Fully laden this will make even an Escalade seem like a lightweight.

Fully laden this will make even an Escalade seem like a lightweight.

A 12 seater version of Nissan's US-built NV van has premiered at the Montréal auto show. This new giant is a challenger for the aged Ford Econoline/E-Series van, as well as GM's equally elderly Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana twins.

Nissan will build the new model alongside the NV van at its Canton plant. Both these models use the body-on-frame Alpha-F platform of the Titan pick-up, another model which is built at the Mississippi facility.

The NV van series measures 6,111mm from bumper to bumper and offers the choice of NV1500, NV2500 HD or NV3500 HD variants. The new Passenger Van is to be available only in 3500 Heavy Duty spec. Nissan North America quotes the GVWR figure as 9,500 lbs.

Engines for the new model are Nissan's 4.0-litre V6 and 5.6-litre V8, each mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. The vehicle's 12 seats are set across four rows. The new model goes on sale in Canada and the US from March.

Despite the NV being such a fresh design, buyers of full-sized vans are taking their time to give up their traditional loyalty to Ford and GM vehicles: for the year to the end of December, Nissan sold only 6,444 units of the NV in the US market. Sales are, however, on the rise: the number for December was 1,230. Production of the Nissan NV started at Canton in January 2011 and sales the following month.

As a sign of how the US economy appears to be bouncing back, and also how strong the segment leader is, numbers from Ford Motor Company show that 116,874 units of the Econoline/Club Wagon were sold in the US during 2011.

With the signing of a broad-ranging cooperation agreement between Daimler and Renault-Nissan in April 2010, it is entirely possible that the NV may also become the basis of a Canton-built van to replace the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in North America but this remains speculative.