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Converters Seeing New Options in Van Market

Ford Transit Connect

A fresh assortment of both full-size and compact vans offers a wider range of choices to small businesses and recreational vehicle buyers.

The Times of Northwest Indiana, Munster, reports that with the economy enjoying a welcome recovery, automakers are once again paying attention to their fleets of commercial vans after years of dormancy. New models are hitting the market in rapid succession, with both large and compact models available to both businesses and recreational vehicle converters that deliver far better fuel economy and improved ride and handling qualities than yesterday’s full-size dinosaurs.

“Just as the U.S. new vehicle market continues to fragment into dozens of segments and hundreds upon hundreds of models, the commercial van segment is splitting into two distinct categories, each with a wide range of models,” says Tom Libby, an advisor with the research firm R.L. Polk & Co. in Southfield, Mich.

Ford delivered the first entry in the budding compact van segment for the 2010 model year with its Transit Connect commercial vehicle, a version of which had proven popular in Europe for its nimbleness in crowded urban environments and its economical operating costs. Redesigned with sleeker styling for 2014, it comes in both cargo configurations and passenger-oriented wagon versions with a choice of two wheelbase lengths. Power comes from a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or an optional turbocharged 1.6-liter version that’s estimated to deliver more than 30 mpg on the highway. Available features include Ford’s Sync hands-free multimedia control system.

Nissan entered the commercial vehicle market for the first time in the U.S. with a full-size NV van for 2012. The cargo version comes in standard- and high-roof models, with the latter offering enough room for a person to be able to stand up inside. An NVP passenger version can be configured to transport up to 12 passengers depending on the configuration. Both come powered by a choice of a 4.0-liter 261-hp V6 or 5.6-liter 317-hp V8.

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