December 23, 2008 Nissan moves into the United States light commercial vehicle market in 2010 with a strategy for creating bespoke personalised commercial vehicles via a chain of pro shops. This news was brought clearly into focus this week with the news that an all-new NV200 compact van based on the NV200 Concept from Tokyo Motor Show (pictured) will go on sale in 2009 serves to offer an interesting glimpse of the future. Just how many of the NV200’s innovative features will be incorporated in the production version is not known just yet but the press release hints that it will include Nissan’s sliding cargo pod. The pod is latched inside the shell of the load area when the van is being driven, but at rest, it slides out to allow easy access to the customisable storage zones. The pod is deployed using hydraulic rams, and rests securely on drop-down legs. With the pod extended, the area left behind is transformed into a mobile office or other customisable environment. Given the recent showing of the NV2500 mobile site office concept by Nissan U.S., it’s clear that some very practical and space-efficient, purpose-built vans will become available in 2010.
The NV200’s patented sliding cargo pod turns commercial vehicles inside out - the shell of a vehicle is by necessity an exoskeleton, which means that access to van-like vehicles is typically from the inside. The Nissan design takes a totally different approach enabling access to the contents of the van from the outside once the pod has been extended. Being able to have easy external access to the entire storage area of the van is a huge advantage because it makes more of the van’s volume available and with much easier access.
Perhaps even more importantly, once the pod is deployed, an entire van-sized room becomes immediately available. In the version shown at Tokyo Motor Show, the resultant internal space was configured as a mobile office, with a drop-down computer table revealing two LCD screens. Cleverly, the front passenger seat swivels backwards on a single curved rail to face the table. Of note on the Nissan stand at at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show were a number of posters depicting a range of commercial van concepts based on the sliding cargo pod – from bakery delivery vans through every type of commercial endeavour and the concept has clearly been thought through very carefully,
Under its Pro-Shop strategy, Nissan has created centres across its global network that offer LCV customers a full range of sales and aftersales services. In Japan, Nissan has prepared over 230 outlets for the sales and service of light commercial vehicles. In Europe the light commercial vehicle network now has 570 outlets. A Pro-Shop includes specialised sales persons and dedicated workshop and aftersales personnel that understand the unique needs of professional vehicle owners and operators.
The NV200 compact van will offer best in class cargo efficiency when it goes on sale in 2009. Nissan's engineers have made it possible to combine large cargo space (NV200 will offer the possibility to load up to 4.1 cubic meters) with the exterior dimensions of a compact segment van.
The NV200 will also offer the possibility to maximise cargo space utility. The smart cargo floor layout allows accommodation of a standard Europallet between the rear wheel arches.
"The NV200 is a key product for the future success of the Nissan LCV business," said Andy Palmer, Corporate Vice President of Nissan's LCV Business Unit. "It will allow us to enter key markets with an innovative proposition based on customers' unmet needs. The NV200 creates a new segment in the small van sector," added Palmer.
The NV200 will be launched in Japan in the first half of 2009 and in Europe in the second half of that year. Launches in China and other markets will follow.
The vagueness surrounding the production NV200’s final form and list of options is no doubt due to be rectified with further announcements but many of the features of the concept can be expected to become optional extras – things like the rear view monitor and a very robust electrical system designed to easily plug in commercial appliances (the Tokyo Show concept featured a computer, shower and refrigerator), solar panels for charging the batteries and a small generator capable of meeting commercial refrigeration or power demands. Similarly, the solar panels situated on the roof of the pod line up with skylights in the roof to enable the van to produce its own electricity at all times – whether the pod is deployed or not.
Additional information on the NV200 from the latest press release describing the NV200 concept vehicle: From the outside, NV200 is the epitome of a modern van. A cab-forward design, the wraparound grille blends into upswept lines on either side of the cabin. Dramatically rising side windows accentuate a high waistline and underline the van's practical, load carrying ability. The NV200 sits on a long 111.4-inch wheelbase and is 72.4 inches tall, providing a practical, roomy load space. When the pod is deployed, solar panels built into its roof are directly exposed to daylight. But even when the pod is pushed back into the van, the panels line up beneath the NV200’s large skylight. In this way, power can be generated in daylight hours, whether the vehicle is stationary or not. A two-person tent – accessed from outside the NV200 – is housed at the base of the B-pillar behind the driver's door, while fillers for fuel and water are housed within the opposite B-pillar. The driver and passenger doors open conventionally, while access to the workspace is via a single sliding door on the passenger side. Underwater and organic references can be found all over Nissan NV200. The purpose-made 20-inch alloy wheels have six “arms” that appear to grip the tires “octopus-fashion.” The tread pattern on the large Goodyear tires – also specially created for NV200 – incorporates “octopus suckers” onto trainer-style soles. Inspiration for the translucent ribs of the wraparound grille came from the layers of an onion. Liberal use of warning signs and instructions found on the exterior of the NV200 were borrowed from the practical graphics found on diving equipment. The exterior has a scratch resistant matt satin finish in a steel gray color to emphasize the “toolbox” nature of the project. The NV200’s cockpit area combines form and function. The skeletal aluminum seat frames are covered in a washable contoured material similar to the fabric used in sports shoes, with a 3D texture for extra grip. Large open storage areas run the width of the van beneath the instrument panel and control cluster. Sensors within the storage zones detect movement and illuminate the entire area as soon as a hand or an object is placed in or near the shelves. Above the front seats is a glass panel incorporating a wave pattern. It bathes the interior in a diffused light, while any outside movement casts shadows in the cabin that resemble life underwater. On either side of the panel are two forward-facing glazed holders into which high-powered professional underwater flashlights can be slotted. When parked, the lights provide a floodlit area ahead of NV200. The area usually reserved for the rearview mirror holds a small color TV monitor. A rear-facing camera – a familiar Nissan feature that up until now has been used as solely a reversing aid – projects the view behind the van to the monitor at all times. Other features include a laptop computer housed in a shockproof briefcase made from rugged ribbed plastic. When not in use, the laptop docks into a side of the van beneath the worktable. A magnetic clipboard is attached to the opposite wall of the workspace, while moveable storage boxes are mounted in all three doors. Natural light for the work surface comes from a small side window above the bank of screens and from a large domed skylight in the roof of the van. In tropical climates, the skylight can be diffused to prevent a build up of heat within the interior. The end of the pod facing the inside of the van forms a bulkhead behind the front seats when the pod is not deployed and incorporates a hanging space for dry clothes. It also houses a small refrigerator, drop down sink unit and first aid kit. The NV200's tanks hold enough water to supply a shower, fitted on the outside of the pod, to allow diving equipment to be washed after use. Power for the computer, shower, refrigerator and other electrical fixtures comes from a small generator housed within the van. This, in turn, is charged by solar panels situated on the roof of the pod. Most of the materials, textures and colors used throughout NV200 reflect the materials, textures and colors used in the diving world. Interior materials are either hardened lightweight plastics or rubberized fabrics finished in a dark gray with acid yellow highlights. The glass is also tinted yellow. Perhaps the only area not directly influenced by the ocean is the wooden floor of NV200. This is finished in durable but entirely natural ebony, bringing an added touch of warmth to an otherwise serious working environment. Although the NV200 has been designed to suit the specific needs of one profession, the principle behind the concept has wide ranging potential. The design team also identified mobile libraries, Farmers’ Market vendors, florists and even field ambulances among other possible applications of the pod concept. The NV200 also features an environmentally friendly clean diesel engine. It is equipped with a number of safety systems based on Nissan's Safety Shield concept, including RearView Monitor and Distance Control Assist System.
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