In the full-size van segment, the world is changing at a rapid rate. Not only are some automakers being selective about what models they keep in production, but others are also trying to offer as many variations as possible.
With two new players in the marketplace — the 2014 Ram ProMaster and 2015 Ford Transit — getting the majority of the attention nowadays, that's left Nissan (a player in the market for several years) with a chance to be more creative. "We wanted to let our customers know how much faith we have in our commercial vehicles … we knew they were tough but we were hearing from owners that they were even tougher than we thought," said Phil O'Connor, director of marketing for Nissan's Commercial Vehicle division. Nissan even found one company in Arizona that punished the vehicles beyond what its own in-house engineers did (see video below).
Most buyers in this segment are small-, medium- and, in some cases, fairly large-business owners and operators. O'Connor said that means they could be purchasing as few as a couple of vehicles to rather large fleets, and their priorities seem to fall into three main categories: capability, durability and cost of ownership.
Yes, Nissan looks to be one of the few competitors with a full frame and offering both a V-6 and V-8 option, as well as both high- and low-roof models (but no wheelbase or body-length choices). This is likely to play in its favor with particular buyers, especially if the 350 or so Nissan Commercial dealers are willing to work the deal. Our guess is those dealerships will want to work pretty hard when newer, lighter and more fuel-efficient competitors (like the Transit and ProMaster salespeople) are ready to fight as well.
This segment is getting ready to be visciously competitive as all the players fight to get a slightly different message out to their potential customers, but for now, it looks like Nissan has upped the ante, shifting its message to emphasize a newly revised vehicle and powertrain warranty. In fact, if buyers invest in a dealership's extended warranty offering, they could potentially save a lot of money to their bottom line. How Nissan's competitors respond to this first shot across the bow of the segment will be fun to watch.