The latest addition to the Nissan commercial vehicle lineup is the NV200 Compact Cargo Van, which Nissan unveiled at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show this week.
At the 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan unveiled its latest commercial vehicle, the NV200 Compact Cargo Van
At the 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan unveiled its latest commercial vehicle, the NV200 Compact Cargo Van

The NV200, set to appear in dealerships nationwide in early 2013, is Nissan's third commercial vehicle after the full-size NV Cargo, introduced in spring 2011, and the NV Passenger Van, which will be available this spring. Although the NV200 is new to North America, it's already in use in more than 40 countries.

At the unveiling of the vehicle, Joe Castelli, vice president, commercial vehicles and fleet, said three main advantages of the NV200 are a large cargo capacity with small exterior footprint, ease of use and affordability.

The NV200 offers a cargo capacity of 123 cubic feet, which Nissan says is larger than the Ford Transit Connect, the only current competitor for the NV200. Measuring 186.2 inches in overall length, on a 115.2-inch wheelbase, the NV200 has "car-like maneuverability," but it also allows for a 1,500-pound (estimated) maximum payload. The vehicle has a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that is matched with an Xtronic CVT transmission.

As for ease of use, the NV200 features tall rear 40/60 split opening doors with dual opening positions (90 and 180 degrees). The low floor height and tall interior cargo height aid loading and unloading. Other exterior features include halogen headlights, durable black front and rear bumpers, and outside mirrors with wide-angle spotter mirrors and available heated function.

The vehicle also offers mobile office capabilities with a center console featuring laptop/hanging file folder storage, pen/pencil tray, CD holder, and dual cupholders. There are recessed storage areas on the upper instrument panel for folders and documents. In addition, the passenger seat folds down to function as a worktop.

Nissan's other focus for this vehicle is is affordability. "I can have all the bells and whistles that I want," says Castelli, "but if our truck is $5,000 more expensive than the competition, then the buyer is gonna say 'I could probably do without this and that.'" Castelli says Nissan will have to be innovative in its marketing to compete with the Ford TC.

"Right now my competitive set is one," Castelli says. "I need to be able to come into the market with innovative solution and ease of use, but I also know I have to have a value story."

Castelli says the customer Nissan is aiming for with this vehicle is the smaller owner operator. "Right now we know there are a lot of people with full-size vans that probably don't need something that large, and those are the folks we'll go after," he says.

The NV200 will be built in Mexico, which will source all of the Americas. Building will start toward the end of 2012, and Castelli says Nissan expects to have full dealer coverage around February of next year.

Two variations of the vehicle are already in the works as well. The concept for the eNV200, a zero-emissions electric vehicle, debuted last month. The second variation is a taxi design as part of the City of New York's Taxi of Tomorrow plan.

Castelli wouldn't talk specifically about sales expectations for the NV200 and says he doesn't want to put a target number out. "In January, our full-size van sold 5.5% in the segment," he says. "That's a heck of accomplishment by our dealers in the first year of existence, and we're still waiting for our first birthday candle on selling the full-size vehicle. We're going to take that same mentality with the NV200. We're going to contact customers that we think should be in this segment."