Cargo Vans Update

Depending on how the segment is counted, the market for full-size cargo vans is up about 12% over last year. Plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades people are replacing old, worn trucks, partly because there aren’t any good used ones on lots. Some tradesmen are buying “tall utility vehicles” with enclosed, cabinet-equipped utility bodies mounted on cutaway van chassis. [/box]

Fleets are also buying cutaways – the van equivalent of cab-chassis models – to mount various types of bodies, reflecting a resurgence, however weak, in the general economy. Cutaways are usually 25-26% of the van business, but are currently 35-36%, General Motors says.[/box]

Ford is doing especially well with its E-series, whose sales are up by 50% so far this year. The company says its market share has grown to 57%, and it’s doing it with only gasoline engines. Its own PowerStroke diesel won’t fit in the bays of its E-series trucks. Some wondered if Ford was wise to not engineer in a smaller diesel, but so far it has not been an impediment. General Motors is a solid second with its G-series vans, and nine out of 10 are sold with gasoline engines. GM and its suppliers have begun turning out natural gas-fuel conversions for GM’s gasoline V-8s. And GM’s Wirtzville, Mo., plant is working overtime to meet demand for cargo and passenger vans. [/box]

In the world of walk-in vans, Navistar’s Workhorse says it has taken a sales lead. That’s because it offers gasoline power as well as diesel, propane and now compressed natural gas alternatives on “right-sized” chassis, according to the company. Navistar is moving production of its Workhorse vans within Indiana, from Union City to Wakarusa, where it assembles its eStar electric van and Monaco motor homes. It will idle many of Monaco’s activities in Oregon, and close the Union City plant by early next year. Freightliner Custom Chassis says it leads in diesel sales, and a gasoline option offered since last year is becoming popular. It might be in second place overall, but FCCC’s commercial chassis business is up 40% over last year.[/box]