In the past few weeks, news has emerged that Ford Motor Co. and General Motors are squaring off on a fight for future delivery vans. GM reportedly — unconfirmed by the company — is working on an advanced electric van, while Ford announced a deal with Volkswagen for those two companies to share delivery vans.
In fact, a new competitive front is opening up in the industry: commercial vans. Delivery vans are about to become a hot commodity.
The pandemic has shown us just how critical home deliveries are to our new way of life. But this new scramble predates COVID-19. The wild growth of Amazon.com and all the other point-and-click retailers represents a big demand for future vans, especially zero-emission models that replace the current generation of old, smoldering platforms.
And Amazon is stirring the pot. Last year, the retailer said it will buy 100,000 electric vans from Detroit-area startup automaker Rivian. Judging from the frequency of Amazon deliveries on my little street in my little neighborhood in my little city these past few months, I'm inclined to predict that 100,000 vans will just be a starter fleet.
Curiously, Nissan now plans to exit the commercial van business in the U.S., sources have told Automotive News.
There's no reason to doubt them. But is it, perhaps, plausible that Nissan is actually just clearing the deck for a new van strategy to come?
Remember when Ford and GM "exited" the midsize-pickup business?
Ask an auditorium of 18,000 American auto retailers to raise their hand if they care about any of this.
Few of them would.
But that's only because a minor percentage of dealers fool with commercial vehicles, anyway. Selling them requires employing a dedicated retail team, as well as some fearless investment in service shops.
But those dealers who do raise their hand will do so knowingly.
There is big money in vans. And there's big money ahead in vans.