Legacy automakers got off to a late start with their commercial electric vans, opening the door for other electric commercial vehicle (ECV) makers to gain a foothold, as the Maxus brand from China’s SAIC Motor Corp (600104.SS) has done in Europe.

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Fleet customers complain they simply cannot obtain enough electric vans from the likes of Ford Motor Co (F.N), Stellantis NV (STLAM.MI) brand Peugeot, Renault (RENA.PA) or Mercedes (MBGn.DE), and so they are casting about for alternatives.

Nick Carey of Rueters reports that established automakers were slow to embrace electric vehicles, allowing Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) to race ahead on passenger cars. With commercial vans, however, they also have dealt with supply-chain challenges.

UK last-mile delivery startup Packfleet uses only ECVs to deliver packages in London for large and small corporate customers seeking a zero-emission experience for consumers.

Packfleet grew tenfold in 2022 and CEO Tristan Thomas said most of the company’s 53-vehicle fleet are Maxus vans. The company aims to double its fleet this year.

When the company sought its first ECVs in late 2021, “we basically got laughed out of town by most dealers,” with most legacy brand vans on a 12-month back order, he said.
Recently Packfleet has been able to obtain more Peugeot, Ford and Citroen ECVs, but has to move quickly to get them.

“As soon as vans arrive dealers call us and we have to move quickly,” Thomas said. “If we don’t, they’re gone in days.”

As fleets shift to zero-emission vehicles, newer brands have a chance to grab market share. Maxus has an advantage while legacy automakers struggle to electrify entire model lineups.

SAIC said it sold 18,000 mostly electric Maxus brand vehicles in Western Europe and Scandinavia last year, including buses and pickup trucks. “We plan to expand further into Central Europe areas,” it added.

Electric van market data is scarce, but according to statistics provided to Reuters by the International Council on Clean Transportation, in 2022 Maxus had around 6% of Europe’s new ECV market, including the UK, selling nearly 5,000 ECVs. That total is more than Ford, Nissan (7201.T) or Fiat, and up 28% versus 2021.