Nissan Backs Vans With Top Warranty; Toyota’s Future Car

300 MILES: Toyota shows off its 2015 fuel-cell vehicle, which goes on sale in California next summer.
300 MILES: Toyota shows off its 2015 fuel-cell vehicle, which goes on sale in California next summer.
TOYOTA

It’s the oldest test in the world: Think you’re good? Prove it.

That’s what Nissan did last month when it announced America’s best commercial van warranty: five years or 100,000 miles bumper-to-bumper coverage.

That extends both the general basic limited warranty (three years, 36,000 miles) and previous powertrain warranty (five years, 60,000 miles). The new five-year, 100,000-mile standard is retroactive to all 2014 models.

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The models covered are the NV cargo van, passenger van, and NV200 compact cargo van. The latter doesn’t cover the taxi package, which already has a three-year, 36,000-mile limited warranty and five-year, 150,000-mile powertrain warranty.

A lot of young folks might find it hard to believe, but competitor Hyundai’s ongoing 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty came into being as a result of the company’s original introduction into the US market of an inferior and unreliable product.

In what company management termed its last chance to become a player here, Hyundai (and Kia) offered mega-warranties (along with lots of added features) in order to gain back discouraged customers. It took time, but the marketing plan worked, and the companies now own a significant share of the US market.

Now it’s Nissan’s turn.

At question isn’t Nissan reliability. That’s a given.

Instead, it’s the other part of the quest: trying to crack the US market for commercial vehicles. Folks in the trades keep the pressure on to “Buy American.” However, with vehicles all containing global parts and assembly, maybe it’s time for Nissan to establish a bigger market share.

Nissan has been selling commercial vehicles here since 2011 when it launched the NV cargo and passenger versions. The NV200 came along in April, 2013.

The cargo and passenger vans are built in Mississippi, the NV200, in Mexico.

Sales have been increasing. The company has gained a credible 2 percent of market share in the full-size van segment and now is up to 5.3 percent. The NV200 already has achieved a 19.4 percent share.

It’s a tough sell. “We’ve been making progress and gains by word of mouth,” says Phil O’Connor, director of marketing for Nissan trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles. “In other words, all the big stuff.”

Now it’s time to try something more.

“We’re challenging competitors who’ve been in this market for 50 years and have developed relationships with brands and dealers,” he says.

However, it’s not as though Nissan doesn’t “know” trucks.

“One of the first vehicles we sent to the United States in 1959 was a small pickup truck,” says O’Connor. “We’ve been building commercial vehicles globally almost as long as we’ve been in business.”

That would be 80 years. Last December, Nissan held a 10-kilometer heritage car parade in Yokohama, Japan, to commemorate that anniversary with more than 100 of its heritage cars taking to the streets.

One of Nissan’s earliest vans in the recent series has been on duty in a delivery service in Arizona, passing the 550,000-mile mark. So far, its major repair has been an alternator replacement at 382,000 miles. Another has been ferrying ore samples for a copper mine, averaging 28,000 miles per month and getting an oil change every week.

“This [warranty] is a bold move and hopefully a game-changer for us,” says O’Connor.

This’ll Get Your Heart Beating

The average Subaru driver treasures the Outback, Forester, XV Crosstrek, Legacy, Impreza, and Tribeca for being safe and reliable transportation.

Then there’s the company’s other side, the WRX and WRX STI performance vehicles.

Subaru recently released “Flat Out: The Full Lap,” an in-car, full-lap video of Mark Higgins’s record lap on the Isle of Man TT Course in a WRX. He averaged 117.5 mph in covering the 37-mile loop in 19:15.

The video is transfixing, the audio from Higgins amazing, but it’s the telemetry that might catch your eye. We may have missed a maximum speed or heart rate, but the highest we saw was 162 beats per minute and 161 miles per hour.

Here are several links: http://youtu.be/t7gmbQ8KxM4, http://youtu.be/sNqNOC--7Pg, or search You Tube for Subaru WRX TT Challenge.

Etc.

The Car of the Future isn’t quite here, but Toyota had its mid-size hydrogen fuel cell vehicle on display in June at the 2014 Aspen (CO) Ideas Festival. Toyota plans to begin selling the vehicle in California next summer. It has a 300-mile driving range and refueling with hydrogen takes just five minutes. Toyota also has made arrangements to team with FirstElement Fuels to support the operation and maintenance of 19 additional hydrogen refueling stations in California … AAA has come out in support of calls requiring that new and used car dealers carry out all recall repairs on any vehicle they sell, saying “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the average recall completion rate in the United States is only about 75 percent.”