Sales of Commercial Vans in the US are down 5.4% in the first quarter of 2017 to 103,197 units, but this decline is completely due to small commercial vans, as all of the 5 players in this sub-segment lose by double digits for a 25.4% loss (to 17,882 sales), compared to stable sales for large commercial vans at 85,315 units. Keep in mind, these figures include both cargo vans and passenger vans. Small vans quickly gained popularity after new players emerged since 2013, after the Ford Transit Connect paved the way since 2009. The segment peaked at over 90,000 sales in 2015 and 2016, but that appears to have been the ceiling for its potential, at least at the current level of gas prices, which means companies prefer the added practicality of large vans or even pickup trucks over the efficiency of smaller vans. The large van segment peaked at almost 372,000 sales last year, the highest volume in 28 years, and a stable start of the year is a signal of continued strength of and confidence in the US economy.
Highlights for Q1 2017, large commercial vans:
- Sales of the Ford Transit declined for the first time since the nameplate’s launch in the US in 2014. Still, despite the 15.9% loss, the Transit still almost sells double the volume of the #2, the ancient Chevrolet Express, even though the latter gained 13.9% despite its age. Sister model GMC Savana was even the fastest growing model in the segment with a 64% gain. This is a direct result of low gas prices offsetting the inefficient powertrains of these vehicles, combined with higher discounts as the development costs have been more than recovered in their 22-year long career. A wide variety of configurations thanks to their body-on-frame construction also helps to keep them warm.
- Another golden oldie, Ford E-series, only available as a chassis-cab (called cutaway in the US), keeps performing well with just a 4.5% loss, keeping it ahead of the Ram ProMaster, which gained almost 20% to make it a tier-1 player, well ahead of the bottom 3 of the segment.
- After a slight drop in sales in 2016, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter picks up its growth curve again in 2017 with sales up 5.9% in Q1.
- The red lantern of the segment is still carried by the Nissan NV, which grows as fast as the overall segment: less than half a percent.
Highlights for Q1 2017, small commercial vans:
- Sales of the undisputed segment leader, Ford Transit Connect, fell by 15,9%, mainly because of a stop-sale after Ford had to fix faulty door latches as part of an ongoing recall.
- As a result, the #2 of the segment Nissan NV200 reduces the gap between the two models as it loses “only” 16% of its volume. Its sister model Chevrolet City Express does worse with a loss of 28.4% as Chevy dealers are selling the Express again thanks to low gas prices, as we’ve mentioned above.
- The Ram ProMaster City doesn’t fare much better with a loss of 26.8%, but maintains its 3rd place.
- Still relatively fresh, the Mercedes-Benz Metris is already down 11.3% and remains in distant last place.