SAN DIEGO. “Versatility” is becoming a watchword in the commercial van space as fleets and small business owners alike are not only demanding lower cost and better fuel economy but also easier upfit capability so vans can be better customized to serve specific segment needs.

“Fleets are getting much smarter now,” explained Peter Bedrosian, senior manager of product planning for Nissan North America’s commercial vehicle division, during a special ride and drive event hosted by the OEM in San Diego this week.

“They are taking parts of their fleet and trying to make them more efficient,” he said. “So for jobs/services that don’t require a lot of tools or goods, they are trying to use smaller more fuel efficient vehicles.”

“We think there’s growth in the perspective of fleets looking for vehicles with greater fuel economy yet greater versatility as well,” Brooke Hoekstra, Nissan’s manager of fleet and commercial vehicle marketing, told Fleet Owner. “If they can go small, they will go small, because they are seeing a lot of potential for small cargo vans.”

She noted that versatility is becoming a more critical aspect of van design as well, pointing to the integrated mounting points and mobile office features of the OEM’s new NV200 compact cargo van as examples.

Bedrosian pointed out that the NV200 – on sale for all of two months now – combines 1,500 lbs of maximum payload and 122.7 cubic feet of cargo volume with combined city/highway fuel economy of 24 mpg in order to make the van’s smaller footprint as efficient as possible. He also noted the entry-level price for the NV200 of $19,900 is designed to make the van attractive to a wider array of businesses in the commercial segment.

Adding more technology to such vehicles, though, remains a tougher sell Bedrosian added. For example, while Nissan is introducing what it dubs a new “convenience technology” offering called Around View Monitor or “AVM” for its new 2014 Versa Note entry level compact car – a video camera system that provides a 360 degree exterior view of the vehicle to the drivers – such a system may take a while to make an appearance in the commercial space.

“Technology is typically a harder sell in the commercial segment, for while there’s interest in it and other technologies such as our onboard navigation package, we’ll need higher volumes to make it practical for this segment,” he said.