Nissan unveils commercial van concept

Nissan took another step Thursday, Dec. 4, toward its planned 2010 entry into the North American commercial vehicle market by unveiling the NV2500 Concept – a commercial van built on a modified Titan F-Alpha pickup platform – at its design studio near Detroit. Nissan also displayed a smaller NV200 commercial van, which features a patented sliding cargo pod and which was unveiled recently outside of North America.

Over its first three years in the North American market, the company plans to offer three all-new products up to Class 5 gross vehicle weight ratings, as well as others from the stable of commercial vehicles it sells worldwide. Nissan is a major supplier of commercial vehicles outside North America, with nearly 600,000 expected to be sold this year.

The three new products being developed specifically for the North American market will be built at Nissan’s manufacturing facility in Canton, Miss., where the company is investing $118 million to build commercial vehicles. The venture means new suppliers for Nissan, including Cummins for diesel engines and ZF for transmissions, says Joe Castelli, vice president of light commercial vehicles and fleet for Nissan North America. The first vehicle is planned for the first half of 2010. The eventual lineup will be both vans and chassis cabs. “We have to be in both the van business and the truck business,” Castelli says.

The NV2500 Concept vehicle displayed on Thursday is configured for construction use and bears the logo of Habitat for Humanity to illustrate the partnership between Nissan and Habitat. The van’s “wall-less” mobile office/workspace design includes a computer workstation, fold-down conference table, numerous storage compartments, cargo/tool tiedown racks, nearly six feet of interior height and an awning-style side panel that opens to create a standing outside workshop table. Other concept features include a laser-projected keyboard for the computer workstation and solar panels integrated into the roof panel.

“The Nissan NV2500 is a rolling idea lab – bringing a new perspective to the commercial vehicle segment,” says Bruce Campbell, vice president of design for Nissan Design America Inc. “We see the NV2500 Concept as an ongoing exploration of ways to make these vehicles more than just a box on four wheels. Our goal is to enhance utility through creative design solutions, providing a platform for a wide variety of specific professional applications.”

As Nissan meets with prospective customers in the coming months to guide the development of its production vehicles, the company also is rolling the concept out to its dealers. Those interested in selling Nissan’s commercial vehicle lineup will be required to meet certain standards and certifications for sales and service. For example, dealers will need a 14-foot service bay to accommodate box vans and 30,000-pound lifts so that a loaded Class 5 vehicle could be serviced.

Nissan currently has 1,070 dealers in the United States. Based on the participation of dealers for existing players in the market, Castelli expects about 250 to 300 Nissan dealers to sell and service commercial vehicles. But the company will accept all that meet the standards, he says.