Nissan Shows First Commercial Vehicle for North America

By Brendan Moore

Nissan showed a concept version of its NV2500 work van last year, and has now revealed the production version. The NV (stands for Nissan Van – yes, not imaginative) is merely the first in a lineup of full-size body-on-frame light commercial vehicles that Nissan is planning to sell in the North American business vehicle market.

The thing you notice first is that Nissan has eschewed the snub nose look of its competitors, and sports a long nose on its van; a nose that looks a bit familiar. There’s a good reason for that sense of familiarity – the NV is based on a modified version of the Nissan Titan pickup’s F-Alpha body-on-frame platform.

“From the seats forward, the NV looks, acts and feels like a pickup,” said Joe Castelli, Nissan’s vice president of commercial vehicles and fleet for North America. “You don’t have to take apart the interior to see the engine, and you don’t have to worry about tucking your work boots into a cramped footwell. But make no mistake, behind the seats the NV is pure, practical van.”

On a related note, it is interesting to speculate on whether this means Nissan has now made a final decision to continue to make the Titan pickup on their own platform going forward into the next generation of the truck. Nissan had a deal with Chrysler to sell their own version of the Dodge Ram pickup, which was cancelled when Chrysler was absorbed by Fiat. But, that is fodder for another day.

Having had some experience with customers in the light commercial segment in a previous life, my guess is that long front end is going be attractive to some buyers, for the reasons delineated by Mr. Castelli, but not the thing that gets those buyers to pull the trigger on the Nissan NV compared to one of the other vans in this sparsely-populated segment.

No, there are other, more alluring features that will do that.

As an example, the roof is fitted with anchor points in key spots to install roof racks, meaning holes do not have to be drilled in the roof (holes which sometimes rust and leak later). It’s the same story inside as the sides of the cargo box interior are pre-drilled with anchor holes. This will allow buyers to install fixed and modular utility shelving without drilling into the vehicle’s metal and risking corrosion, as with the outside. The cargo area is pre-wired for electrical needs like interior lights or outlets. This is a huge plus, as most commercial work vans get sent to a third-party “upfitter” right after purchase in order to modify the vehicle for the specific needs of whatever task it’s going to perform. If it’s already done, the customer saves some money, saves a lot of time, and, since it comes from the factory, all of those things are under factory warranty, which means the business owner doesn’t have to mess around with the upfitter if something goes wrong – they can get the problem fixed at the dealership. Which is more time saved, in terms of less downtime for the vehicle.

Another great interior feature in the NV is a center console for personal storage needs – something else that gets put in by an upfitter, or in many instances, gets fashioned out of whatever materials are at hand by the users of the work truck.

Another innovative feature (but not a feature that would be offered by an upfitter) is seats that are not permeable to liquids, but still have soft surfaces, and, also have double-reinforced seams on the door exit side to prevent splitting as a result of constant ingress/egress.

Nissan executives wouldn’t state a sales forecast for their NV van, but Castelli did note that, “Commercial van owners are some of the least-satisfied owners of any segment in the industry,” and one has to assume that Nissan believes it stands a good chance of converting commercial van buyers from the Detroit automakers, which pretty much own the segment currently.

The NV series will come in three models: the NV1500, with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine (same as the Nissan Frontier pickup) and regular roof line; the NV2500, with either a regular or tall roofline, and either the V-6 or a 5.6-liter V-8 (same as the Nissan Titan pickup); and the NV3500, with either roof configuration and the V-8 engine only. All models have a five-speed automatic transmission and RWD. The roof on the base model can hold up to 220 cubic feet of cargo, and the high roof model can accommodate up to 300 cubic feet.

Some of you will immediately ask, “Where are the diesel engines”?

They’re coming. Nissan has signed a contract with Cummins to provide diesel engines, and those engines will be driven through a six-speed ZF transmission.

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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