Home-grown cargo van customization

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Nissan Commercial Vehicles recently held an interesting national contest designed to highlight how its new NV200 cargo van can be customized any number of ways to meet the needs of small business owners.

And what better way to figure it all out than to have small business owners take a crack at the customization process themselves?

Conducted March 27 through July 1 this year and dubbed the “Design Your Ride” contest, entrants submitted modification ideas for the NV200 and entries were judged based on creativity (worth 35% of their final score), originality (25%), content (25%) and usefulness (15%).

[Below you can see in more detail how a surfboard shop in California modified an NV200 to better serve its business needs.]

This month, Nissan revealed the five winners of its national contest, presenting each with NV200 vans wrapped to their individual specifications along with a check for $20,000 to assist in the modification of the vehicles or to help their businesses. Those five are:

  • Core Mechanical LLC: A woman-owned, multi-service company that provides repairs and replacement of commercial and industrial HVAC [Heating, ventilation, and air condition] services, refrigeration and kitchen equipment in Houston, TX. Core Mechanical's NV200 will feature the Nissan Technology Package option (Nissan Connect with Navigation System, RearView Monitor and Sirius XM Satellite Radio) along with floor mats and a GPS tracking system.
  • Sublime Cake Design: The husband and wife team of Wiley and Tiffanie Saccheri, along with Tiffanie's mother Jackie New, run a custom cake and cupcake shop out of Redding, CA.They currently use a Nissan Murano for their deliveries, which "has all the main features we need to deliver basic orders," but is ill-equipped to handle those that are "bigger, more fragile and complex” and thus is moving up to a cargo van.
  • Wanna Go? Pet Transport: This firm offers what it calls “reliable, safe, clean and comfortable transportation” of household pets and rescue animals throughout the country. Even though they work regularly with show animals, the core of their business is pet rescue. Based in Hampton Roads, VA, the company uses a full-size van that fits up to 15 animals, but found the vehicle clumsy to drive, gets poor fuel economy and requires a full load of animals in order to break even on transport costs. Fuel economy is of particular concern to proprietor Jeff Wheeler, who admits "at 14 mpg, our current vehicle makes it hard for us to have a successful business, let alone be able to provide enough income to allow for more charity work. With the NV200's 25 mpg highway fuel economy, our fuel costs would nearly be halved." To help market his business, Wheeler's new NV200 van features striking graphics intended to educate the public as to the options available in regards to animal transportation.
  • Buonafina Plumbing & Heating LLC: Oscar Buonafina has had to shutter his plumbing and heating business twice during separate military deployments as a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant to Iraq and Afghanistan, yet he's now back in business – but with an old pickup that guzzles gas and barely contains enough space for inventory. With an NV200, he said his Clifton, NJ-based business will be able to save on fuel while custom shelves and a roof rack, along with a wrap featuring the Buonafina Plumbing & Heating company lettering and logo, will help him service more jobs.
  • SafetyZone Systems: This five employee company based in Warner Robins, GA is a licensed installer of security systems, home theaters, data systems, phone systems, intercoms, CCTV, access control and, in the words of its proprietor Craig Davis, "basically anything low voltage." SafetyZone Systems' NV200 includes a custom wrap featuring a montage of the various products that the company commonly installs, along with their corporate logo.

All five of those small businesses are using vans to get a variety of different jobs accomplished – another example of how the van – regardless of OEM brand – is not only changing shape but helping businesses change their shape, too, in order to be more versatile and (hopefully) more profitable. 

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