Product Trends: New Trucks Offer Remodelers the Right Size and Right Features

New manufacturer offerings give remodelers more choices for their vans and trucks.

July 02, 2014
Product Trends: New Trucks Offer Remodelers the Right Size and Right Features

Pickup trucks today are offering storage in unique locations; for example, Ram’s integrated RamBox offers lockable cargo storage areas on the sides meant for tools and other items. With the company’s locking system, locking the cab doors can also lock the RamBox and the tailgate with one click.

Boiling down remodelers’ day-to-day work to the lowest common denominator fails to take into account the large breadth of jobs, locations, and needs of those in the industry. For this reason, vehicle manufacturers have taken a fairly new approach to their light commercial introductions: dramatically increasing buyers’ choices.

One size does not fit all when it comes to remodelers’ vans and trucks, and today bigger is not always better.

“We’re actually seeing a lot of companies who are looking at their expenses, what they’re hauling, and the desire to move down in size,” says Dan Tigges, GM Fleet and Commercial full-size pickup product manager. “We found a lot of these guys can get by with a smaller pickup.”

New van introductions such as Nissan’s NV200—launched last year—and Chevrolet’s City Express this year also speak to this idea of what Evan Fulton, Nissan Light Commercial Vehicles product planner, calls “right sizing” for both function and location.

“You’re seeing this increasing trend toward urbanization in America,” he says. “For someone doing a lot of remodeling in townhouses within a city, you don’t necessarily want to or need to be driving a full-size van down narrow one-way streets in congested urban areas.”

RESOURCES

1. Ford www.ford.com
2. General Motors www.gm.com
3. Nissan Commercial Vehicles www.nissancommercialvehicles.com
4. Ram Commercial www.ramtrucks.com/en/ram_commercial
5. Toyota www.toyota.com

Smaller vehicles, however, do not mean lower performance. New vehicle introductions maximize secure storage, appeal to contractors who spend a lot of time in the vehicle, emphasize connectivity, and improve fuel economy. Manufacturer incentives further aid the purchaser’s ability to customize.

Inside and outside storage

Storage is one of the primary differentiators between pickups and vans.

“As the purchaser is making the decision, they’re deciding, ‘Do I need internal storage light towing, or can I live with external storage, and I need towing?’” says Mark Mallie, Ram Commercial planning head.

The decision, however, is not all or nothing. Pickup trucks today are offering storage in unique locations; for example, Ram’s integrated RamBox offers lockable cargo storage areas on the sides meant for tools and other items. With the company’s locking system, locking the cab doors can also lock the RamBox and the tailgate with one click.

Both a desire for secure storage and the ease of hauling a crew can explain the increasing demand for crew cabs.

“We find a lot of people like the additional cab space because it’s more secure storage,” says Andrew Franceschini, Toyota national truck marketing manager. “A lot of people have expensive tools that they don’t want to keep in the bed, so a lot of people keep those in the cabin.”

Although vans have always been known for their large amounts of storage, the ease of customizable racks, shelves, and bins is much more important now than ever before.

“Innovative mounting points in the NV200 are key, so people don’t have to drill into the side of these light commercial vehicle products and then run the risk of body damage and corrosion,” Fulton says. “We’ve worked with Adrian Steel, our upfit partner, so we have a variety of storage options and that’s a huge selling point.” 

Storage spaces inside the front of both the vans and pickups are far from lacking, as seen with Chevrolet’s City Express.

“On the inside you’ve got spots for hanging folders, a spot for a laptop computer, and a fold-flat passenger side seat that folds into an ergonomic work surface,” says Joe Langhauser, GM commercial van product manager. “America is back to work and this can truly be used as a mobile office.”

Working day or night

Remodelers spend a lot of time in and around their vehicles, so each manufacturer has implemented features to help make the life of the mobile contractor that much easier.

Ford has looked at the idea of a connected vehicle for its new Transit full-size van.

“The new vehicle has electronic features like MyFord Touch with the SiriusXM Travel Link where you can get real-time traffic reports,” says Tim Stoehr, Ford commercial truck marketing manager. “You can even get real-time gas prices, so if you’re a remodeling contractor and you don’t always work in the same town or even the same state, you can pull up all the stations in the local area.”

Other features such as Lane Departure Warning can cause the steering wheel to vibrate if you begin to sway, while MyKey can prevent the radio from playing if the seat belt is not fastened, an advantage for remodelers who are trying to mandate seat belt use.

The Toyota Tundra and Tacoma both come with a standard backup camera to make it easier to attach a trailer, while large knobs inside the vehicle are perfect for workers wearing gloves, according to Franceschini.

LED lighting has had an increasing presence in new vehicle introductions because work does not always end at dusk.

 “One of the features on the 2015 F-150 is an LED spotlight on the outside of the mirrors, so if someone is working at a site and they set up a table right outside the pickup, you can turn the spotlight on and it’ll completely illuminate the outside area,” Stoehr says. “They can continue working through the night if necessary.”

LED lights have also been added to the back of the Sierra and Silverado, while the Chevrolet Express van has added three banks of three sets of LED lights in the back for better cargo visibility.

Along with smaller vans, full-size vans are still seeing large growth rates across the board, largely because they offer workshop capabilities. Low step-in heights and high-roof options in vehicles such as the Nissan NV, Ram ProMaster, and Ford Transit give remodelers more flexibility.

“Instead of doing all their work at their workshop and then transporting it to the home or building they’re working on, they don’t have to waste time going back and forth to the workshop when they need to make an all-new piece or modify it,” Stoehr says. “Efficiency isn’t always about mileage. Many times efficiency is finishing the job that day.”

Contractor incentives

Once deciding on the best vehicle for the business, purchasers can take advantage of various manufacturers’ incentives designed specifically for small businesses.

Nissan’s incentive structure allows contractors to choose from one of three complementary improvements, according to Fulton. The first option is a vinyl wrap from 3M to put the name of the business on the vehicle. The second is upfit options from Adrian Steel, and the third choice is customer cash or bonus cash.

Upfit allowances from Ram On the Job Incentives also provide up to $1,500 for the purchase of shelves, racks, or whatever the business needs to install.

Members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) can receive up to $1,000 toward the purchase of GM models as well as upfit cash allowances. 

These incentives paired with programs such as Ram’s BusinessLink and GM’s Business Choice Program help tailor maintenance and service specifically to business owners.

“BusinessLink includes extended hours, dedicated service writeup base, and first available bay, so [the vehicle] is not waiting in line,” says Joe Benson, Ram Commercial marketing head. “We know these vehicles are on the road and earning the business money, and it’s our goal to keep them out there.”

For many businesses, now may be the appropriate time to start looking into new vehicles, according to Benson.

“There’s a large pool, over 3 million vehicles on the road today, with a large majority of those being older than 10 years,” he says. “As construction starts to grow, these guys are looking to replace their vehicles because it costs them more money if their old vehicles are breaking down.”

Improved powertrain lineups from nearly every manufacturer surely address the cost of ownership savings with fuel-economy savings on both full-size and compact vans and trucks. But for many purchasers, the important features such as storage, connectivity, and comfort really define the day-to-day use of the vehicle. PR

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