Nissan takes on Ford in small-van market
CHICAGO -- Nissan North America will square off against Ford Motor Co. for a piece of the small cargo van market this year when it begins production of its NV200 in Mexico.
Ford now has a monopoly on the small segment with its Transit Connect. But Nissan believes the segment will grow in the United States as commercial customers discover the idea of a less expensive, more fuel-efficient cargo van.
"Right now the segment is only about 30,000 sales a year, and it's all Ford," says Joe Castelli, Nissan North America's vice president of commercial vehicles and fleet business. "But we think it will double over the next four years. And if gas prices increase, that growth will accelerate further."
He adds: "We intend to be priced underneath our competitor." The Transit Connect has a base price of $22,860, including shipping.
Castelli revealed the van at the Chicago Auto Show last week, saying that it will reach Nissan's commercial vehicle showrooms in February 2013. Other concept versions of the small van have appeared in recent months, including an electric-powered e-NV200 Concept last month in Detroit and a taxi-cab version last year.
The basic van rides on a chassis that is approximately the size of a Nissan Sentra, and will use the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the current Sentra. Nissan will give buyers the option of interior shelving or exterior body graphics at no extra cost, the same policy it has for buyers of its full-sized NV2500 cargo vans.
The taxi version of the NV200 will become the exclusive cab for New York City starting in 2013, and Castelli said he has been in discussion with other cities, including Boston and Toronto, about NV200-based taxis there.
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