The compact van market in Europe outsells the U.S. with annual sales of 700,000 units. It then comes as no surprise that Mercedes-Benz will offer the Citan -- a new front-wheel-drive commercial van based on the successor to the compact Renault Kangoo -- in Europe. So far, Mercedes-Benz USA doesn’t intend to sell the Citan in the U.S.
Mercedes-Benz has released drawings of the Citan. It will debut this September at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hannover, Germany. Sales start this fall. The Citan is a combination of the words "city" and "titan.”
The Citan would be the smallest van in Mercedes-Benz’s lineup, which includes the Vario (the biggest van), followed in size by the Sprinter and Vito. The automaker forecasts that the Citan will attract 5% of the European market.
The automaker said that several commercial variants are in the plans, including a panel van and a crew bus, as well as several model lengths and weight classifications. There would also be gasoline, diesel and electric-drive models.
The Ford Transit Connect is the only compact, fwd van that’s available in the U.S. It is built in Turkey. In 2011, 31,914 units were sold in the U.S. It’s not a high seller but it is a profitable niche for Ford.
However, at least two compact, fwd competitors are about to enter the U.S. Nissan will present the NV200 Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show. Sales start this year. In 2013, Dodge will launch a compact van based on the Fiat Doblo.
It isn’t likely that there would be a fourth entry though. This segment will have lots of competition with the Transit Connect, as well as with the Nissan and Dodge compact vans. These are all targeted at customers in what’s expected to be a small market.