Winning the New York City Taxi of Tomorrow tender was a huge prize for Nissan, even though the company is still working through the process of claiming its prize. The United States Postal Service has begun the process to take bids for a new delivery vehicle to replace the all-too-familiar Grumman Long Life Vehicle, and that will be a much larger plum for the automaker who wins it, perhaps worth more than six billion dollars.

The Grumman LLV is an aluminum body covering a Chevrolet S-10 pickup chassis and General Motors' Iron Duke four-cylinder engine. The USPS bought them from 1987 to 1994, and the 163,000 of them still in service are a monumental drain on postal resources: they get roughly ten miles to the gallon instead of the quoted 16 mpg, drink up more than $530 million in fuel each year, and their constant repair needs like the balky sliding door and leaky windshields have led the service to increase the annual maintenance budget from $100 million to $500 million. A seat belt is about as modern as it gets for safety technology, and the USPS says that assuming things stay the same, it can't afford to run them beyond 2017. Last year it put out two triage requests for proposals seeking 10,000 new chassis and drivetrains for the Grumman and 10,000 new vehicles.

The LLV is also too small for the modern mail system in which package delivery is growing and letter delivery is declining. The service says it doesn't have a fixed idea of the ideal "next-generation delivery vehicles," but it listed a number of requirements in its initial request and is open to any proposal. Carriers have some suggestions, though, saying they want better cupholders, sun visors that they can stuff letters behind, a driver's compartment free of slits that can swallow mail, and a backup camera.

The request for information sent to automakers pegs the tender at 180,000 vehicles that would cost between $25,000 and $35,000 apiece, and it will hold a conference on February 18 to answer questions about the contract. GM is the only domestic maker to avow an interest, while Ford and Fiat-Chrysler have remained cagey. Yet with a possible $6.3 billion up for grabs and some new vans for sale that would be advertised on every block in the country, we have a feeling everyone will be listening closely come February 18. We also have a feeling the LeMons series is going to be flooded with Grummans come 2017.

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