Navigating the Shift

Navigating the Shift

Navigating the Shift

The Disappearance of Compact Commercial Vans and Alternatives for Fleet Managers

The commercial vehicle market is undergoing a significant transformation as automakers phase out small cargo vans post-2023. This transition is prompting fleet managers to explore alternatives tailored to urban work environments. In this article, we’ll examine the reasons behind the van disappearance and highlight viable alternatives for fleet managers moving forward.

The Demise of Compact Commercial Vans

Automakers cite increased manufacturing costs, complexity, and waning demand as primary reasons for discontinuing compact vans. Ford’s decision to end the Transit Connect aligns with this trend, emphasizing a shift towards larger, more versatile vehicles like the full-size Transit and electric variants such as the e-Transit. Similarly, Mercedes-Benz is discontinuing the Metris to focus on the popular Sprinter and its electric counterpart, the eSprinter. Other automakers, including Ram, Nissan, and Chevrolet, have also phased out compact van models, reflecting a broader industry trend.

Alternatives for Fleet Managers

Pickup Trucks with Canopies

The introduction of groundbreaking vehicles like the Ford Lightning expands the scope of alternatives. As an electric pickup truck with advanced features and cargo capabilities, the Lightning presents a compelling option for urban fleet managers seeking innovation. For those not ready to transition to electric, OEMs also offer gas-powered pickups in a variety of sizes.

Fleet managers can maximize the working area with truck canopies and upfitting packages tailored to their industry. Canopy options for truck beds, ranging from 5.5’ to 8’, add an additional 90 to 375 cubic feet of space, making them a versatile choice for urban deliveries and services.

Cab-height canopies can be upfitted with side-doors, shelving, and bed-slides to allow for easy access to equipment. These units are a great solution for work that doesn’t require large equipment or when needing to regularly access underground parking lots.

Full-height capsules offer options like workbenches and large shelving units to operate similarly to vans, offering practical and efficient solutions for urban fleet operations. Technicians have the ability to work inside the unit for a fully contained mobile workshop.

Canopies offer an additional advantage. Durable and long-lasting the units can be transferred from truck to truck, offering more flexibility and increasing ROI for Fleet Managers.

Sterling’s new CB-05 slip in canopy boasts 100 cubic feet of space and is designed for full-size trucks with 5.5′ beds

Electric Vans

Full-size electric vans like the Ford e-Transit and Mercedes-Benz eSprinter offer zero-emission operation and versatility. These vans are ideal for urban work where routes are shorter and more predictable. To optimize electric vans, fleet managers should consider lightweight upfit products such as Packd shelving and partitions which are 30% lighter than conventional products. Lightweight flooring options, which are 50% lighter than traditional flooring and made of 75% recycled materials can help sustain battery life and protect the batteries under the floor without significantly affecting range and payload.

Lightweight upfit products help increase battery life and fuel efficiency

Full Size Gas-Powered Vans

Recent improvements in the design of larger vans with compact body lengths and smaller powertrains have made them viable alternatives for fleet managers. These vans offer more cargo space than compact vans while providing better maneuverability and fuel efficiency compared to earlier models. Lightweight upfit products are also available for these vans, reducing the overall weight and enhancing fuel efficiency.


The phasing out of compact commercial vans marks a significant shift in the commercial vehicle market, posing both challenges and opportunities for urban fleet managers. The discontinuation of models like the Ford Transit Connect and Mercedes-Benz Metris reflects broader industry trends driven by manufacturing costs, complexity, and changing demand.

However, fleet managers have a range of viable alternatives to consider. By exploring these alternatives and incorporating lightweight upfit products to optimize the vehicle, fleet managers can effectively navigate this transition. Embracing new vehicle platforms and technologies will not only ensure sustainability but also enhance operational efficiency in urban environments, positioning fleet managers for success.

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