Operations

Nissan Intro'ing Its First Commercial Fleet Vehicle

Posted on December 5, 2008 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - Nissan Motors Co. will introduce its first U.S. commercial vehicle in 2010, company officials said upon unveiling a concept work van Thursday at the automaker's Technical Center North America.

The NV2500 Concept stretches the imagination of mobile work space but also shows Nissan's intent to move its bigger rigs into the United States and Canada to compete against Detroit's Big Three.

"Nissan is a global player in the commercial vehicle business," said Joe Castelli, Nissan's vice president of commercial fleets. "We are in 75% of the world markets and the next logical move is into North America."

Nissan will have its first commercial vehicle ready in 2010 as a 2011 model, and company officials said it could be similar to the concept vehicle unveiled at its design studio. The vehicle will be built in Canton, Miss. The Japanese automaker plans to introduce two more commercial vehicles by 2013.

The concept vehicle offers a number of low-tech solutions to modern field-work problems, said Bruce Campbell, Nissan's North American design chief.

"This is smart innovation without adding lots of cost," he said, pointing to the alcove area behind the driver's seat. That storage system would allow a driver to store most of his gear, such as hard hat, work boots, and hearing protection, on a simple shelving system.

There are many storage areas inside for specific equipment. The van doors all have areas cut out to hold power tools or other nuts and bolts. There are integrated connections for air tools and a shop vacuum inlet to clean up at the end of the day. The flooring is made of bamboo and a computer is mounted in the open storage area.

The truck, which has been used at Habitat for Humanity work sites, includes an awning with enough room underneath for a fold-out table. A glass roof allows better lighting inside the van and roof-mounted solar panels generate additional electricity. Nissan also showed its NV200, a small concept commercial vehicle that could operate as an efficient delivery vehicle.

Such small utility vehicles are plentiful overseas but have not taken hold in the U.S. Should Nissan build the NV200, its only competition will be Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Transit Connect, which comes out next year.

Nissan plans to invest $118 million in its Mississippi plant to handle commercial products ranging up to Class 5, which are trucks that weigh up to 19,500 pounds and handle a variety of work such as heavy-duty hauling and towing. It has announced partnerships with Cummins Inc. for diesel engines and ZF Friedrichshafen AG for transmissions. The company formed its North American Commercial Vehicle Business Unit in April and continues to fill positions in the group as it also talks to dealerships interested in taking on the commercial market.

Nissan spokesman Alan Buddendeck said the company also would offer gasoline-engine models as well.

While the commercial vehicle market has remained stagnate along with the light vehicle sales, Nissan anticipates the slump to end in the coming years. Having a new commercial vehicle available in 18 to 24 months could bode well for the automaker.

"If we were coming out today, it would be tough," Castelli said. "Our timing may work out to our advantage."

Source: The Detroit News

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