Ford Transit slightly underperforming Econoline

Ford Transit slightly underperforming Econoline.

Ford Holding Strong Against Van Competition; FCA Forecast to Grow

In small and large commercial vans, Ford still leads, gaining sales momentum while losing share.

The onslaught of competition in the small and large commercial-van sectors in the U.S. is proving not much of a challenge to Ford, WardsAuto data shows.

A number of players have entered the groups in recent years with the goal of challenging the Blue Oval brand, but first-quarter results show the longtime No.1 seller of commercial vans is making as much or more progress as its competitors.

While Nissan was able to increase sales of its NV200 small commercial van 60.1% to 3,880 units through March, making it the group’s No.2 seller, sales of Ford’s Transit Connect rose 52.7% from year-ago to 11,345 units.

That gave Ford a 7,465-unit lead over Nissan in Q1 2015, up from a 5,008-unit advantage in Q1 2014.

The Transit Connect was introduced in 2009 in the U.S. and until recently had the small-commercial-van sector virtually to itself.

Therefore it’s not surprising new entrants shrank Ford’s market penetration in Q1 2015 vs. Q1 2014.

Through March, the Transit Connect had a 55.5% share among the five commercial vans in WardsAuto’s Small Van segment, down from 63.9% in like-2014.

The biggest beneficiary of the Ford van’s share decline through March was the just-introduced Chevrolet City Express, built by Nissan on the NV200 platform and which already holds a 9.1% market share.

The Ram ProMaster City accounted for 3.5% of small commercial van sales in first-quarter 2015.

The two new models also took a bite out of the shares held by the NV200 and Ram Cargo Van.

The NV200’s Q1 penetration dipped to 19.0% from 20.8%, while the aged Ram Cargo Van, based on Chrysler’s minivan architecture and due to be phased out at the end of ’16, saw its share slip to 12.8% from 15.3% in Q1 2014.

Ford on Top in Large Vans, Too

In WardsAuto’s Large Van group, Ford too is at the top.

The new Ford Transit van replaced the stalwart Econoline last year. While it is selling at a slower clip than its predecessor, total sales of the two models approached 37,000 units through March, making Ford far and away the best-selling retailer of large-commercial vans.

Some 22,881 Transits were sold in first-quarter 2015 compared with the 27,607 Econolines delivered in first-quarter 2014. Some 13,908 Econolines were delivered in Q1 2015.

General Motors delivered 15,801 large vans (10,513 Chevy Expresses and 5,288 GMC Savanas) in first-quarter 2015, down from 20,242 combined year-ago.

GM’s large vans seem to be impacted the most by the arrival of the Transit, with deliveries of the Chevy Express and GMC Savana declining 25.9% and 12.7%, respectively, through March.

Sales of the 4-year-old Nissan NV rose 10.1%, but the vehicle had the lowest volume among all models in the group in the first quarter at 3,732.

Mercedes-Benz’s redesigned Sprinter posted a 20.2% rise in the same period, to 5,559 units, overtaking the Savana as the No.4 best-selling model in Q1.

The Ram ProMaster enjoyed the biggest increase among any model in the Large Van group through March, 140.2%. Its 5,549 sales through last month placed it fifth among seven models, up from sixth of six models in January-March 2014, and it came within 10 units of the Sprinter.

The ProMaster had the second-biggest market-share gain among Large Vans through March, growing to 8.2% from 4.0% year-ago.

The commercial-van competition in the U.S. is going to get even tougher in coming years, putting pressure on both new and existing players.

Hyundai in February announced its intentions to enter the commercial-vehicle segment in North America, sometime before 2020.

A large Hyundai van, the HG350, has been caught by spy photographers testing in California. However, it’s unclear if the exact model, already sold overseas, will make it to the U.S.

And Mercedes is due to bring its small Vito van from Europe to the U.S. under the Metris nameplate this fall. Mercedes calls the van medium-sized due to a wheelbase reportedly 13 ins. (330 mm) longer than that of the Transit Connect.

FCA Forecast to Grow ProMaster Builds

WardsAuto forecast data shows that among North-American-built large vans, only FCA is expected to increase builds next year.

Production of the X2 platform, which underpins the Ram ProMaster, is seen rising to 27,000 units next year at FCA’s Saltillo, Mexico, plant, up 9.6% from 2015’s 24,000 forecasted builds.

Ford is seen taking Transit output down 8.9% in 2016 at its Kansas City, MO, plant, to 96,000 assemblies from 105,000 forecasted builds this year.

Econoline production at Avon Lake, OH, will continue to wind down, with 22,000 builds seen in 2016 vs. 38,000 in 2015.

GM’s GMT 610 platform (Chevy Express and GMC Savana) also will see a falloff next year, down 8.8% to 93,000 builds predicted.

Nissan is expected to build 9.8% fewer units of its NV large van next year at the vehicle’s Canton, MS, plant.

However, the No.3 Japanese automaker is forecast to build more of its NV200 small van, as well as more units of the Chevy City Express. P1/B platform production at Nissan’s Cuernavaca, Mexico, plant is seen inching up 1.4% in 2016 to 44,000 units, from 43,000 this year.

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