ST. LOUIS. Though a global player in the commercial vehicle market for decades, it was only yesterday - before an SRO crowd in the exhibit hall of The Work Truck Show held here by the National Truck Equipment Assn. - that Nissan waded into the U.S./Canada commercial vehicle market with its all-new NV full-size van.

Offered in a standard and a high-roof version, the NV, according to Nissan, boasts a “truly ground-up design” as well the OEM’s “exceptional commercial vehicle heritage, covering 75 years and more than 75% of the global CV market.”

“As the first non-domestic nameplate to design, manufacture and sell CVs in the United States, we bring a more than seven-decade tradition of durability, quality and reliability to our products,” said Joe Castelli, vp-Commercial Vehicles and Fleet, Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA).

“At the same time, we’ve taken a fresh look at every aspect of the CV business – including styling, powertrain, interiors, cost of operation and ownership, dealership sales and service operations and, most importantly, real-world customer needs.”

The first production models in Nissan’s new North American CV lineup are the 2011 Nissan NV1500, NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD full-size vans. They will be available with a choice of 4.0-liter V6 or 5.6-liter V8 engines and in two body styles: Standard Roof (all models) and High Roof (NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD only). And it was noted that High Roof models provide “stand-up walkthrough/work cargo area capability.”

According to Castelli, Nissan “invested more than five years researching the comfort, style and smart functionality demands that will enable business owners to accomplish more throughout their day. We plan on coming out of the box with segment-busting vehicles, so customer input was essential.”

He said the NV planning team employed a wide range of customer research methodologies, including focus groups, on-site visits and concept reviews.

“The NV is one of the most researched projects ever in the history of Nissan. We touched the market at every point possible, with the findings reflected in every aspect of the final NV design,” stated Castelli.

“Looking at the CV market in recent years, there’s been a migration of van users to light-duty pickups due to the lack of comfort, image and dependability of the current outdated van platforms,” explained Castelli. “Yet many of these truck owners admit they need a van for weather protection, security and the convenience of a tall roof van to carry large items or equipment. With the Nissan NV, we’re giving them the best of both worlds.”

Key driver-comfort features he listed include:

  • Wide front doors for easy ingress and egress
  • Supportive bucket seating with extensive adjustability, large armrests and a truck-like driving position with ample legroom and foot room.
  • Available center console (removable) provides a range of integrated storage features
  • Fold-down passenger seat (unique to the segment) adds worktable functionality and enhances the cab’s feeling of openness.

Another major contributor to the pickup-like cab is the absence of the traditional CV engine “doghouse” that intrudes into the cab due to the setback engine placement, noted Castelli.

Instead, the NV boasts a conventional truck engine layout with the engine and transmission located ahead of the firewall/A-pillar. Besides freeing up space under the instrument panel and between the seats, this design provides easy under-hood access to the entire engine for routine service and maintenance.

“From the seats forward the NV looks, acts and feels like a pickup,” pointed out Castelli. “You don’t have to take apart the interior to access the engine and you don’t have to worry about tucking your work boots into a cramped footwell,” he said. “But, make no mistake, behind the seats the NV is pure, practical van.”

The NV’s cargo area provides a 120.7-in. floor length and 70.3-in. maximum cargo floor width. NV Standard Roof models offer a maximum 55.4-in. cargo area height and the High Roof a maximum 76.5-in. of cargo room height, which is enough for most users to move about the cargo area while standing up straight.

Along with wide door openings, the NV offers room between the wheelhouses to accommodate standard plywood or drywall sheets or pallets. There are also a range of cargo area tie-down rings and ample cargo area lighting.

The NV was also designed to accommodate aftermarket outfitting and modifications. For example, the roof rack mounting brackets are designed for installing various rack systems without piercing holes in the roof, which can lead to corrosion and water leaks. The available “upfitter pre-wiring” allows easy access into the electrical system.

The NV also offers a full-length cargo area inner panel to protect the outer walls from dents and dings from the inside, and there are multiple weld-nut attachment points for shelving and racks – again requiring no sheet metal drilling. In addition, the NV’s nearly vertical sidewalls maximize the usable cargo space, accommodating common aftermarket storage systems, as well as a bulkhead behind the driver, noted Castelli.

“From the rugged fully boxed all-steel frame to the body-on-chassis construction, the NV is designed to the highest Nissan standards of durability, quality and reliability,” said Castelli. “The NV is designed to be affordable and to stand up to the abuse that real work trucks face everyday.”

The new Nissan NV will launch with a choice of two engines – a powerful yet fuel efficient 4.0-liter V6 or a powerful, torquey 5.6-liter V8. Both engines will be matched to a standard 5-speed automatic.

Safety systems include the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (includes dual-stage front supplemental air bags with seat belt sensors), 3-point front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, available supplemental front seat-mounted side-impact air bags and roof-mounted supplemental curtain air bags.

The Nissan NV will be manufactured in Canton, MS, and will be available through a “select network of authorized Nissan Commercial Vehicle dealers.”

For more information, go to www.nissancommercialvehicles.com.