Sales of new-model full-size commercial vans rose more than 11 percent in 2014 as several manufacturers transitioned to European-style vans and phased out less fuel-efficient models.
Total sales rose to 288,378 units for 2014, an 11.4 percent increase from the 258,823 units sold the prior year. Full-size vans have been in growth trend, increasing each year since 2010 when 190,766 full-size vans were sold in the U.S. — an increase of more than 30,000 vehicles from 2009.
Ford sold the most full-size vans in 2014 on the strength of its existing E-Series and its 2015 Transit, which began shipping to dealers in June. Ford has led van sales in the U.S. since 1979, according to the company.
Ford sold 103,263 E-Series vans and 20,448 Transit vans for a 42.8 percent share of the market segment. Ford closed the year out on a high note by selling more than 10,000 Transit vans in December, according to Ford.
Ford also sold more than 40,000 Transit Connect compact vans in 2014.
"We are seeing a resurgence in the van market as customers increasingly take advantage of the versatility, efficiency and low cost of ownership of Transit and Transit Connect," said Yaroslav Hetman, brand manager for Ford's van trio. "December was an exciting month for us, as we sold more vans in the United States than in any single month since June 1999."
General Motors, Mercedes Benz, FCA's Ram Truck brand, and Nissan also grew sales of their full-size vans. After the E-Series, other full-size vans sold included the Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Transit, Ram ProMaster, and Nissan NV.
Ram Truck enters 2015 with a full year of ProMaster sales under its belt and hope that its front-wheel drive model with a lower step-in height will capture new buyers, said Dave Sowers, head of commercial vehicle marketing. Ford's shift to a Euro-style van has opened the eyes of fleet customers considering full-size vans, Sowers said.
"They've opened people's eyes to what Euro configurations can do from an efficiency standpoint," Sowers said. "The new style of van offers better packaging and efficient transportation."
Full-size vans have also retained their residual value at a higher level than other vehicle segments at used-vehicle auctions. Passenger variants rose 3.5 percent during the year and cargo variants fell only 3.8 percent.
By Paul Clinton