There are two segments that make up Cargo Vans: Small Vans and Full-size Vans. While both of them grew year-on-year, the momentum is clearly with the smaller segment, which grew by 42%, compared to 8% for the larger cars. One has to keep in mind this is a relatively new segment in the US, with two out of the five competitors being new in 2015, and as such is growing from a much smaller base – at 43k sales total it was barely over 25% of the 160k sales total for Full-size Vans.
Ford Transit Connect remains the market leader in the Small Vans segment – it’s been at the top of the sales tables ever since its introduction in 2009 on the American shores kick-started a segment that’s lain dormant for decades. Now in its second generation, it commands more than half the market. In second place is the Nissan NV200, while in third is its twin, the Chevrolet City Express. The Nissan, known to most as the new (and rather ungainly) NYC taxi, keeps growing its market share, and might yet emerge as a serious competitor to the Transit Connect.
The final two slots are occupied by the Ram twins – the Promaster City, which is essentially the Doblo transplanted to the US from European Fiat, and the Cargo Van, a cargo version of the Dodge Grand Caravan. The Promaster City was new for 2015 but failed to set the market alight – part of the reason may be that, to the best of my knowledge, Ram offers it only in the super-long-wheelbase version, whereas the Transit Connect’s success must be attributed at least in part to the multitude of versions its available in. And what’s more, its introduction clearly cannibalized sales of the Cargo Van, the only model to lose sales year-on-year.
In the Full-size Vans segment another European transplant, the Ford Transit, has taken firm control. In essence a full-size rear-wheel-drive version of the Tourneo model (FWD), it seems to be achieving exactly what Ford wanted it to do – replace the geriatric Ford E-series (sales down by 58%, but still in second place). What’s more, its introduction along with some new competition has taken a huge toll on another model well past its sell-by date: the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana twins, both of which were first introduced in 1996 and whose sales were down substantially year-on-year.
Fifth, right after the American brands, was the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Although Mercedes has only been selling the Sprinter under its own banner for the past few years (essentially since its split with Chrysler), the car has actually been present in the US market since 2003, when it was sold as the Dodge/Freightliner Sprinter. While its sales grew at a decent 18%, it will most likely be overtaken soon by the Ram Promaster, the brand’s American version of the European Fiat Ducato. Although the Promaster is based on the pre-facelift Ducato, and thus inherits its awkward front styling, it seems to be going down well with the customers.
Finally, in last place, is the Nissan NV, a US-specific model based on the Titan truck that proves that, no matter how much Nissan may try, it just can’t crack the US commercial vehicle market.