Nov. 14, 2011—Nissan will add the NV3500 HD passenger van to its North American lineup in spring 2012. The company says the 12-seat vehicle, which represents a conversion of the new NV 3500 cargo van, is geared toward large families as well as small businesses. But similar conversions of cargo vans to passenger vans by Chevrolet, Ford, GMC and Mercedes-Benz have been underwhelming in terms of the vehicles’ suitability for families in comparison with SUVs and minivans because of drivability and creature comforts. So what does Nissan believe will distinguish its entry?
The NV3500 HD can seat 12, and this will be a strong selling point for large families, says Peter Bedrosian, who is a product manager at Nissan. However, the Mercedes-Benz also seats 12—as the Chevrolet, Ford and GMC passenger vans. Larger SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Suburban, the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon, can fit nine passengers.
Bedrosian says Nissan isn’t trying to bring the family passenger van back to the mainstream market; the company instead is tapping into consumer segments that it believes could benefit from a passenger van. He tells Consumers Digest that the biggest hurdle in drawing interest from larger families to passenger vans is the perception that SUVs are easier to handle and have more amenities. Bedrosian says that a new suspension and a new steering system deliver better riding and handling. We found credence to his claims from our behind-the-wheel time with the NV cargo van, but not to the extent that would have us put the vehicle’s ride and handling on par with a minivan and SUVs. As for amenities, Bedrosian didn’t speak specifics beyond optional Bluetooth connectivity, iPod connectivity and XM radio. The vehicle won’t come with a rear seat entertainment option.
It seems that Bedrosian believes that price might be the new passenger van’s greatest appeal. Although Nissan wouldn’t disclose the passenger van’s price, Bedrosian says it will be “significantly lower” than that of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and “lower priced than a three-row SUV that is comparably equipped.”
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van has an MSRP of $36,290 and the Sprinter Passenger Van has an MSRP of $40,320. Since Nissan’s NV3500 HD cargo van has an MSRP of $28,550, it’s plausible that the NV3500 HD passenger van will come in below the price of the Sprinter passenger van. Nissan’s passenger van also likely will be priced lower than SUVs such as the Suburban, the Tahoe, the Ford Expedition and the Yukon, which have MSRPs of $41,335, $37,980, $37,600 and $39,780, respectively.
But it doesn't seem that the NV3500 HD's price will undercut the MSRP of the Chevrolet Express, the Ford Econoline, or the GMC Savana. The starting prices of these cargo vans are $24,985, $26,990 and $24,985, respectively.
The story has been revised to include Nissan's response to our questions that came after our original posting of the article.
– K. Fanuko