By on February 28, 2014

Florist Vans

In a sign the broader economy is on an upswing, small business owners who use commercial vans in their business are replacing their aging equipment with new vans, fueling a boom not seen since the start of the Great Recession.

USA Today reports as small businesses begin to invest in their companies once more — and with borrowing on the rise with loosened credit now available — commercial van sales rose to over 40 percent since 2010. The winter weather failed to put a dent in sales, rising 9 percent in January as auto sales fell 3 percent in the same period. IHS Automotive, in particular, expects sales to grow 27 percent overall between 2013 and 2015, with over 400,000 units leaving the lot for the wrap shop annually.

Though the commercial van market has been dominated by Ford, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, more automakers are entering the market with offerings of their own, such as Nissan’s NV series and Ram’s minivan-based Cargo Van. As a result, total small van sales — such as the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 — were over 53,000 units in 2013, while 259,000 large vans were sold in the same period.

More vans are expected to enter the market this year, including the Nissan NV200-based Chevrolet City Express and Fiat Doblo-based Ram ProMaster City.

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45 Comments on “Booming Van Sales Driven By Small Business...”


  • avatar
    alsorl

    I think that van is shipped all the way from Turkey.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many of the small vans are being purchased by people who used to purchase small pickups. The Ranger (in white, with plastic grill and steelies) used to be the go-to truck of cable TV installers and exterminators, and I bet some of them are buying Transits instead.

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      Good point. I have a buddy that did the same thing your saying. He mountain bikes a lit and could not find a affordable small pick that gets good mpg. So he bought a transit connect. Gets 25mpg. Been trouble free for 4 years.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I looked into the Transit Connect for a business plan. Ford has/had a $750 option to configure these with CNG, which with on-site refueling would sustain very cheaply a small fleet of TCs and provide more of a determined quartely cost figure.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Around here – every single one of them. TCs are just all over the place. Why buy a gas-sucking full size van to carry plumbing supplies or cable boxes around? Pickups are useless for that sort of thing – you can’t secure anything, and with a topper on they are miserable to work out of.

      Yet another vehicle the Europeans have been doing right for a long, long time. FWD, low floor, walk-in vans that get decent gas mileage while being easier to work out of.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I imagine so and to be fair the only van models that would have suited their purposes were ill-suited minivans since the 15-passenger models were designed…for seating 15 people. These vans are largely designed for work with seating behind the driver as an afterthought. These are perfect for light-duty hauling and basic services. I see TCs and xBs are the two preferences with TCs being the preference of heavy-duty types (cable, plumbing, contracting) and xBs being the preference of delivery services (Flowers, pizza, etc..) because of the loading bay height difference I suspect.

      Overall they’re definitely an improvement though sadly because of who’s buying them we won’t see cheap used ones enter the market too much unless fleet buyers are doing lease options.

    • 0 avatar

      Google Fiber Transit Connects: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/12/2885835/customers-give-fiber-high-marks.html

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    I’m always suspicious of tertiary economic upswing indicators like commercial vehicle sales. Isn’t it also possible that automakers are having a lousy Q1 and a lot of van-buyers with aging equipment have taken advantage? Some purchases can only be put off for so long.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I would consider the possibility that IHS is overselling the data.

      The van market isn’t that large of a segment, as the numbers suggest.

      The market is still dominated by large vans, not the small ones.

      Last year, Ford sold about 125k E-series and just under 40k of the Transit Connects. Ford’s van sales were up 4.7%, lagging the company’s overall growth rate of 10.8%.

      GM sold about 1700 fewer vans in 2013 than it did the year prior, a 1.7% decline during a year when its overall sales were up almost 14%.

      Mercedes sold fewer than 22k Sprinter vans last year, an increase of less than 1,000 units, or only 4%. Again, van sales lagged the average for both the company and the market overall.

      You can see where this is going. There’s just not much going on here.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Pch101
        You are sounding more like a fanboi, than a analyst.

        Part of my job is to trend data to determine most probable outcomes.

        I love data.

        You seem to be incorrect.

        Is this more a case of this article doesn’t suit your paradigms, than truth?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yeah it doesn’t look like a big boom to me either and yeah full size is still where it is at. I’m sure some full size are being replaced by Transit Connects but they are also likely replacing the last of the Astros and some Rangers and other small pickups too. The first thing a fair number of commercial small pickup buyers do is put a canopy on it so why not just buy a small van and get the better access and security too.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The key to hyping a story: When the numbers are small, focus on the percentages, instead.

          To be fair, IHS’s overall forecast is probably reasonable. But that doesn’t mean that this is a major segment or that there is a genuine “boom.”

          The shift toward global platforms makes some sense. The market is now too small to justify US-only platforms; the R&D costs for US-oriented replacements aren’t worth it.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    Boom in the tulip delivery business to go along with tulip mania…

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    “more automakers are entering the market with offerings of their own, such as … Ram’s minivan-based Cargo Van.”

    I’m confused. It may be a new thing to call it a “Ram”, but there have been minivan-based cargo vans in the Dodge lineup since 1984, when it was called the “Dodge Mini Ram Van”.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I saw my first ProMaster on Monday. It was driving around a Target parking lot. Took me a few seconds to figure out what it was.

  • avatar
    kwrph1

    Are the rear hubcaps optional?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Perhaps the upswing is because there are finally a few products that make more financial sense than giant RWD V8 vans for people who don’t need to carry four tons of payload (or tow five tons).

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    These style vehicles are the pickups of Europe. They have roughly the same payload as a pickup.

    They are everywhere.

    It seems the US is looking at more economical and better ways of doing business. If a small business person can save a dollar then why not.

    The only issue I have is the availability of a small 1.6 litre diesel for the US market.

    I was just on another site explaining how economic considerations will change the US vehicle market, especially commercial vehicles.

  • avatar
    daver277

    If the small vans are being sold for commercial purposes, which is about $, why don’t they offer the much more efficient diesel versions and standard transmissions which are way, way more economical?
    The manual cost savings is about the same as the extra diesel cost and most tradespeople are not a klutz with the clutch.
    Not every work truck diesel has to be the $8,000 option that Detroit loves to sell.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      ‘Cause you possibly way overestimate the familiarity with MTs of kids and women who often drive these as delivery vehicles and are therefore unlikely to recoup any of the upfront cost disparity of diesel because they couldn’t drive an MT at all, let alone hyper-efficiently?

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      The emission control costs (not to mention higher purchase and maintenance costs) on the newest deisels push the breakeven point vs. gasoline much higher in light and smaller medium duty vehicles. The last number I remember reading was 30,000 miles annually; if you drive fewer miles than that you are better off buying the gasoline engine. I believe I saw the number in Fleet Manager magazine but I wouldn’t bet my house on it.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Small business has been using minivans, since there’s been minivans. Same with full-size vans. Small business, or any company on earth, only buy what they need when it comes to commercial vehicles. They don’t buy an 18 wheeler when a medium duty will do. They also don’t buy full-size vans when a minivan will do.

    Minivans aren’t taking over the world, anytime soon. Least not America. Yes mid-size minivans and full-size vans are both vans, but let’s not oversimplify.

    It’s true consumers are known to cross shop various size/classes of cars, but it’s not so true for trucks, especially commercial.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @DiM
      “Minivans aren’t taking over the world, anytime soon. Least not America.”

      Can you provide a link to show that mini van sales aren’t improving in the US. Also, show where this article states that minivan are taking over America.

      @DiM
      “Yes mid-size minivans”
      What style of vehicle is this? Can you provide some links to show me a midsize minivan.

      @DiM
      “It’s true consumers are known to cross shop various size/classes of cars, but it’s not so true for trucks, especially commercial.”

      Actually DiM, anyone in business will buy what is best for them. You will not have a pickup centric company, when a minivan will do the job cheaper.

      These are businesses, they will buy what suits them, not what you deem necessary. If pickups WERE cheaper to run in the past and have become more expensive and van that carries the same weight can do the job, a van will be considered.

      That’s why the Europeans use these style of vans and not pickups. They are cheaper to run a business with.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @BAF0 – Why does it have to be vans vs pickups? I didn’t mention pickups. Nobody mentioned pickups. And I didn’t say business owners couldn’t cross shop anything vs anything, but they usually want to replace what they have with something similar. If a small van (minivan, midsize van, what ever you want to call it) works for them, why would they stray? Florists don’t need a huge van and an open bed pickup also wouldn’t be an option. By the same token, business owners that love to simply throw tools, ladders, supplies, buckets, etc, over the sides of a pickup and drive to the next job, wouldn’t want a van of any sort. Roofers hate vans. Pest control/exterminators can’t use vans. Many industries and business people want and demand pickups. Get over it.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          “By the same token, business owners that love to simply throw tools, ladders, supplies, buckets, etc, over the sides of a pickup and drive to the next job, wouldn’t want a van of any sort. Roofers hate vans. Pest control/exterminators can’t use vans ”

          Vans do that in Europe and a lot of Asia.So not a problem.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Some jobs, industries are better suited for, and necessitate vans. Others jobs/industries make better use of, or require pickups. Luckily we have both at our disposal. Any size, class or description. Pickups, vans, utility with open or closed back. Cheap and affordable. Luxury if you what it. 4wd if you want. New or used, just name your price. Isn’t America great???

            But I’d like to see BAF0 trade in his high end, luxury Mazda BT50GT for a cheesy small van. Then we’ll talk…

            And we still don’t know how it is Robert Ryan gets around. Are you a van man? FREE Candy???

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Denvermike,
            It does not wash in Europe and large parts of Northern Asia. How I get around? a lot better than yourself. I find your posts have you driving a vast collection of vehicles, not sure which to believe.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Robert Ryan – Why all the secrecy, mate? Everybody knows everything about everyone here. Are you ashamed of something or something??? I can’t say I blame you… I’ve worked in the auto trade since 16, and eventually as a small business owner in the biz. I’ve driven everything from Yugos to earth movers. I’ve nothing to hide here. I currently own a towing business and body shop. I’ve bought and sold auto repair shops too.

            But what happens in Europe and Asia is fine with me. It’s different here is all. Different world in many respects. So what?

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            “But what happens in Europe and Asia is fine with me. It’s different here is all. Different world in many respects. So what?”

            Correct. Still the US and NA markets are a moveable feast and gradually changing.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The reasons for America’s devotion to pickups should be easy to see. They’re the biggest sellers in OZ too. Not just a one trick ponies just for commerce, like Europe’s vans. That’s one thing Europeans aren’t likely accustomed to. That’s having one vehicle that does it all. Work, play, family life, single life, home improvement/repairs, recreation, offroad, or just showing off…

            But Europeans must have good reasons for preferring vans for commerce. What ever works for them is fine with me. I don’t lose sleep over it.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            You are right, They have good reasons why they have Vans and Cabchasis variants. the European Vans and cab chassis will become a lot more prevalent inNA in the future.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @DiM
            Why would I sell my BT50? I don’t run a business.

            I use it like most American pickups. It carries air 95% of the time, it’s a lifestyle vehicle. As a matter of fact I could probably use a Corolla or 95% of what I do with a vehicle.

            Why would private SUV pickup owner’s buy a van? Families buy van with seats.

            You seem to fear alot. Why be scared of the future DiM?

            From what I’ve seen the US car market is based on Euro/Asian chassis’s and engines.

            It appears Euro and Asian style commercial vehicles are becoming more accepted.

            Have you ever thought why? It’s because if you operate them your business is more competitive.

            Why run a V8 van or pickup when a 2 litre van can carry the same weight. Carry your gear securely? The van can do most of what you described.

            Why not just open the door and throw your $hit in the back of a van.

            Leave the US travel around the world, you’d be surprised that the US isn’t the only developed economy, others do exist.

            Why not go to Europe, even Spain;)

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @BAF0 – Dump your luxury pickup and step up to a cheesy cargo van…

            Your truck is a lifestyle vehicle, I get that. Most pickups are lifestyle, but a high percent lead double/triple lives. That’s what you won’t acknowledge. Cargo vans have one use, while pickups are the Swiss Army knives of vehicles. Will the Europeans eventually realize this and start to embrace the efficiency of owning less vehicles? Vehicles that can do more than just one task? Probably so.

            It’s not just that cargo vans don’t cut it as lifestyle vehicles, and never mind luxury vehicles. Or fun offroad vehicles. Or family vehicles.

            But it’s not always as simple as throwing your $hit in the back of a van instead of a pickup bed. Vans aren’t suited for many tasks, like hauling hay bales. You just stack them (more of them) in/on the bed of a pickup for easy on, easy off. For some users, you don’t know the size or dimensions of the furniture or other appliances you’ll be hauling that day.

            Hauling toxic chemicals is another problem for vans. Same with hauling livestock. Or trash to the dump. Or huge piles of tree branches. That would sucks in a van. Heavy bulk items, like building materials, are easy to load into a van with a forklift, but at the job site, it would be an extra chore to offload cider blocks and roofing bundles from inside a van. Rough on the back, as opposed to just setting the ladder right in the truck bed, or handing them up or off.

            Vans are very limiting in more situations than I can list here.

            If you grew up using vans for everything known to man, you might not miss pickups. But most of us would rather not take the downgrade. There’s tons more things a pickup can do that a van can’t, than vise versa.

            But other than that, why replace something that works, for something that doesn’t work as well. We have vans of all sizes for those than choose them. Pickups are naturally a better choice, over all.

      • 0 avatar
        econobiker

        Just read in a fleet manager magazine that the manager of a 9,300 unit fleet for a Northeast US cable company was converting to the Chrysler mini-van cargo configuration because cable was going fiber optic versus copper cable and the big Chevy Expresses were not needed anymore due to lesser weight of the fiber cable. He said everything stored in the Chevy was able to be in the mini-van except the 28′ ladder which was attached to a roof rack on both versions.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    These minis will not be seen as a success until you see tacos being sold from them. The taco trucks that ply work sites are the true economic indicators. When they’re downtown, stealing office workers from restaurants, the economy isn’t doing so hot. When they’re roaming the job sites of brawny men building America, then all is well, especially if these minis can keep the cost of rolled tacos and quesadillas down.


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