Nissan beefs up commercial-van warranty to challenge Detroit 3 loyalty

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NASHVILLE -- Nissan sweetened its sales pitch to Detroit 3 commercial van customers today by instituting an across-the-board 5-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty on its NV full-sized and compact vehicle line.

The change replaces both the line’s 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and its 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. The upgrade is retroactive on 2014 models, including those already sold.

The extension will help Nissan assure potential buyers that its commercial trucks are durable and reliable, says Phil O’Connor, Nissan director of marketing for light commercial vehicles.

“We have to give the customer a reason to try something new,” O’Connor says. “We’re still relatively new in the segment and we wanted to make a bold move.”

Nissan entered the U.S. light commercial truck business in 2011 with the full-sized NV 1500, 2500 and 3500 vans, the sole Asian competitor to the Detroit 3’s near monopoly on the segment.

But the Japanese automaker has received a lukewarm welcome.

Although the NV was specifically designed to address a shopping list of complaints raised by owners of Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge commercial vans -- including seating comfort and engine noise -- the Detroit brands have maintained their lock on the market.

Nissan retailers sold 6,231 full-sized NV vans in the first five months of this year. That was a 21 percent gain over the same period last year. By comparison, sales of the Ford E-series commercial van rose 7 percent to 44,191 during the same period.

Even more frustrating to Nissan, consumers remain loyal to the Detroit brands even as those models age. Ford’s offering has seen only slight updating since 2007. Ford is phasing out the E-series this year and replacing it with a new model.

“It’s taking a while to make inroads,” O’Connor acknowledges. “But we continue to see increases, and we have momentum.”

The warranty enticement also includes Nissan’s newer commercial entry, the NV200 compact van. But the extension does not cover the taxi version of the NV200, which is covered under a separate 5-year/150,000-mile warranty.

Nissan and Ford are the only two automakers currently competing in the growing compact commercial van segment. Nissan’s NV200 has approximately the footprint of its Sentra car. Nissan has sold 4,564 NV200 vans this year, through the end of May.

However, later this year, Nissan will also begin supplying a version of the NV200 to General Motors to enable Chevrolet to enter the segment.

O’Connor says the warranty improvement will particularly helpful in winning over small-business owners, who may be looking for reassurances in their purchases.

Small businesses represent a key part of Nissan’s commercial van sales. For those buyers, he says, “It’s all about durability and reliability.”

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.


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