It may be one of the least sexy vehicles Nissan Motor Co. has ever unveiled: a big white commercial van with blank side panels and a bare interior.
Nissan wants to use convenience features, such as pre-drilled shelving holes and spill-resistant seat fabrics, to challenge the Detroit 3 for a modest piece of their near-total control of the full-sized van segment.
In January, Mercedes-Benz USA dealers took over sales of the Sprinter van, which represents about 5 percent of the segment, from Dodge.
“We believe there is an opportunity here,” said Brian Carolin, Nissan’s senior vice president for North American sales and marketing. “Our dealers are telling us that customers want something new that isn’t available on the market.”
“Commercial van owners are some of the least-satisfied owners of any segment in the industry,” he says.
The van was designed and engineered in Nissan’s U.S. studios with a list of why-didn’t we-think-of-that features:
– The NV will provide drivers with a center console for personal storage needs–something Nissan claims is nonexistent among its competitors. A walking tour of other offerings at the truck show failed to prove Nissan wrong.
– Its tall roofline is designed to allow operators up to 6 feet 2 inches tall to walk through the vehicle without ducking their heads.
– Driver and passenger seats are double reinforced on the exit side to compensate for occupants climbing in and out of their trucks all day. The seat seams are located lower than normal so that hours of sitting and pressure don’t rip them open.
– At the truck’s display, potential customers watched as Nissan representatives poured cups of Coca-Cola onto the seats and the liquid beaded up and rolled into pans without leaving stains.
– The sides of the cargo box interior are pre-drilled with anchor holes. That will enable buyers to install and secure utility shelving without drilling into the vehicle’s metal and risking corrosion.
– The roof is equipped with anchor points to install roof racks, meaning holes do not have to be drilled in the roof. The cargo area is pre-wired for electrical needs.
It is standard industry practice for van customizers, known as upfitters, to spend hours on an empty van, fitting it to customer specifications after it is sold.
The NV series will come in three models: the NV1500, with a 4.0-liter V6 engine and standard roof line; the NV2500, with either a standard or tall roofline, and either the V6 or a 5.6-liter V8; and the NV3500, with either roof and the V8 engine only. The model names refer to their cargo capacity.