September 2011, Business Fleet - Cover Story
Getting into Vans
The action in the commercial van market is getting hot and heavy. With pickup truck-like capabilities, improved fuel economy and white space for branding, new and updated van offerings are attracting a new breed of small business entrepreneurs.
Photo by Rob Hall Photography
Valecia Vanderlick is able to load a full pallet of "Mama's Famous Barbecue Sauce" into her Nissan NV. "You would never know you're in a commercial vehicle," she says of the van's drivability.
Small business is emerging — slowly — from the Dark Ages of the recession. With business ramping up, companies are fleeting up. The commercial van market is evolving with new model choices, beefier specs and better fuel economy to fit a range of vocational needs.
Does this mean the commercial van market is getting exciting? Let’s not go that far.
NV on the Nose
Launched in January 2011, the Nissan NV commercial van line represents Nissan’s first foray into North America’s commercial vehicle market.
The Nissan NV comes in 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-ton versions with a Standard Roof or High Roof. “The high-roof model brings a tremendous amount of useful space and stand-up functionality to the segment,” says Mike Hobson, director of Nissan’s light commercial vehicle (LCV) and fleet division.
While the style borrows heavily from the Nissan Titan, the NV is built on its own commercial chassis. The extended pickup-like nose means no engine doghouse in the cabin, which makes for pickup-like comfort and legroom. Indeed, “We are seeing pickup customers shopping and buying the NV,” Hobson says.
The standard gas engine is a 4.0-liter V-6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque. An optional 5.6-liter V-8 generates 317 hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque. No diesel engine is planned at this time.
Payloads range from 2,590 lbs. on the Standard Roof 1500 S (V-6) to 3,747 lbs. on the Standard Roof 3500 SV (V-8).
Some 274 newly appointed Nissan Commercial Vehicle dealers sell the NV, a network that will grow to 300 by 2012, according to Nissan. Nissan even partnered with a vinyl wrap company to allow NV buyers to create their own custom vehicle wrap design.
Mama’s Famous Van
For a while, Valecia Vanderlick’s Nissan Xterra worked just fine to deliver her six flavors of Mama’s Famous Barbecue Sauce to clients and shows. But as her metro Philadelphia-based business grew, she grew out of the truck.
During a service visit for her Xterra, she test drove a Nissan NV. “It’s very comfortable and drives like the Xterra,” she says.
With the added cargo room, she’s now able to store more in the NV and as a result makes fewer trips. In addition, Vanderlick can load a pallet into the NV, whereas she had to load her Xterra by hand. She even put the NV’s payload capacity to the test “with as much barbecue sauce in there as I can get,” she says. “But you would never know you’re in a commercial vehicle.”
She says the van climbs the eastern Pennsylvania hills with ease, yet still manages a fuel economy of 24 to 28 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in the city — or about the same as her Xterra.
Vanderlick says the van’s unique style grabs attention at shows. And when driving the van outside company business, she makes sure to bring along extra barbecue sauce. “No one has seen this type of van before,” she says. “And whenever we stop, people want to know how our sauce tastes.”