First the Transit Connect, now this?
If you're the owner of a small business (a florist or plumbing company, for example), there's no need to get a large and expensive truck or van. A compact alternative like the Ford Transit Connect is a great buy. But there's a slight problem - the Blue Oval has elected to discontinue its affordable commercial vehicle.
And don't even bother looking to Ram for help. According to Automotive News, the Stellantis-owned brand is pulling the plug on the ProMaster City after the 2022 model year, citing slow sales and poor demand as the reason. Head of Ram Commercial, Dave Sowers, said competing in the segment had become tough.
"That particular segment has shrunk every year for the last four or five years, and it's overall become very difficult from a regulatory environment and also from that volume-commitment perspective."
The dwindling figures tell a depressing story. Sales peaked in 2016, with the company delivering 15,972 examples across the country. Since then, the numbers have continued to decline. In 2020, the brand sold just 10,409 units. Save for a brief glimmer of hope in 2021 (a 40% increase), sales slumped again in 2022.
"... we're really refocusing all of our efforts in the commercial van segments over on the ProMaster," added Sowers. Interestingly, Ram was expected to cease production of the ProMaster City back in 2021 but decided to keep it going for an extra model year.
After MY2022, it will no longer be offered, although shipments will still head to dealers until the first quarter of 2023. So, what are buyers to do now? As mentioned, the Transit Connect is no more, and Nissan discontinued the NV200.
The larger ProMaster is markedly more expensive; the difference in price between Ram's respective offerings is $6,785. That's a lot of money for anyone, let alone a fledgling business trying to keep costs down. What's more, larger vans tend to be heavier on gas than their compact counterparts. But Sowers seems to have a solution.
"The fuel prices historically pushed people to smaller vans. Now we're going to start looking at electrified solutions that are more capable and more flexible than what was there in the past." At the reveal of the 2023 ProMaster range, the company announced it will soon introduce a battery-powered model to do battle with the Ford E-Transit.
While it will be cheaper to run daily, electric commercial vehicles are still expensive to buy. The base E-Transit, for example, costs a whopping $49,575 before options or accessories.
So unless these companies can introduce a smaller (and affordable) electric van, it seems the cost-conscious consumer is in a quandary. It's not only domestic automakers that are feeling the pinch, though. Mercedes-Benz has been forced to kill the Metris and gasoline-powered Sprinter models in the USA as sales continue to nose dive.
This comes as no surprise, though. The three best-selling vehicles in America last year were pickup trucks. And while the much-loved body style suits the needs of most consumers, there's still a need for a practical and affordable van in our market.
If you're looking to buy a new compact commercial van, best get down to a Ford or Ram dealership soon, before it's too late.