Cain's Segments: July 2013 – Commercial Vans

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
cain s segments july 2013 commercial vans

After abnormally high GM commercial van sales results in the United States a year ago, it wasn’t surprising to see dramatic year-over-year sales declines reported by the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana in July 2013.

As a result, and in part because of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s 13% drop, overall commercial van volume slid 11% in the U.S. last month. Compared with June, van volume fell 27%.

Naturally, commercial van sales are prone to fluctuation. Although a handful of these vehicles are purchased for RV conversions, and a handful more are registered by families who wish to field a full football team, many are bought by businesses who aren’t interested in buying one at a time. Instead, they buy twelve at a time. Or 4000.

North America’s commercial van market is beginning a period of great transition. From the front-wheel-drive Ford Transit Connect’s arrival to Nissan’s decision to compete with the big boys, and then Nissan’s decision to compete with the Transit Connect, times have been changing. And while none of those three vans sell in the kinds of numbers achieved by the Express or Ford’s segment-leading Ford E-Series, the Transit Connect, NV, and NV200 – three vans that weren’t around five years ago – currently combine for a meaningful 18% of the vans sold in America.

Ford, with the leading big van and the leading small van, owns 55% of the market for non-minivan vans. Another 31% goes GM’s way. The Sprinter earned 6% market share in the first seven months of 2013.

Nissan is making headway, although there are slim pickings remaining. From 3.1% of the commercial van market in the first seven months of 2012, the NV’s share rose to 3.9% this year; 4.8% if you include the front-wheel-drive NV200, which only went on sale in late March. NV200 sales have grown each month since.

There’s much more transition to come, however, and Nissan’s commercial vehicle sales reps may not be pleased with the outcome when Chevrolet starts selling the City Express, an NV200 twin. But it won’t be the end of the world for Nissan HQ to sell large numbers of vans to General Motors, traditionally a successful purveyor of commercial products.

Ford will also be updating the Transit Connect and replacing the E-Series with a proper Transit. Chrysler won’t have to rely on the Ram C/V, as the Fiat Ducato will become Ram ProMaster. GM surely won’t let the Express and Savana linger forever.

All this is repeated here again as a means of saying that these numbers won’t look the same a year from now, and they certainly won’t bear any resemblance to 2015’s numbers, either.


AutoJuly 2013July 2012July% Change7 mos. 20137 mos. 2012YTD % ChangeChevrolet Express55699327– 40.3%46,17147,144– 2.1%Ford E-Series97248574+ 9.8%75,68775,839– 0.2%Ford Transit Connect28852627+ 9.8%23,33119,581+ 19.2%GMC Savana14002653– 47.2%961014,709– 34.7%Mercedes-Benz Sprinter19152203– 13.1%11,39811,479– 0.7%Nissan NV936651+ 43.8%71095536+ 28.4%Nissan NV200496——1577——Ram Cargo Van764555+ 37.7%55073998+ 37.7%—— —————Total 23,689 26,590– 10.9% 180,390178,286 + 1.2%
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5 of 23 comments
  • Spartan Spartan on Aug 10, 2013

    Ford is jus printing money with the E-Series. I'm sure the Transit will get to that point after a few years.

    • See 2 previous
    • El scotto El scotto on Aug 11, 2013

      @Big Al from Oz Where is your proof of this?

  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Aug 11, 2013

    There are now a fair amount of motor homes being built on MD trucks here.

  • Charles I had one and loved it . Seated 7 people . Easy to park , great van
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