The Full-size Cargo Van segment grew 13.5% in 2015 to 327,551 units, which is the highest volume since 2006, thanks to the confidence businesses have in the economy and to widely available credit. As we’ve discussed in our sales surprises of 2015, Euro-vans are taking over the segment that was once dominated by just 3 body-on-frame vans from two manufacturers: the Ford E-series, Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana. Mercedes-Benz was the first to see the potential and brought the Sprinter to the US market under the Freightliner and Dodge names in 2001, but Ford has caused a breakthrough when it replaced the aging E-series with the Transit in 2014. The change-over has gone smooth, as combined sales of the models were stable in 2014 and increased 36% in 2015, giving the Transit the lead of the segment by a large margin (36% share of the segment).
General Motors has been very slow to react to this trend and still has failed to come up with an answer. GM doesn’t design or produce its own large commercial van in Europe, but outsources that to Renault. And its partner for a small commercial van in the US is Nissan, but they also only have a classic body-on-frame truck with the NV Van. As a result, the Chevrolet Express loses 20% of its volume and will continue to do so in coming years. It has managed to hold on to 2nd place in 2015, but I’m not sure how long it will take the RAM ProMaster to take over. The ProMaster was the second-fastest growing model of the segment after the Transit, and benefited from a 9.000-unit order by the US Postal Service, which also put it on the shortlist of other small and large businesses. Ram is investing in its dealership network of 1,000 Ram BusinessLink dealers to specialize in commercial sales.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter may be boosted in 2016 from the introduction of a lower-priced Worker version, which is available in one length, one roof height, one diesel engine and one color: white, but it will save the buyer about $4,000 compared to the former base price. Mercedes-Benz has also introduced a smaller van called Metris in the US late 2015, which is sold as the Vito in Europe, but unfortunately sales of these two models have been published combined so far.
The GMC Savana is hurt just as hard as the Chevy Express, which means it’s kicked down from third place to sixth and in danger of being passed by the Nissan NV as well in 2016.
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