By on April 18, 2015

USA commercial van sales chart March 2015Commercial van sales are on the rise in the United States. But of greater interest than the improvements – total sales jumped 14% to 356,814 units in 2014 and are up 26% to 87,866 year-to-date – is the constant change in the category.

The best-selling commercial van in America in each of the last five months was the Ford Transit, a Euro-style van that’s replacing the Ford E-Series. Together, the Transit and similar-looking products from Mercedes-Benz (the established Sprinter) and Ram (the Fiat Ducato-based ProMaster), account for 39% of the commercial van market so far this year and 50.4% of the full-size category.

The small van sector, meanwhile, is growing rapidly. Sales are up 76% in early 2015. The quintet, led by the Ford Transit Connect and joined most recently by the Ram ProMaster City, generated 23% market share in 2015’s first-quarter, up from 17% a year ago. Click the chart for a larger view. Specific figures in the column are explained by the descriptions below with, for example, the Transit generating 22,881 first-quarter sales, the Sprinter 5,559, and the ProMaster 5,549.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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46 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: The Rise Of Commercial Van Sales In America – 2015 Q1...”


  • avatar

    As a commercial vehicle salesman I’m glad to see this! Industry experts (whoever they are) are saying to expect commercial sales to continue to rise through the end of the decade. I think the versatility of todays vans are making them more appealing to previous small truck buyers. Vans cost a bunch less than trucks and offer enclosed space tall enough to make stand up work shops in these days! If you really need 4×4 and you don’t otherwise need a full frame truck, then you can always add 4×4 to vans for $12k…. Still cheaper than a 4×4 box truck in most cases.

    • 0 avatar
      Point Given

      As a commercial vehicle salesman I’m pumped too. Only thing I want is the 4×4 to be done at the factory level (it’s a northern Canada thing).

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Frantz
      I do think the US is under represented with van manufacturers.

      Considering the size of the US van market it could easily be expanded if vans were allowed to be imported from a country external to NAFTA.

      This is similar to your pickup market, which would also be larger if the protection offer to them was lifted.

      Even here in Australia with our 24 million people we have a much wider range of vans and pickups to choose from.

      I do agree that the smaller vans offer what most use a pickup for and are cheaper.

      I’m wondering how large the US “van” cab chassis market is and is it growing.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @BAFO – You’ve also got a HUGE selection of hatchbacks. Scirroco? Pulsar? That DAMN Chicken Tax?? Strikes Again????

        And the Mirca? Polo? Lancer? Cerato? 208? 308? Celerio? Swift? Corolla? Jazz? Civic? Barina? Octavia? Elite? i20? i30? A180? A200? A250? A45? 116i? 118d? A1? Plus a few others.

        Clearly not all OEMs want to bring all their cars to the US. Some OEMs couldn’t give 2 craps about North America.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Why would the van market expand because there are more options. Commercial use of a van is either you need one or you don’t. Business are not going to run out and start buying vans because you can get one from a company that doesn’t have a reputation in the US. Toyota couple probably do OK with a proper full size van and do OK in the small van dept too, but that is about it. Look at the acceptance of the non Ford and GM vans. Van buyers are even more brand loyal that pickup buyers.

        Those numbers above should include what we call cutaways and the C&C versions. If I had to guess I’d say they represent somewhere in the range of 10-20% of the market. Again I’d guess that the sales of those going into commercial service are up too. I don’t know that Motorhome sales have started to pick back up yet or not. Ambulance sales are probably flat since those are usually retired at a specific age or mileage and people still get sick and injured in a bad economy.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Speaking of motorhomes, people need to stop buying Sprinter based RVs. The Sprinter chassis is just at about full capacity when companies like Winnebago finish one. When the customer adds things like water, all their belongings and maybe a few extra passengers, they are way overtaxed. Then, they decide to add a tow car to the mix, and really add to the fun. If you need an RV buy one based on a very heavy duty truck chassis.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @MBella,
            More and More RV companies are adding Motorhome conversions based on the Sprinter. Heavy Truck Conversions would be Super C’s based on the Freightliner. Maybe a bit expensive

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            The Sprinter based ones aren’t cheap either, and I’m talking about Class C Sprinter based RVs. The other class C chassis available are much better suited for the task.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @MBella
            No they are not, that is why Sprinter based new Motorhomes are increasing. Most manufacturers have dropped the E350, the E450 is getting less

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Robert Ryan – Class C RV buyers and upfitters may be leery of tiny diesel engines, especially from Merc, but then it needs a diesel generator.

            But RV upfitters are forced to move away from E-series chassis’. When it goes away, they can’t use RV bodies made specifically for the E-series. They don’t interchange with RV bodies for other makes.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Sorry Robert but as usual you don’t know the facts. Yes there are a few companies producing units on Sprinter cutaways but they are not going away from the E350/E450 any sooner than they have to. Nothing else comes close to the capacity and durability for the price.

            @MBella I agree that people should not be buying the Sprinter chassis class C units the sloppy unibody just isn’t up to the task. People will be regretting it when the body starts getting torn apart and they’ll be cussing it left and right when they find out how frequently they have to replace the brakes as well as how poorly they perform loaded up coming out of a pass.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @scoutdude,
            Disagree, Companies are dropping the E350, retaining the E450, but others are now producing more units on the Sprinter. Yes the E450, has greater capability than the Sprinter, but the Sprinter leaves the E450 for dead as a driving combination. I experienced the “joys ” of driving an E450 for a short time in the U.S. about two years ago, it was unmanageable, in passing situations, ,not very pleasant generally
            From memory about 12-14 Companies now use theSprinter as a MH Base. In fact Winnebago has turned it into Class A,as well as a Class C, and a Touring Class B
            As fas as the basic Transit goes it cannot be turned into a MH base as it now stands, it’s GCVWR is too low, well under the Sprinter. As a cheap delivery vehicle, it should be OK

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Companies are switching to Sprinters because they can charge more for a “Mercedes” The Sprinter chassis cab actually have a frame that they mount the bodies to. The biggest issue is that an already less than stellar powertrain is so overtaxed in an RV you are going to be buying engines every few years. Even when the E series goes away completely, Ford and GM will have other heavy duty options to replace them.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @MBella
            “Companies are switching to Sprinters because they can charge more for a “Mercedes” The Sprinter chassis cab actually have a frame that they mount the bodies to. ”

            Correct, except for the “Mercedes” part. The E450, I drove was a ship at sea, as a Class C and the 305hp V10, has modest towing abilities, much better if had the 362hp upgrade used in the Class A
            As far as the Mercedes engine, it has no problems with the Motorhome
            GM and Ford replacing the heavier E series, Ford up fitters are using the
            F550, but that is for the Super C and not a simple replacement for the E450

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Frantz,
      In Australia, we have the Ducato, Sprinter, Transit, Renault, Citroen, IVECO and Japanese/Korean Vans in all sorts of permutations

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “Class C RV buyers and upfitters may be leery of tiny diesel engines, especially from Merc, but then it needs a diesel generator.”
        They are not, that is why, more and more are using them for that purpose

  • avatar
    Fred

    Good to see that business is recovering and updating their fleets.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Aside from the paneled-over Ram Cargo, the small commercial van segment was dead from the death of the Astro to the birth of the Transit Connect. People didn’t buy small cargo vans because they simply didn’t *exist*.

    I also see a lot of businesses using small commercial vans in place of the small pickup trucks that used to exist. By the time you put a commercial-quality truck cap on a Tacoma or Colorado, you’ve spent a lot more than a TC, etc. costs.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @eggasalad,
      You can add the Peugeot , Citroen , VW and Opel minivans in Australia, the Ford Transit version is not sold here

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      We need another Molester/Custom Van movement.

      Vans are good for specific tasks and not much else. Pickups can do most of what vans are good for except pickups wear many hats.

      Never mind 4wd for a sec. Never mind style too.

      Dirty work by day, and after washing the pickup, a night on the town. And then an outing with the the family, Saturday and Sunday. Come Monday, drop off the kids at school and repeat the work regimen.

      But what has to kill ‘work vans’ the most is their ‘junk value’, just a few years down the road. Pickups enjoy ridiculously high ‘resale’. Unbeatable. Especially when hard loaded and 4wd.

      Partly to blame, is Mexico rejects vans (and auto imports), severely limiting ‘to Mexico’ imports, while pickups enjoy a free ride down south, after 10 years old. We lose an estimated million used pickups a year to Mexico, and that’s not counting the stolen ones.

      But pickups with a utility cap are like vans ‘inside-out’. Easy access to bins all around, or walk-in with a raised-roof shell. Or simply one huge open bin (bed). Then remove the slide-in utility box/cap/bins for weekend play or trade-in.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’m not buying the walk in with the raised roof shell. I’ve never seen one tall enough to stand up and with the current height of the average truck bed they need a flight of stairs to get into. Yes a pickup can serve as a dual purpose vehicle but if you really use it for work it isn’t very practical if you use it like many contractors where it is full of tools and or supplies. It just isn’t practical to take all that stuff out and the canopy off just for weekend use.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          If you’re a contractor, you’re making a lot of money. So you can afford a brand new truck that does nothing but work. I can’t, at least when it comes to pickups.

          Small businesses, mom-n-pops, farmers, ranchers than can swing a new vehicle may not afford two newer vehicles at once. That’s got to be most of America’s life blood.

          A van would serve me better in some situations, but it I need 4wd and a vehicle for all occasions. Plus I enjoy crazy resale value.

          Contractors love their pickups though. You can stuff a couple pallets of material into a van, but then try to unload it by hand. I see contractors every day with various loose tools and materials in open beds. Many work outdoors and take the day off when it rains or snows. They don’t all need to take the entire shop with them to the job site. If the do, one big trucks does that and their other company trucks are pickups.

          Chemicals and paints, you can’t have inside the truck with the drivers. Or windshields for instance.

          And I like vans. The ones I have a thing for are Quigley converted Econolines. If I was rich I’d have one. My dogs would go bananas. But ’70s and ’80s custom vans stop me in my tracks!

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Volkswagen will wait another 10 years to make sure this isn’t a fad.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    For thirty years now I’ve been wondering if the US would ever get vans as well engineered as the competing European designs have been. MBZ finally went out of the limb by bringing the Sprinter in years ago, but the marketing has been a mess as it went from Freightliner to Dodge and now I guess to your choice of Mercedes or Freightliner badging.

    Alan Mulally deserves a lot of credit for forcing through his One Ford program which finally knocked down the US fiefdom which had long insisted on building the obsolete Exxx series. First he made an end run by importing the Transit Connect, then the job got finished by making the Transit the new standard Ford large van.

    Dodge is lucky to have Fiat designs to pull across the Atlantic.

    Nissan seems to resist building global vans … maybe they just aren’t into Renault? Their NV200 is a very credible alternative to the Transit connect though.

    • 0 avatar
      Johannes Dutch

      Nissan Primastar = Renault Trafic = Opel Vivaro.
      Nissan NV400 = Renault Master = Opel Movano.

      Because it’s very expensive to develop (new) vans there are a lot of joint-ventures. All in all I’d say that Fiat is the Master of Vans.
      They’ve got 5 models (sizes). From small to big: the Fiorino, the Doblò (Ram ProMaster City), the Scudo, the Ducato (Ram ProMaster) and their biggest is the Iveco Daily.

      The “ultimate” van joint-venture these days, as far as I know:
      Fiat Scudo = Peugeot Expert = Citroën Jumpy = Toyota ProAce. If Ram joins the club there’s 5 of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      At this point, the van market isn’t large enough or profitable enough to justify having a US-specific vehicle.

      Mulally was just being practical. There isn’t much point in spending several hundred million dollars to develop a relatively low-price vehicle with limited distribution. The business decision is similar to what was done with the Crown Victoria — milk it for as long as possible, but don’t spend money on developing a replacement.

      If Americans were willing to pay F-series prices for vans, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But they won’t, so we are.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Pch101,
        The US van market is very large.

        The problem with the van market or I should say manufacture of vans is it faces the same hurdles as the US pickup market. That is the restrictive controls placed on importing vans into the US.

        Vans imported into the US face a 25% import tax.

        If this tax didn’t exist the importation of vans would occur and increase competition. This competition would drive down prices.

        This would be a win for the consumer, especially business.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          @BAFO – It may be a mystery why Americans reject hatchbacks while they’re so ubiquitous around the world, but the lack of a meaningful USA/NA van market is obvious.

          First we have a more than a meaningful pickup market, with crazy high resale values. Second is poor or non existent resale value of work vans.

          Lack of meaningful demand repels Big 3 US entrants into the van segment (aside from outsourcing), and equally repels global OEMs. Which takes us back to lack to our lack of hatchback choices/entrants, including not much Big 3 participation.

          OEMs go where the money’s at. Snivel all you want, but remember history’s Mini Truck Dynasty.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The US Van market is not huge look at the numbers above. That is small by US standards. there are several vehicles that sell in similar numbers by themselves. Just like mini truck buyers that average buyer is a bottom feeder looking for strippo vehicles that have low profit margins and then they run them into the ground rather than replace them frequently. With more players wanting a piece of the pie it only gets worse.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Too expensive the lot of them. Particular loathing for Sprinter’s DEF fluid. Talk about a ghost in the machine. The locks & lights are finicky. Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s a tap sometimes a replacement. Bluetec gets noisy with age.

    Rear drive with ballast option and all-weather tites works well in the snowbelt.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      They offer an AWD option now, and nobody is stopping anyone from buying proper winter tires for their van.

      That being said, I hope the Transit crushes the Sprinter and I won’t have to work on those garbage piles anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @MBella
        The new Transit is less capable, do not bother to sell the same 3.2 Litre Unit here. Eco boost version has slightly less capability than the diesel version.
        Sprinter on the numbers given will sell more as local production ramps up

        • 0 avatar
          Brian P

          Sprinter will lose market share as long as the number of competitors increases, until they definitively fix their premature rusting problem, among other things.

          Ford has a lot of this market locked up. As far as I can tell, the Transit is better in every meaningful way than the E-series was (except perhaps being more expensive), and Ford already had that market locked up even with the old van, so I wouldn’t expect this to change.

          I bought a Ram ProMaster a.k.a. Fiat Ducato about a year ago; the front drive allowing a lower loading floor was the deciding factor. We just did 2800 km on vacation this past week.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Brian P,
            That is what local production would address

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            How would local production address Sprinter’s corrosion problem? The Sprinter bodyshells are currently assembled and painted in Germany with only just enough left off so that the remaining assembly in North America gets them out of paying the tax. If they wanted to fix this at the plant in Germany, they could. And should. Other German-made vehicles, including other M-B products, don’t have this problem.

            Sprinters rust everywhere, including in the middle of panels, not just the bottom of the doors, and that sounds like poor materials and paint.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Brian P
            The current Sprinter is fairly Generic, built for many markets, the U.S. Sprinter will be built for US/NA conditions, as well as reducing the price. That rust problem, seems to be a specific NA issue, not really encountered elsewhere.Maybe as a result of its rebuilding, handling in the U.S. Who knows
            Volvo does something with its Heavy Trucks as the NA Truck, does not exist anywhere else. It was designed to fit NA supply lines and preferences

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Brian P
            It appears the Petrol, Fiat Ducato(Promaster) and the Sprinter are expanding as Class C Motorhome bases in the U.S.
            The Transit makes a cheap and more effective replacement for the E Series Basic Vans

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            Dad had a Ford Econoline van when I was growing up, and been in plenty of E-Series 15 passenger vans doing non-profit work. So I was not sure about the Transit until our church rented one a few weeks ago and I got to check it out.

            Low center of gravity means that it does not drive like a truck anymore. Excellent visibility, and lots of comfortable seats instead of bench seats. Great driver accomidations, and has same type mirrors as the cars in the Ford lineup.

            I was very impressed; it most certainly is better than the old E-Series; and should do well in marketplace. Only downside is it’s looks; the kids called a “spaceship”; and it may be too radical for some businesses.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Nothing is a worthless as the Sprinter. Very few companies buy more of them once they find out just how high the operating costs are. So far the Transit is crushing the Sprinter the only question is whether Ford will continue to outsell the GM twins in the long run. The Sprinter, Ram and Nissan will remain also rans.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Motorhome Class C manufacturers in North America
            What chassis they use
            http://changingears.com/rv-sec-manufacturers-type-c.shtml

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Has a favorite emerged among customizers? It’s the base commercial vans that are converted to campers, vacation cruisers and shag boxes. There probably aren’t enough cheap used ones around yet for the do it yourselfers, but after some fleet rollover, they should be in business too, though with the models with lowest resale value.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Fiat Ducato has a huge part of the motorhome market in Europe. The design of this van puts just about everything that makes it go, including the fuel tank and muffler, ahead of the B pillar, so that what’s behind is just a big empty box (or bare chassis rails) with only the wiring for the taillights, brake lines, etc. No driveshaft to make room for, no fuel filler to work around, and the floor is very low. There are some air suspension kits available so that it can be made to ride very well (and even in stock form, it’s not bad).

      Sprinter got a head start in the North American market, though.

      Even so, the Ford E-series cab-and-chassis and cutaways are still going to be around for a while …

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @ Brian P
        I do not expect the Transit to make much of an impact in the MH market, maybe as a Class B base. As a basic delivery Van , it will have much more capability than the old Econoline

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          As long as the cutaway E series is in production it will remain the leader in the MH market as it has for several decades. Once the E series goes away it will be interesting to see if GM takes over in that market.

          The Sprinter has been around with one badge or another for around a decade now and they still do not sell but a handful per year to the class C builders.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Scoutdude,
            Much ” more than a handful” quite a few, that is why the U.S. Is Mercedes best market for the Sprinter
            Actually the proposed T450/550,variants of the Transit could replace the E series, it is a Dinosaur that is in need of retiring
            GM has nothing in the pipeline to fill the gap, in fact has had nothing for many years

  • avatar
    Rday

    bought a ram promaster 2500 a month ago. great to travel in and carries alot of stuff. gets 18-19 hwy and averages around 14-16. brakes squeal but they are the best on stopping. I think these kinds of vans will start to pickup sales for rv and other uses. Love the fwd and that is the main reason i bought it. travel thru snow and slush in the winter and will never buy a rwd vehicle again. Ram handles great, turns quickly and seats are very comfortable. love the high roof and working on getting running boards for ease of entry. Transit was too expensive almost the same price as Sprinter. ram is much better pricewise.


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