Could Full-Size Vans Be the Next Growth Segment?

ProMaster action 9 II

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.

VanSales 2013



I think it's pretty safe to say that small-businesses and fleets are merely replacing their aged and wore out vans. Not some sort of van craze like PUTC is making it sound like. Considering that so many fleets use the GM and Ford full-size vans, by replacing them now before they end production makes the most logical sense. Any upfits and equipment would simply transfer from one E-Series to the other. Just the same as the Ford Crown Victoria had its own sales surge by police fleets buying them up in their last year of production. It reduces costs immensely when you don't have to buy all new upfits for your equipment. No real news here. Plus, this is a pickup website; not a van website.

Full size vans were more popular as family vehicles until the smaller mini van came out in the mid 80's. I know my parents had a full size Ram van, had way more room then anything else and it wasn't much bigger then a full size station wagon from that era.

Ram vans need more advertising.

Ford and chevy are dominating this one. but i take a E250.

Isn't this a pickup truck site? If you're going to go out of the box, how about some body on frame suv stuff, but vans?

Mark, GM does indeed offer an all wheel drive version of the Express and Savanna. They have offered it for many years. They also have optional cargo doors on the drivers side as well, something other full size vans don't have.


@Joe -- Good catch. Forgot about that, but sure wish they would update that system. It is ancient. Would be nice to see some kind of updated system offered on both smaller and fullsize half-tons. Also, I didn't include the numbers on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter, which went through a freshening last year with a more efficient four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Figure sales by the end of the year for Sprinter will be just north of 10,000 units.

LOL @HEMI RAMPAGE: I'm sure Ford is really concerned with RAM's combined 7,927 sales and GM's cominbed sales of 78,734 units (Ford's combined sales units are 136,364). Those RAM dealers are being left in the the dust!

Don't forget, Chevrolet will have a rebadged version of the Nissan NV200 in 2014 to sell.

Ken, it is true that the name of this site is but there are people that are interested in vans and where should they go for their information? No-one made you read this article and it did not harm you in any way. Just ignore it if you don't want to read it.

By the way, there was a vote a couple of years ago and the readers voted to see van articles. Mark is just doing what the readers asked him to do. I have not seen any requests here for SUV articles but if anyone speaks up he might cover them too, at least the ones built on top of truck parts the way most vans are (or used to be).

I personally have an E350 that for many purposes can be interchanged with my F250 and I think of them in many of the same ways. It has more in common with my F250 than my Datsun truck does.

Looks like Ford really DOES own work...

Only if they make 4wd versions.

This site doesn't just cover vans, they cover CARGO vans. Cargo vans and pickup trucks have a lot in come because they are used to transport things and NO OTHER SITE is covering this segment.. If you want to hear about SUV/CUV's there are plenty of sites covering this already.

LOL @HEMI RAMPAGE: I'm sure Ford is really concerned with RAM's combined 7,927 sales and GM's cominbed sales of 78,734 units (Ford's combined sales units are 136,364). Those RAM dealers are being left in the the dust!

Don't forget, Chevrolet will have a rebadged version of the Nissan NV200 in 2014 to sell.

Posted by: GMguy74 | Nov 6, 2013 10:09:31 AM




And winning races since 1901. Ford vs Alexander Winton.

How it all started. LMFAO!

One of the best trucks I ever owned was a 1978 Dodge half ton van. Ran on regular leaded, back when you could still find it.

Never smoked leaked or failed to start. It looked like a demo derby survivor after 3 years working the waterfront and the ports. Hauled some amazing loads.

Wouldn't the middle player between a transit connect and a transit just be minivan without any rear glass? What does Ford currently use for minivans?

In Europe, Ford also has an even smaller van than the TC, they have the Fiesta van which is just a two door hatchback without rear glass.

Similar concepts like the Chevy HHR and the Chrapsler PT Cruiser seem extremely popular in my area. I don't know why they wouldn't expand their line of small vans instead.

Hell, a lot of commercial users are buying hatchback coupes and wrapping the back half of the vehicle, essentially blacking out the glass anyway. Clearly there is a need and a want for small vans, probably more so than the large vans now that people realize they can do with something smaller. I'm seeing a ton of fleets doing exactly that, using cars when they used to use trucks or vans. I'm also seeing a ton of ford TCs.

People are doing more with less and like the better handling and MPG of the smaller vans. I don't see a big resurgence of big vans. Maybe for the carpet cleaning boys that need a PTO.

If Ram hopes to compete long term, they'd better start using better paint and rust prevention. Most I see around that are few yrs old all show signs of rusting out. If I bought one for a business with name on the side, that's not what I'd wanna see.

@Mark Williams,
After coming back from mainly Eastern Europe(I have been to virtually all of Western Europe) Cargo and Personal Vans are everywhere in Europe, but Pickups are extremely rare.
Their "Pickups" are the Cab Chassis variants of Vans, Mercedes, Vauxhall, Renault , Fiat Ducato etc. Only the IVECO has a full chassis compared to the others and that is obvious by its 9000lb payload. As I have posted earlier what they do with the Cab Chassis Vans is amazing. Yes you do have 4X4 Vans and Cab Chassis variants. Again the IVECO has a 5000lb payload and 8000lb towing for its Off Road Variant, with 24 Forward gears.

@ supercrew02,

I bet you are seeing abused 11 year old trucks..

I see many Ford trucks that are rusted,GM trucks that are rusted and Import trucks that are rusted.

My,04 that was bought new in 03 has no rust at all,with 255,000 miles on it,driven in salt/snow 8 months of th year.While my Brother in-laws 2009 F-250 is rusty my RAM isnt.



Taking out Ford and Chevy in 2014!!!!!!

RAM Pro Master Work Vans!

Euro Vans the next Growth Segment?????

@ QuadCab04 ..
No I'm speaking of the Dodge Sprinter (think they're called)vans, not something out 8-12 yrs. Not talking about older pick ups. A few yrs after the new vans came out saw a lot of them with rusty panels & cargo door hinges bleeding rust. Panels not badly but it shouldn't happen with todays technologies. And when color is white (as most commercial ones are), it stands out. The Ford Transit Connect out almost as long and not seeing any early signs of paint issues.

Full size vans are #1 on the street. Chevrolet Express is Still (as of this moment) the King. That Nissan NV is going in for the kill though. Make no mistake.. Pity Chevrolet is using a Nissan of all makes as their rebadge modern Astro. Not good GM. Not good. You OWN vans and have for decades with the Chevrolet G-Series, Express and Astro. Don't tarnish your name.

Ford transit is not a van. Is a fuc,,,, car ,,,

@Miath, The Ford Transit Connect is a Mini Van and they are fairly rare in Europe as well. Most Vans there are as Big as the Chevrolet Savannah or Larger Mercedes Sprinter.

The Big 3 need to pay some attention to this segment in my opinion. There is still an appreciation for a half ton van that can be an

A. utility vehicle
B. a rec vehicle or
C. a towing vehicle

With today's multispeed stransmissions and variable displacement technologies there's no excuse for not upgrading the current offerings.

Besides, as long as Detroit is building halfton pickups as much as they do, it's easy to re-deploy the engines, trannies, third members, brakes, wheels, running gear, etc.

Thanks to Pickuptrucks for running this piece today.

We will most likely see some kind of increase in van sales since the up and coming vans are going to have more configurations.
Ford has gotten into trouble with the Transit Connect. They used to sneek it in as a passenger van and remove the glass and shred the seats. They have been acused of "cheating" the chicken tax. IIRC, they are still importing but are paying the tariff on each Transit Connect while they fight the ruling and work on a plan B.
Ford has lobbied the US government and the EU to gain reciprocracy in relation to safety and emission rules and to drop all tariffs between the USA and EU.
Canada has signed a FTA with Europe so that may put pressure on the USA to follow suite. The FTA goes into effect in 2 years so I bet we will see direct imports of vans and I'm hoping to see the Ranger and Amarok.
The EU has "Canadian content" rules in place on Canadian vehilces to prevent US companies from end running current EU rules by shipping through Canada. Those "Canadian Content" rules will expire if the USA and EU sign a FTA.

"No I'm speaking of the Dodge Sprinter (think they're called)vans, not something out 8-12 yrs. Not talking about older pick ups."

The Sprinter was a rebadged Mercedes Sprinter. Chrysler no longer sells that van and it's not relevant to your argument.

Miath has a very dirty mouth and should be banned.

@Greg - why? he is a Chevy fan just like you!

I don't care what he is! Show some decorum!

@The Real Lou
I hope you Canadians do get some of the economical Eurovans.

I don't understand the actual makeup of the Canadian market, but from what I can gather you pay the same for fuel as we do (from a percentage of paypacket).

So I would assume your makeup of cars would be similar.

The small vans from Europe are used here. They are slightly smaller than the Transit Connect and run 1.6 litre gas or a 1.4-1.5 diesel. The diesels are getting about 45mpg and they have the payload of a half ton pickup.

Toyota Sienna is not on the list and beats the Caravan in sales...

Sienna has been completely redesigned for 2014...

Good job Toyota!

Full size vans have an innate popularity but sales suffered because up until today they were still offering designs born when Nixon was in office.

Promaster and Transit offer modern space and capability - up to around 500 cubic feet. . They may do well.

Not sure what the beef is about PUTC posting vans here because lots of us love reading about vans as much as about pickups. If you go to there is 1/3 of celeb coverage that some of us don't care about either but hey, we can work around the stuff we aren't interested in. Keep up the awesome work PUTC; pickups, vans and all.

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