The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

New Van & Truck Products to Re-Energize the Upfit Market

January 2014, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

Editor's note: Check out a photo gallery of the all-new cargo vans here.

A number of all-new van and truck models will be entering the commercial fleet market over the next several years. As a result, there will be a corresponding increase in upfit products and packages for these new van configurations. 

“The onset of new-model configurations, such as the all-new Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster, gives fleets more choices, removes some old standby options, and increases the amount of configuration effort to adapt upfitting needs to the new models and configurations,” said Steve Swedberg, truck engineering & ordering specialist for Emkay.

Will the surge of new van products re-energize the upfit market?

“In short, yes, but the answer deserves more perspective. The van market may see slight to flat growth in calendar-year 2014 because of Ford’s delayed migration in the van market. Ford is the market-segment leader. The migration from the E-Series, a 50-year market segment leader, to the new Transit starts with Job 1 in April 2014,” said Partha Ghosh, director, vehicle supply chain for ARI. “Additionally, the E-Series will have a shortened model-year, and the vehicle itself is in its final build-out this year, which can mean flat to modest growth, contingent on Ford’s actual production in the 2014 calendar-year. Building on the earlier growth expectations, this market segment should see stronger growth in outlying years — beyond 2014 — thanks to the increasing versatility of these new vans entering the North American market. The economic indicators are trending positively, boding well for the overall strength of the U.S. market, which should have a direct, positive effect on all vehicle production.”

Small Cargo Van Market
Growth is also anticipated in the small cargo van market with the introduction of new models into the marketplace.

Ram C/V
Ram C/V

“Nissan and GM are entering the small cargo van market with the Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express to compete with the Ford Transit Connect and the Ram CV. Ram will offer a new ProMaster City in 2015. These types of vehicles offer fuel savings, maneuverability in urban areas, and the vehicle exterior design offers a high surface area to install graphics,” said Charles Mathew, senior order specialist for Donlen. 

Nissan NV 200
Nissan NV 200

The 2014 Nissan NV200 cargo van features standard integrated mounting points, which allow installation of racks and shelves without drilling into the sidewalls, and six available floor mounted cargo hooks in the cargo area.

(Watch the walkaround of the NV200 and NV Cargo here.)

Chevrolet City Express
Chevrolet City Express

The 2015 Chevrolet City Express cargo van, being sourced from Nissan, will offer 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space and will qualify for General Motors’ Business Choice program. Like the Nissan NV200, the Chevrolet City Express features weld nuts for attaching bins, D-Rings affixed to the floor that allow users to secure cargo, and standard dual sliding doors that allow access to the cargo area from either side of the vehicle. Both the Chevrolet City Express and Nissan NV200 feature a fold-down passenger seat with a seat back tray table; a center console with storage for file folders, a laptop, and more; and an upper-dashboard-mounted storage bin.

Transit Connect
Transit Connect

The all-new 2014 Ford Transit Connect will be available in van and wagon models with an all-new powertrain lineup. The long wheelbase (LWB) van model features a maximum payload capacity of 1,710 lbs. and a cargo volume of 130.7 cubic feet or 151.1 cubic feet with the passenger seat folded. The Transit Connect van model will offer a choice of a rear liftgate or 180-degree swing-out rear cargo doors. The overall height of the 2014 model is six inches lower than the previous model, which will allow easier access to garages and parking structures. A variety of racks and bins are available to customize the Transit Connect to meet specific fleet applications. The 2014 Transit Connect will be available in two wheelbase configurations. The long wheelbase van will have a load length of up to 77.1 inches at the beltline and 87.3 inches at the load floor, which can accommodate an 8-foot ladder with the passenger seat folded flat. Ford is also offering a new, online Racks and Bins Configurator to create customized racks-and-bins ship-thru packages for Transit Connect models. 

The new online program features a drag-and-drop interactive tool that allows fleet managers to visualize the van interior before ordering.
Other subject-matter experts likewise see a similar fleet trend toward small cargo vans.

“Companies are moving toward smaller, more economically sound vehicles, such as small, light-duty vehicles. These vehicles are popular for their maneuverability,” said Tom Keilty, senior vice president, customer and vehicle services and COO for PHH Arval. 

Wheels views the top trends in truck fleet management as both vehicle and operationally related. 

“As we consult with clients and prospects, we initiate analysis and discussion around vehicle acquisition cost and reliability. Vehicle operators are interested in acquiring vehicles as competitively as possible for their application. Acquisition cost is a key driver of the TCO outcome as well,” said Connie Swenson, account manager for Wheels Inc. “There are many new vehicles arriving to the market, many from global regions that need to prove reliability. Vehicle users prioritize day-in-and-day-out reliability, and are often unwilling to accept unknown risk.”

Another fleet trend has been the growing implementation of telematics devices in upfitted equipment. “We are seeing the onset of increased ancillary products and services, such as telematics, being included in the upfitting, spec identification, and vendor selection efforts,” said Swedberg of Emkay.

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