By on June 11, 2014


The only van not capable of improving its May 2013 U.S. sales figures in May 2014 possessed an in-showroom rival last month which didn’t exist a year ago. Ram Cargo Van sales fell 21%, or 209 units, in May 2014. But with the ProMaster making headway, total Ram commercial van sales jumped 84%.

FCA is not yet a major player in America’s commercial van category, but the ProMaster has, together with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Nissan NV200, stirred up the traditional full-size van market.

Ignore the smaller Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200, and Ram C/V for a moment to focus on the full-size vans. 14.4% of the full-size commercial-oriented vans sold in the United States in May 2014 weren’t GM or Ford products, up from 10.9% in pre-ProMaster May 2013, and 3.5% in pre-NV May 2009.

This isn’t to suggest that Ford and General Motors are soon to lose control of the American commercial van industry. Indeed, in the coming months, Ford will combine two formulas: the new Transit will still wear a Blue Oval, the logo so many buyers associate with commercial van desirability, and it will also utilize all the European flexibility and diesel availability FedEx enjoys with its Sprinters.

Back in the here and now, Ford set a Transit Connect sales record in May with the model’s second consecutive year-over-year sales increase after a 29% first quarter drop. (Ford’s monthly sales releases don’t separate sales of the Transit Connect van from the minivan-fighting Wagon.) The Transit Connect sold more than twice as often as the Nissan NV200 and Ram C/V combined. Chevrolet’s NV200-based City Express should help form a viable Transit Connect opposition later this year.

Meanwhile, GM’s market share in the overall commercial van market slid only slightly from 30.6% during the first five months of 2013 to 30.5% year-to-date; rising to 35.6% in May 2014 compared with 33.5% in May 2013 and 27.5% in April 2014. Through the first five months of 2014, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana generated 43,314 U.S. sales.

Nissan commercial van sales more than doubled to 2678 units in May – the NV200 was only a two-month-old product at this time a year ago. Sprinter volume reached the second-highest level in the model’s U.S. history in 2013 and sales are up more than 23% in 2014. Year-over-year, Sprinter sales have improved in each of the last nine months, following four calendar years of improvement.

The overall category enjoyed a massive month in May 2014 as sales increased by 8524 units, a 28% boost. Sales are up 14% to 142,116 units so far this year, equal to 2.1% of the industry’s total output, up from 1.9% a year ago. It’s not a bad business in which to operate. The Volkswagen brand, for example, has sold 150,317 vehicles in 2014; Mazda has sold 130,223. Total pickup truck volume has risen 4% to more than 900,000 units through five months.

5 mos.
5 mos.
Chevrolet Express
9822 8353 +17.6% 31,378 31,734 -1.1%
Ford E-Series
14,269 12,571 +13.5% 55,115 52,783 +4.4%
Ford Transit Connect
4222 3709 +13.8% 15,226 16,914 -10.0%
GMC Savana
4124 1906 +116% 11,936 6320 +88.9%
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
2264 1828 +23.9% 9282 7517 +23.5%
Nissan NV
1475 971 +51.9% 6231 5148 +21.0%
Nissan NV200
1203 341 +253% 4564 588 +676%
Ram Cargo Van
768 977 -21.4% 3808 3452 +10.3%
Ram ProMaster
1033 4576
30,656 +27.8% 142,116 124,456 +14.2%
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12 Comments on “Cain’s Segments June 2014: Commercial Vans...”

  • avatar

    It’s a niche every big player must be in, but just how profitable can it be? The customer base is as cost-conscious as you can get.

    • 0 avatar

      The saving grace is that the designs don’t necessarily have to change very often, in the case of the E-Series, basically never. With only minor updates the vehicles can still sell in a steady volume, with less development costs to recoup.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently rented a brand new E-Series from U-Haul. While I cannot speak to running costs vs a unibody commercial van, I found it did its job very well.

  • avatar

    It’s impressive that Ford can still move so many E-Series. I imagine that number includes cutaways and chassis cabs that get turned into motorhomes and cube vans, Ford absolutely dominates the motorhome market. .

    As this field becomes the most diverse it’s been since ever, I can see Ford’s share slipping as the E vans are replaced by the Transit and the cost advantage isn’t so clear.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s possible that some commercial dealers and fleet buyers are loading up on the E-series before they become discontinued, due to their known operating costs, wide availability of parts, and familiarity to the mechanics.

      And this is even more true for those cutaway and cab-only purchasers, as they will have to redesign their boxes, electrical interfaces, and so on, in order to work with the new offerings. This is not an insignificant task, especially when considering that many of those customers don’t maintain full-time engineering staffs (due to there not being enough design work on a continual basis).

      • 0 avatar

        The chassis cab and cutaway buyers needn’t worry, for the moment anyway. Those versions of the E-series are sticking around for the time being while the others are replaced by the Transit.

  • avatar

    Is it possible to get a passenger wagon version of the ProMaster (not a fan of the name, FWIW) yet?

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, there is a high roof window van version that’s configurable for 3 rows of passengers. There’s also chassis cab and cutaway versions for upfits that require them.

  • avatar

    I think you have an editing error in the 2nd paragraph, where the Nissan reference should be to the NV2500/3500, not the NV200.

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