The latest vehicle sales figures suggest a change that might surprise even a seasoned fleet manager: The van — yes, the van — could be overtaking the all-American pickup truck as the U.S. tradesmen’s ride of choice.
Last month, Ford’s van sales hit a 30-year high for April, according to Bloomberg. And Ford isn’t the only automaker that’s seen sales soar. During the last five years, van sales as a whole have doubled. The van is having an American moment — and the recovering economy, and business users in industries like field service, are a big reason why.
“Driving that demand is good old-fashioned commerce: Web shoppers clicking for package deliveries, business travelers zipping from airports to hotels, and a resurgent housing sector full of electricians, carpenters, and other skilled workers hauling the tools of their trade from one busy job site to another,” says Bloomberg.
Another reason? Modern vans are no longer those rolling box-on-wheels monstrosities that horrified kids as their parents took their turn in the weekly carpool. Nor are they the trusty (but dated) Econoline, which Ford decommissioned in 2014. Today’s van buyer has many options, including Ford’s Transit Connect and the Nissan NV, that are functional, fuel efficient and, dare I say, even stylish.
Perhaps the biggest benefit for field service leaders is the customizability of today’s van fleets. Managers can choose the design and specs that make sense for their business — and customize the cargo area to store parts or haul equipment.
“The big trend that we’ve seen is customers being able to right-size their vehicle for the job that they need,” Yaro Hetman, Ford’s brand manager for the Transit, tells Bloomberg. “We had a show where we had the Mustang GT500 and the conversion van, and the van actually drew as much attention.”
A van turning more heads than a Mustang? Truck owners everywhere can take comfort in that.