The Nissan Van Experiment May Be Over

Image: Getty (ANGELA WEISS / Contributor)
Image: Getty (ANGELA WEISS / Contributor)
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Nissan may be giving up on commercial vans, the EU has antitrust concerns about the FCA-PSA merger, dealers are worried about a pickup truck shortage in the U.S., Europe is pushing for cleaner cars. All that and more in the Morning Shift for Monday, June 8, 2020.

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1st Gear: You Know Those Nissan Taxi Vans All Over New York? Well, Nissan May Stop Building Them

Nissan started getting into the commercial van business at the beginning of this decade, offering first the truck-based, body-on-frame NV cargo van and then later the unibody NV200 compact cargo van, many of which would quickly be painted yellow and dominate the streets of New York City.

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Now, according to Automotive News’ sources, Nissan’s foray into the commercial van life will come to an end in the U.S.. From the news site:

Nissan plans to discontinue production of its NV cargo and passenger vans in the U.S., sources familiar with the plans told Automotive News. The automaker assembles the large vans at its Canton, Miss., plant. It builds NV200 small vans in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

“We don’t want to go more in the business of vans in the U.S.,” said a source familiar with the decision. “We will exit.”

A Nissan spokesperson did not corroborate this information to the news site, but did tell Auto News that the company is looking to “streamline the product portfolio.”

The story mentions that Nissan dealers who invested in the brand’s cargo van project are likely to be disappointed, and that’s no surprise, since those dealers had to drop serious coin on prepping their operations for the vans, as Auto News writes:

Only about a fourth of the brand’s more than 1,070 U.S. dealers made the necessary store investments to enter the commercial vehicle business in 2011, installing heavy-duty lifts capable of raising 30,000 pounds of loaded vans, extending business hours to accommodate contractor needs and hiring a sales staff dedicated to fleet issues.

Those who invested did so under the assumption that Nissan would support the products indefinitely, said Tyler Slade, operating partner at Tim Dahle Nissan Southtowne in suburban Salt Lake City.

“Dealers now have serious concerns about their investments in commercial vehicles,” Slade said.

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Among issues customers had with the vans, the news site points out, is the fact that Nissan doesn’t offer quite as much variety when it comes to pickups, and often times, businesses want to own both vans and pickups from the same brand. As a result, some van customers stayed away from the Nissan and instead bought a Ford or Chevy van to go with the Ford or Chevy trucks in their fleets.

The article also mentions the NV cargo van’s long nose—something Jalopnik pointed out back in 2013 and then again in 2017—as a compromise in terms of packaging, and a hindrance when it comes to parking. Check out Auto News’ story to see how much of the cargo van market Nissan owns, and to learn about how that share has flatlined over the years.

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Nissan is in the midst of a major company revamp that will involve reducing production capacity and overall nameplate count, so this seems to make sense, especially since—as Automotive News points out—Nissan’s partner Renault has plenty of cargo vans that Nissan could rebadge.

2nd Gear: Antitrust Concerns About The Fiat Chrysler-PSA Merger

Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler and French automaker PSA Group are enormous companies, which is why it’s not surprising that a merger between the two could cause some concerns among organizations tasks with ensuring fair competition. Reuters writes that a hangup on that front may be brewing in the EU:

EU antitrust regulators are concerned about Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI) and Peugeot car maker PSA’s (PEUP.PA) combined high market share in small vans and may require concessions to clear their $50 billion merger, people familiar with the matter said.

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The story goes on:

If Fiat and PSA fail to dispel the European Commission’s doubts in the next two days and subsequently decline to offer concessions by Wednesday, the deadline for doing so, the deal would face a four-month long investigation.

The EU competition enforcer, which has set a June 17 deadline for its preliminary review, declined to comment. Fiat was not immediately available for comment while PSA had no immediate comment.

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Is this merger ever going to happen?

3rd Gear: There’s Probably Going To Be A Pickup Truck Shortage This Summer

America remains deeply in love with the pickup truck, with demand remaining high according to Automotive News, who writes:

Pickup popularity has not been sapped by the economic effects of the pandemic, which plunged auto sales in April to the slowest pace since the federal government began publishing monthly figures in 1976. Sales of new pickups handily outperformed the market in the week ending June 1, according to J.D. Power. While total retail sales were off by 12 percent, large pickup sales rose 5 percent, and midsize pickup sales climbed at the same rate. Sales of midsize SUVs declined 8 percent, compact SUVs fell 11 percent and compact cars dropped 33 percent.

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The problem is that, though folks still want pickups, The Big Three haven’t been producing vehicles over the past three-ish months, so there could end up being a significant restriction in supply this summer—traditionally an important season for car sales. From the story:

A lack of trucks on dealership lots is a serious problem, but likely a short-term one, said Mark Wakefield, head of automotive practice at AlixPartners. “It feels like a crisis to a dealer. He feels like he doesn’t have the right truck for that buyer,” Wakefield said, adding that low supply will have an impact in the second quarter but be more muted in the third and gone by the fourth.

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Automotive News spoke with the owner of Ford and GM dealerships in Texas. He expressed concerns about vehicle inventory in the coming months, but did say that used trucks have been selling well. So at least there’s that.

Also good news is that inventory doesn’t seem too terrible right now. Sure, automakers haven’t produced many pickups over the past three months, but the reality is that not that many people have been buying vehicles, either. So there does seem to still be some inventory available, as Automotive News points out:

For the Detroit 3, overall vehicle supply is notably down for GM but similar to year-earlier levels for Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, according to estimates from Morgan Stanley. The firm said days’ supply for May was estimated to be 60 for GM, down from 78 in May 2019. Ford’s supply was estimated at 76 days, compared with 75 a year earlier, and FCA was at 68 days, vs. 70 last year.

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The question, now, is whether automakers can get production up quickly enough to meet increasing demand before the current supply runs dry. Another question is how long that demand will last given the country’s economic hardships.

4rd Gear: The UK May Be Considering Cash For Clunkers

You might recall the Car Allowance Rebate System—also called Cash For Clunkers—that the Obama administration rolled out back in 2009. It basically subsidized the purchase of new, efficient cars for people who turned in old gas-guzzlers.

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Proponents touted the scheme’s environmental benefits and more importantly, its ability to reinvigorate a then-struggling auto industry. Detractors, however, maligned the program’s effects on the used car market (and thus on mobility for low-income families) as well as its wastefulness (a view espoused especially strongly among car enthusiasts).

There’s been plenty of discussion about such a program returning to the U.S., and there’s also been talk about it happening elsewhere. A recent story from Reuters claims that the U.K. is looking into such a “scrappage scheme” to pump up EV sales, with the news site attributing the info to the British newspaper The Telegraph. From Reuters:

The UK government is considering giving drivers up to 6,000 pounds ($7,600) to swap their diesel and gasoline cars for electric vehicles, a British newspaper said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be looking at July 6 as a potential date to announce the scrapping program, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.

The program is designed to provide a boost for UK electric car manufacturing following the impact of coronavirus lockdown, the newspaper said.

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Hopefully not too many amazing Land Rovers Series Is, MGs, and Reliants are sacrificed in the name of EV proliferation and market resurgence.

5th Gear: Speaking Of Europe And Promoting Clean Driving

Meanwhile, in Germany, the government is apparently considering upping taxes on folks who buy cars that emit too many emissions, with the focus being on larger, internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. From Reuters:

The new regulation means that the surcharge would double for buyers of new cars with carbon dioxide emissions of more than 195 grams per kilometre, the draft of the finance ministry showed.

Buyers of smaller cars with carbon dioxide emissions below 95 grams do not face any additional surcharge while electric cars are totally exempt from any motor vehicle tax until the end of 2030, according to the draft law which is now to be discussed internally among ministries.

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Reverse: 1948: It’s A Big Day For Porsche

From Autoweek:

June 8, 1948, is one of the most important dates in Porsche history: That’s when the first example of the 356 roadster received its street certification, launching not only the initial range of sports cars but a whole lineage that now encompasses many different models and 70 years of production cars and motorsport history.

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Neutral: Are You Going To Miss Nissan Vans?

Every time I fly to New York, I look out into the streets and see NV200s everywhere. I don’t like them, but that’s only because I think Ford Crown Victorias are much cooler. Are you going to miss Nissan vans?

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

mjensenwv
move-over-peasant-I-have-an-M5-in-the-shop

Speaking of vans, I needed to rent a truck last week to go pick up a freezer from a couple hours away (apparently they’re a hot commodity right now). Put in a reservation for an F-150, went to go pick it up, and they said that it had to go into the shop last minute for something, I dunno. But they could get me a cargo van instead. So I’m like, sure, whatever, as long as it’ll fit what I need. I figured it would be one of the several grand caravans or whatever they were scattered across the lot, just without seats. Nope, they pulled up a giant Transit 250.

I was seriously impressed. I mean, the freezer fit in just fine, I could have picked up a neighborhood’s worth of freezers in that thing. But the gas mileage was decent (for, like, 250 miles round trip I put in 10 gallons of gas), it drove nicely, and was comfortable enough to sit in for that long.