On February 1, 2006 Nissan North America launched its Light Commercial Vehicle and Fleet Division. And this week in Miami, exactly five years later, Nissan revealed the production version of the 2012 Nissan NV van, its first entry into the commercial vehicle market in the United States and Canada.

The van is set to compete against the Ford E-Series vans and GM's Express and Savana vans, as well as the Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter.

Pulling market share from those mainstays in the commercial van marketis a tall task. Yet Nissan's research told them that commercial van owners are "the least satisfied of any vehicle segment," with many van owners moving out of vans and into light-duty trucks despite the compromise of convenience and utility. Indeed, the commercial van space is built more on a "if it isn't broken, don't fix it"mentality than innovation.

Though Nissan sells commercial vehicles in more than 75 percent of the world's markets, the commercial fleet market in North America is new territory. Here's Nissan's plan of attack:

The Plan

At present there are some 250 Nissan dealers (out of 1,058 total in the U.S.) who are authorized to sell the NV; the final count should top out at 300 by the end of next year. Nissan Commercial Vehicle dealers must adhere to a set of requirements to sell the new van and service commercial accounts. Those dealers must have dedicated service bays with heavy-duty lifts and parts on hand, offer extended service hours and priority scheduling, and have dedicated fleet personnel with the requisite training.

Nissan is aiming for order-to-delivery times to be "a few days to a few weeks for reasonably sized orders," said Mike Hobson, director of Nissan's light commercial vehicle (LCV) and fleet division, which would shrink considerably the traditionally longer OTDs of Japanese manufacturers. (The NV is being produced in Nissan's expanded Canton, Miss. plant.) Dealers will have a few of the more popular models to sell out of stock.

Nissan wouldn't talk production numbers, though the manufacturer says it will leave the large fleet orders to the other OEM's vans and will focus NV's initial sales more on the small business and "fleetail" space.

Job One was January 19. Units are being shipped to dealers in the coming weeks, with a wider rollout in March.

The Van

Do you want to make a business statement? The Nissan NV will not be confused with any other commercial van in the market. Instead of the traditional snub nose on other vans, the NV resembles a pickup from the A-pillar forward. In fact, it resembles a Nissan Titan. However, while the van borrows Nissan's pickup engines and transmission, the NV is built on its own platform, with an all-new beefy frame and suspension.

There are three models to choose from, all on one 146-inch wheelbase: the half-ton NV1500, the three-quarter-ton NV2500 HDand the one-ton NV3500 HD.They will be available with a choice of 4.0-liter V6 and 5.6-liter V8 engines and in two body styles, Standard Roof (all models) and High Roof (NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD only). There are two trim levels, S and SV.

A diesel powerplant is not planned at this time. Fuel economy numbers have not been released.

Pricing is competitive. MSRP on the NV beats the competition on many models, though Nissan says it will hold the line on incentives, which should help residuals. MSRP (minus destination) starts at $24,590 for the 2012 Nissan NV 1500 six-cylinder with the standard roof. High-roof versions start at $27,990. The top-of-the-line NV 3500 high roof SV with the V8 lists at $32,190.

Option packages include various window configurations, side and curtain supplemental air bags and a technology package with XM satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth and a rear-view monitor.

Why commercial users will like the NV:

  • The (affordable) high roof option - a workspace on wheels.
  • Three bright interior dome lights (instead of the usual one) shed more light on your cargo and workspace.
  • The turning radius is amazing for a large van with long nose.
  • The passenger seat folds to create a flat surface to use as a desk.
  • The large available center console, new to commercial vans. It's removable.
  • Storage options abound, with deep door pockets and an under seat drawer. The high roof has a deep above-cab storage area.
  • The van was built to upfit, with roof attachment points that avoid drilling, along with easy access to the electrical system. Inside the van there are multiple heavy-duty attachment points for cargo customizations without a need to drill.
  • The free graphics package option: fleets can upload or design company signage through an application on the NCV Web site. A third-party vinyl graphics company will create and print the wrap and ship it to a professional installer in markets that sell the NCV. The 3M Scotchprintvinyl wrap is pro grade and the graphics quality is excellent. (Or choose a rack and bin package from Adrian Steel.)

Check back in the next day or two for a video on driving impressions and a vehicle walk around.

About the author
Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Digital Editor of Automotive Fleet, Fleet Forward, Auto Rental News

As editor of Automotive Fleet (digital), Auto Rental News, Fleet Forward, and Business Fleet, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

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