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New pickup trucks, vans for small businesses

August 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Up until recently, a lot of people seemed to be buying pickup trucks that they didn't really need. They just wanted them.

But those who need pickups for work are really the bread and butter of the segment, including small businesses, which can be a barometer of the economy.

"The nation has big companies but it's small businesses that really keep the economy moving," said Mike Levine, founder and editor of pickuptrucks.com. "If small businesses are buying these trucks, you know things are moving in a positive direction."

Levine has seen the ups and downs of truck sales and says that working people often want the basics with capability.

Chrysler's Ram brand is offering up a new model called the Tradesman. It has all the guts, but skips the frills for an attractive sticker price.

"This one is a stripped down work truck," Levine said. "It is meant to do a job and it's meant to do that job very well."

The plain but powerful Tradesman should be a hit with everyone from independent contractors to large-fleet operators.

Other people need vans for their businesses. Ford has hit a home run so far with the compact Transit Connect.

Nissan recently introduced its own bold new full-size van called the NV. It's available in different configurations for different needs. In addition to having lots of cargo room, there are features and options that help turn it into a mobile office.

The large U.S. cargo van market has always been dominated by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The NV is a big move by Nissan. A Japanese automaker has never tried to get into the U.S. full-sized van market.


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