mccormickmotorsWhen General Motors announced the closing of its Chevrolet and GMC medium-duty truck business last summer, McCormick Motors of Nappanee, Ind., was at risk of losing half its business.

The dealership sells more than 1,500 medium-duty trucks per year, and many Michiana companies that build ambulances, shuttle buses and RVs depended on the chassis for their vehicles, according to the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune Business Weekly.

McCormick’s was able to land a franchise agreement with Hino Trucks, Toyota’s medium-duty truck, days after the announcement and another franchise agreement with Isuzu Trucks in September.

“We either needed to change what our business looked like or we needed to replace it with another line,” says Gordon Moore, McCormicks vice president. “With over 1,500 medium-duty truck sales annually, the loss of GM medium duty was a significant and potentially fatal blow to the dealership.”

In addition to its franchise agreements, McCormick’s helped Hino make changes needed in its chassis to serve other manufacturers.

“For the past six months, McCormick Motors has been working with the Hino engineering staff to develop technical specifications to meet the needs of Michiana’s vibrant truck-body industries,” Moore says. “The most challenging engineering requirements come from the ambulance and shuttle-bus industries.”

Manufacturers involved include Startrans, Starcraft, Medtec, Goshen Coach, Glaval, Medix, and McCoy Miller. Moore says the work is progressing, with ambulance and shuttle-bus prototypes expected in Elkhart County by April.

“These prototypes will be equipped with the latest emission package with specifications to meet most of the requirements of the ambulance, shuttle bus and RV markets,” he says.

“With Hino production scheduled for June of this year, these chassis come on line just as the last of the Kodiak chassis are sold. This will provide local manufacturers with a comparable chassis to build on with the prospect of minimal loss in overall production.”

Hino is built in West Virginia, with some parts brought from Japan.

“We believe that Hino Truck will be the conventional chassis of choice for the specialty-body builder industry,” says McCormick President Bernie Beer. “Over the next three years, we are confident that the Hino truck chassis will be a significant part of the ambulance, shuttle bus and RV industries.”

Meanwhile, the dealership has been preparing for the new lines.

“Making the changes to support these new truck lines is a major endeavor,” Moore says. “Over the next 10 months, the dealership’s four medium-duty truck technicians will complete over 50 days of certification training with Hino and an additional 10 days of training with Isuzu.

“Since late July, sales, parts and administrative personnel have completed their job-specific certification training. The dealership website has been redesigned to reflect the changes in product offerings and has expanded research links that include both Hino and Isuzu.”