540 or 630 cubic feet of storage, depending on the body length selected, Spartan reports.
Meanwhile, Hodge Patel, district director for 2nd District Rep. Joe Donnelly, told the Utilimaster crowd that the Reach launch represented yet another step in the recovery of Elkhart County, where the unemployment rate exceeded a “staggering” 20% in March of 2009 during the pit of the recession. Patel applauded Spartan for taking an inventive approach in new product development that helped bring jobs to the area. “We see it right here behind us – a light weight vehicle, better fuel efficiency and a better design,” said Patel.