Full-size van sales have never really exploded in the U.S. They've always been a solid fleet or small-business purchase, but they have never really offered much in the way of comfort, fuel economy or chassis variation. But things have happened in the last several years that make us think that's about to change.
Both Ford and Ram seemed headed to a three-van strategy now that the economy seems to be headed in a better direction. Full-size vans have been a popular choice among farms, companies and small businesses in Europe, but now it looks like we'll see more of these cargo-first, cubic-volume players on our roads.
As the numbers in the accompanying chart show, the traditional full-size van players like the Ford E-Series and GM twins (Express and Savana) still serve a purpose. Ford is winding down production of its van, while GM will likely keep its pair of body-on-frame cargo boxes around for several more years. Ram just started selling the Ram ProMaster, with the Ram C/V Tradesman struggling. Ram also announced a middle player coming to the U.S. shortly in the form of the Fiat Doblo sold overseas.
Ford already has a popular choice for many in the Transit Connect, which is offered in various cargo and passenger lengths with a stout four-cylinder engine. Likewise, Ford will be offering the larger Transit van next year that will feature three different engine choices (the EcoBoost, the 3.7-liter V-6 and the inline-five-cylinder Power Stroke turbo-diesel). No word yet if Ford will offer a middle player between Transit and Transit Connect.
The chart shows how the numbers play out after the first three quarters of 2013. Nobody is offering an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive option (Ford offers rear-wheel drive and Ram offers front-wheel drive), but as these vans gain popularity we might see that change.