Nissan North America just announced last week that it was planning to produce a line of full-size commercial cargo vans called the NV, and to prepare for the all-new model it has just finished retooling its assembly plant in Canton, Miss. to prepare for production of the light commercial vehicle (LCV). The plant upgrades includeÂ significant changes and an expansion totaling 63,400 square feet to the Body Assembly shop and the Paint shop. Another change was the addition of a new assembly line for the Trim and Chassis shop. In the end, the new changes made to prepare for the 2011 Nissan NV lineup totaled $118 million.
'Preparing the plant to launch a new product in a new segment is a challenge our employees have met head-on,' said Dan Bednarzyk, vice president, Manufacturing - Canton. 'We are excited about this opportunity to deliver a high quality, reliable, and innovative product to the marketplace.'
In addition to the cargo van, Nissan is also expected to launch a passenger version of the NV line (concept rendered in the picture to the right) next year which is hinted at by the obvious side window outlines imprinted into the exterior sheet metal. To compete better against the Ford E-Series, Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana, the Nissan NV lineup would likely offer a competitive seating arrangement for at least 12 passengers. With the truck-based styling and platform, a version of the NV that seats more than eight passengers could even help Nissan compete against such vehicles as the Chevrolet Suburban and the Ford Expedition.
Like GM, Ford and even Mercedes-Benz (with its upcoming self-branded Sprinter), a passenger version of NV lineup would make great business sense and help it receive a deeper market penetration although it's not clear if there are any added design or safety changes that vary between cargo and passenger vans. If Nissan were to offer a passenger version of the NV, it would likely be available in all configurations that will include the NV1500, NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD.
As another possible addition to the NV models, Nissan is said to be considering a diesel engine to complement the gasoline engines that will launch this year that include the 4.0-liter V-6 and 5.6-liter V-8. Nissan would likely team up with Cummins to provide a powerful diesel engine for the NV, but it isn't clear what size or cylinder configuration this engine would use. This would definitely make be a good idea for Nissan as GM, Ford and Mercedes-Benz all offer diesel engines in their full-size vans. Using a platform derived from the Nissan Titan pickup truck, this engine could even pave the way for a heavy-duty version of the Titan in the future.
There is no word yet whether or not Nissan plans to offer a dual-rear wheel (DRW) version of the NV, but if it does, this would give the vans better towing capacity which could help expand to cutaway versions that could be used for small buses and moving vans.