The industry sold 601,850 large vans in 2009, down from an already soft tally of 862,640 in 2008. Nissan declined to put a sales target on the NV, which will reach dealer showrooms in the late fall. But Joe Castelli, a former Ford Motor Co. truck executive who is heading up Nissan's entry into commercial trucks, says “the door is wide open” for Nissan to grab a share of the business.
“Commercial van owners are some of the least-satisfied owners of any segment in the industry,” he says.
The van was designed and engineered in Nissan's U.S. studios with a list of why-didn't we-think-of-that features:
• The NV will provide drivers with a center console for personal storage needs -- something Nissan claims is nonexistent among its competitors. A walking tour of other offerings at the truck show failed to prove Nissan wrong.
• Its tall roofline is designed to allow operators up to 6 feet 2 inches tall to walk through the vehicle without ducking their heads.
• Driver and passenger seats are double reinforced on the exit side to compensate for occupants climbing in and out of their trucks all day. The seat seams are located lower than normal so that hours of sitting and pressure don't rip them open.
• At the truck's display, potential customers watched as Nissan representatives poured cups of Coca-Cola onto the seats and the liquid beaded up and rolled into pans without leaving stains.
• The sides of the cargo box interior are pre-drilled with anchor holes. That will enable buyers to install and secure utility shelving without drilling into the vehicle's metal and risking corrosion.
• The roof is equipped with anchor points to install roof racks, meaning holes do not have to be drilled in the roof. The cargo area is pre-wired for electrical needs.
It is standard industry practice for van customizers, known as upfitters, to spend hours on an empty van, fitting it to customer specifications after it is sold.
“That's good thinking,” observes Brent MacLean, vice president of Vanteriors, a Mississauga, Ontario, supplier of commercial van interiors and racks who inspected the NV2500. “They've done their research. If your van has some of these things already installed, that will speed up the job of equipping the vehicle.”
That means a lower total cost for buyers, said Carlos Tavares, Nissan chairman for the Americas, who unveiled the van. “If we can create a van that costs less to own, that costs less to install shelving and equipment, then we will have an advantage in the market.
“For us, this is all about credibility,” he said. “We have put a great deal of research into learning what customers want. And now people are knocking on our door.”
The NV series will come in three models: the NV1500, with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine and standard roof line; the NV2500, with either a standard or tall roofline, and either the V-6 or a 5.6-liter V-8; and the NV3500, with either roof and the V-8 engine only. The model names refer to their cargo capacity.