Best options for compact van replacement as compact van production ends

Compact van production ends this year in the US. If you were planning to add new compact vans to your fleet, it's time to find alternatives. For options with the same economic and functional benefits of compact vans, see what our fleet experts recommend.

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NV200 compact van on a service call

A decline in overall sales and a projected future shift to electric vehicles have led the last remaining manufacturers of compact vans to end production of their models in 2023 in the US. Here’s what’s been discontinued in the last 6 years:

  • Ford Transit Connect (2023)
  • Mercedes-Benz Metris (2023)
  • Stellantis Ram ProMaster City (2022)
  • Nissan NV200 (2021)
  • GM Chevrolet City Express (2018

For the remainder of 2023 and into next year, some new compact vans will still be available—albeit a bit harder to find. They’re now only available as dealer locate requests, not factory orders or bailment inventories.

In the short term, consider these alternatives for compact van replacement.

Fortunately, there are several viable options that are comparable in price and function to compact vans. For example, a compact SUV with the addition of a ladder rack and/or equipment upfit in the backseat/cargo area may accommodate your needs.

Jason Kraus, director of vehicle acquisition & lease structure at Mike Albert, works with best-in-class equipment upfitting partners to create smart configurations that optimize the space within fleet vehicles to maximize efficiency and safety. “Upfits for compact SUVs generally include folding down the back row of seating and adding slide-out boxes and partitions to meet a fleet's vocational requirements,” Kraus says.

Recommended compact SUVs:

  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Toyota Corolla Cross
  • Toyota Rav4

For construction companies or trade professionals like electricians, plumbers, or carpenters, vehicles such as compact, midsize, or half-ton pickup trucks with caps might be the best compact van replacement for your fleet. Again, in this case, it’s a good idea to consider upfitting options, such as bed slides, for easier access to your cargo.

Recommended midsize pickup trucks:

  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Ford Ranger
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Nissan Frontier
  • Toyota Tacoma

Alternatively, is it the right time to think a little bigger? If your business is growing and the payload sizes your vehicles need to haul are increasing as a result, full-size commercial vans may be your most effective choice.

Recommended full-size commercial vans:

  • Chevrolet Express 2500 Cargo Van
  • Ford Transit T150 or T250
  • GMC Savana 2500 Cargo Van
  • Mercedes Benz Sprinter 2500
  • RAM ProMaster 1500 or 2500

Prepare to make some compromises on any new vehicle orders.

Both Layman and Kraus advise grounding your expectations as far as being able to find exactly what you want with incentivized pricing, as was the norm in pre-pandemic times. “With the allocations, OEMs are dictating when they’re going to build,” says Kraus. “You used to be able to place an order and get what you wanted, when you wanted it. Now, the OEMs can build at capacity, but it's still well short of market demand—so your options are limited.”

New vehicle demand continues to greatly surpass supply, which puts OEMs in the driver’s seat. Although the supply chain is starting to recover from the pandemic plummet, supply is still below where it should be, which was nearly 17.2 million in 2018 before falling to 12.7 million in 2022.

“Even if output gets back up to 15.5 million by December 2023, that puts us millions of vehicles in the hole—millions of vehicles that both fleets and retail customers are clamoring for,” Layman explains. “Obviously this shortage makes it almost impossible to get everything you want."

For vehicles that you upfit, set the right expectations.

If you do go with an option that requires upfitting, be aware of some of the current challenges. “Like everything else these days, the costs of upfitting are up 20%,” explains Marc Layman, truck upfit manager at Mike Albert. Unlike in the past, pricing is not fixed and may go up during the upfit process.

Timing can also be an issue. “There are limited time slots for getting vehicles upfitted, and companies can fall behind if orders for equipment and parts don't arrive by the time a vehicle is scheduled for an upfit,” he says.

But there is a bright spot for opting to upfit compact SUVs or midsize pickups—higher remarketing values. Since these two vehicle types are in high consumer demand on retail lots, they have a wider resale market than typical commercial vehicles once the upfit equipment is removed. Daily drivers purchasing compact SUVs will be particularly impressed with pristine passenger rows that were preserved by the upfits.

For the long term, electric cargo vans may be your best answer.

There are electric cargo van models available today—as well as many slated to be on the market in the near future—that can provide the same (or better) efficiency that gasoline-powered compact vans can.

To determine if EVs can meet your business needs, analyze your current vehicles' telematics data to understand their daily mileage range, percentage of time idling, and more.

EVs can result in significant energy savings for your fleet. For instance, delivery fleet vehicles typically idle 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after delivery, making them ideal candidates for EV conversion, as this could save $426 a year per vehicle. *

If you do plan on incorporating electric cargo vans into your fleet, it's in your best interest to set up your EV charging infrastructure now. It takes some time and investment—but it's typically well worth it in the long run. In the meantime, our Mike Albert fleet experts advise that you regularly and properly maintain your current cargo vans to maximize their efficient operation and extend their miles in service.

Make the ideal choice by analyzing your fleet data and vocational needs.

To find the right compact van replacement solution for your fleet, it’s important to ground yourself in your fleet data, calculate each vehicle's total cost of ownership, and factor in how your vehicles are used on the job.

“You have to focus on the requirements of the work your fleet must accommodate. For example, what's the typical payload that your vehicles need to haul? Are your vehicles used by electricians or field techs who need a safe and easy way to transport and access their tools? We ask our clients important questions like these to help guide their decision-making process," says Layman.

"But in the end, it's up to our clients to do their homework and determine what they really can or can't live without. The final choice is theirs in terms of what they must have and are willing to forego based on price and other factors."

If you would like further assistance figuring out the best options for compact van replacement for your fleet, our Mike Albert fleet experts are ready to help.

*Calculations are based on a Ford Transit Connect with a 2.0L engine, estimating 0.16 gallons per hour idling:

  • 20 minutes per hour idling x 8 hours = 2.6 hours/day
  • 0.16 gallons per hour x 2.6 hours/day = 0.42 gallons/day
  • 0.42 gallons/day x 260 days/year = 111 gallons/year
  • 111 gallons year x $3.84/gallon = $426/year (avg. price/gallons nationwide https://gasprices.aaa.com/)
  • $426 year x 4 year lease = $1,704 spent idling

How Much Gas Is Wasted Idling?

FOOTNOTES:

To read more about the supply chain issues throughout the pandemic, and the progress and projections for recovery:

  • Historical data from 2018: Cox Automotive Forecast: December U.S. Auto Sales to Finish Strong (published 12.20.2018) https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/cox-automotive-forecast-december-u-s-auto-sales-to-finish-strong-1027826757

  • January 2023 analysis: Cox Automotive Forecast: Improved Inventory Levels, Higher Fleet Sales Expected to Support Improving January U.S. Auto Sales (published 1.25.2023) https://www.coxautoinc.com/news/cox-automotive-forecast-january-2023-u-s-auto-sales-forecast/

  • Projections for December 2023: Cox Automotive Forecast: New-Vehicle Sales Accelerate in July (published 7.26.2023) https://www.coxautoinc.com/news/cox-automotive-forecast-july-2023-u-s-auto-sales-forecast/

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