Strong Ford Van Sales Cause Nissan To Exit U.S. Van Business

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Roughly a decade ago, Nissan decided to enter the U.S. commercial van business, challenging the dominant position enjoyed by Ford (and, to a certain extent, GM). The Japanese automaker introduced the NV full-size van (in either passenger or cargo configurations) followed by the NV200 compact city van. But over the last five years, Nissan commercial van sales have remained stagnant in the U.S., and that’s apparently led the automaker to consider a complete exit from the segment.

Nissan NV full-size commercial vans
Nissan NV full-size commercial vans

A source familiar with Nissan’s plans told Automotive News that the automaker now intends to discontinue production of its NV vans in the U.S. altogether. “We don’t want to go more in the business of vans in the U.S. We will exit,” the source said.

When asked, a Nissan spokesperson did not confirm the statement.

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The full-size NV competes with the Ford Transit and is built at Nissan’s Canton plant in Mississippi, while the NV200 competes with the Transit Connect and it built at the Cuernavaca facility in Mexico.

Nissan NV200 compact city van
Nissan NV200 compact city van

Since Nissan’s decision to enter the commercial van business in 2011, only around one-fourth of its U.S.-based dealerships have made the changes necessary to service and sell them. That included investing in items like heavy-duty lifts, a fleet sales staff, and extending hours to accommodate the needs of contractors.

Sales Numbers - Full-Size Vans - 2019 - United States

MODEL YTD 19 / YTD 18 YTD 19 YTD 18 YTD 19 SHARE
FORD TRANSIT +11.67% 153,868 137,794 48%
CHEVROLET EXPRESS -4.66% 77,457 81,239 24%
FORD E-SERIES -5.99% 45,063 47,936 14%
GMC SAVANA +23.07% 24,226 19,684 8%
NISSAN NV +18.46% 20,022 16,902 6%
TOTAL +5.63% 320,636 303,555

The story is quite different for Nissan in Japan, where it enjoys a larger share of the commercial vehicle business.

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Nissan NV200 full-size passenger van
Nissan NV200 full-size passenger van

Brand loyalty certainly seems to be playing a role in Nissan’s lackluster performance in the commercial van space, a circumstance that can also be seen with other Nissan vehicles such as the Nissan Titan pickup truck, which has significantly lagged behind the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado in sales volume. Given that the commercial space is predominantly made up of trucks and vans, Nissan’s weakness in the former seems to have stifled its opportunity to grow in the latter. After all, it makes very little sense for fleet companies to purchase pickup trucks from one manufacturer and vans from another.

Then there’s the matter of the actual product. The full-size NV family is based on the Titan platform, giving it a very long hood and large exterior dimensions that make it less maneuverable, especially in tighter parking situations. By comparison, the Ford Transit has a significantly shorter hood, giving it a smaller exterior footprint.

Nissan NV full-size commercial van
Nissan NV full-size commercial van

Meanwhile, the NV200 was never really a stand-out offering, especially compared to the excellent Ford Transit Connect. The numbers show just as much.

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Sales Numbers - Compact Vans - 2019 - United States

MODEL YTD 19 / YTD 18 YTD 19 YTD 18 YTD 19 SHARE
FORD TRANSIT CONNECT +30.31% 41,598 31,923 57%
NISSAN NV200 +0.75% 18,768 18,628 26%
RAM PROMASTER CITY -6.30% 12,920 13,788 18%
TOTAL +13.91% 73,286 64,339

Most recently, Nissan has found itself in a precarious financial situation with mounting losses, a circumstance that was further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The turn of events seems to have become the final nail in the coffin for the Japanese automaker’s commercial van business, at least in the United States.

Ford Transit van
Ford Transit van

We’ll have more on this situation as it develops, so be sure to subscribe to Ford Authority for the latest Ford business news, Ford Transit news, Ford Transit Connect news, and continuous Ford news coverage.

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Written by Brett Foote

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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