Goshen News: Utilimaster introduces new commercial van

WAKARUSA — The global economy, and Elkhart County’s place in it, was on display Wednesday inside Utilimaster’s Plant 11.

Before a crowd of employees, politicians, suppliers and their partners from Isuzu, Utilimaster officials introduced their new Reach commercial van.


The van is the result of three years of development, which integrated Isuzu’s four-cylinder, 3-liter diesel engine and Utilimaster’s new body that utilizes composites to bring the weight down and give the van better fuel economy and durability.


John Marshall, vice president of sales and marketing for Utilimaster, said several years ago the company’s clients looked at the future and realized they needed a more fuel-efficient vehicle that produced less exhaust pollutants than the current eight-cylinder diesel engines.


He said the Reach van achieves those goals and also has innovative design features, including a lower chassis, quick driver access to the cargo area and a sliding door, all which save time for drivers.


The van also has composite lower body panels that resist corrosion.


Marshall said the Isuzu diesel engine is estimated to have a 310,000 mile durability range.


"Our clients will save $3,000 to $5,000 (for each vehicle), per year in fuel," Marshall said.


When a client has 88,000 vehicles, which FedEx has, Marshall said, the savings is substantial.


"Our clients are going to save millions of dollars on fuel and the product will have a longer life span. That’s just smart business," he said.


Utilimaster has orders for 300 Reach vans for the remainder of the year and has orders for at least 2,000 more in 2011.


Marshall said jobs will be added at Utilimaster as production ramps up.


This new product is having a positive impact on businesses that supply parts to Utilimaster.

Jerry McKenny of Professional Metal Works in Haslett, Mich. was watching the festivities at Utilimaster. His company supplies metal parts for the van.


"It’s another step up for us," he said of the partnership.


"We are riding right along with them as they launch the prototypes and then start production," he said.


Nearby, Barry Grife and Greg Hottinger were sticking their heads inside the Reach. Their Goshen company, Starquest Products, supplies an optional window for the van.


"It’s more production for us. We have a line set up for it," Hottinger said. "It’s a great opportunity."


-Roger Schneider, Goshen News