Nissan studying possibility of building full-size van for U.S. market

DaimlerChrysler better hurry with the new Sprinter, current USA van options are not attractive.
http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060307/FREE/60306005/1041/PHOTOS04

Nissan studying possibility of building full-size van for U.S. market
By RICK KRANZ | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
AutoWeek | Published 03/06/06, 2:06 pm et
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GENEVA -- Nissan Motor Co. is studying the possibility of assembling a full-sized van in North America off its full-sized truck platform.
That platform is shared by the Titan pickup and two SUVs, the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX56, all built in Canton, Miss. Nissan is re-engineering the platform for 2008, along with adding commercial versions of the Titan pickup.
Nissan said its research shows that owners of full-sized vans are unhappy with their vehicles and would be willing to switch to another brand if the van were competitively priced. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. account for 94.5 percent of the U.S. market.
"A lot of van owners told us, 'Ford, Chrysler and GM betrayed us; they don't consider our expectations, our needs,'" said Francois Bancon, Nissan's head of product planning and development.
Additionally, Bancon said in an interview at the Geneva auto show, van owners said the quality of those products is disappointing and "the driving position is horrible."
If produced, the van would debut after 2008.
Last year, 361,876 full-sized vans were sold in the United States. Ford's E-series van and Club Wagon were the leaders with 179,543 combined sales, accounting for 49.6 percent of the market.
The Chevrolet Express/G van was second with 127,585 sales, followed by the GMC Savana at 34,765 and the Dodge Sprinter at 19,578, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
"We have not made a decision to produce the van, but I think it could be a possibility," Bancon said. "We will have (opportunities with) the next-generation Titan platform."
A Nissan full-sized van would be priced to compete with the Ford and GM entries, not the Sprinter, he said. Because the Dodge Sprinter is a modified version of the Mercedes-Benz van sold in Europe, it "is very expensive in the U.S.," he said.
Nissan announced in January that it would create a division to sell light commercial vehicles in North America, a market segment where it is not present. Nissan's Light Commercial Vehicle and Fleet Division began operating Feb. 1, headed by Mike Hobson, a 15-year Nissan veteran.
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