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Nissan rolling out spiffed-up food trucks

November 16, 2011|By Rosanna Xia
(Rosanna Xia )

Joining the showroom this year, filled with sports vehicles and decorated concept cars, are none other than… 

Food trucks. 

The Grilled Cheese Truck and CoolHaus gave out samples in sleek Nissan NV vans, showcasing a design fresh from the more vintage look of most L.A. food trucks.

“Nissan approached us with this sponsored vehicle, and we think it’s a fantastic idea,” said Michelle Grant, CEO of the Grilled Cheese Truck. “Right now we use the standard taco truck. With a more compact vehicle, we’ll be able to reach new spaces.”

CoolHaus, which currently uses refurbished postal trucks, echoed these thoughts.

“It’s definitely smaller – lower height, shorter, more compact,” said CoolHaus CEO Natasha Case, “and in the food truck industry, this space compression really helps being able to park and participate in smaller venues. Say a venue has space for 10 trucks plus a half, we can now be that half.”

With a larger manufacturer now offering vans, Case noted the benefits of having a new vehicle with better power and mileage. “Also, if you have a problem, it means you can now take it to the dealer.” 

The Nissan NV, released in the U.S. this summer, is its first commercial vehicle in the U.S. market. The three models (NV1500, 2500 and 3500) offer a standard or high-top roof and a V-6 or V-8 engine. Features include chrome bumpers, cargo area worklights, eight-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth system and upgraded audio systems. Base prices range from $24,950 for a standard-roof NV1500 to $30,150 for a high-roof NV3500 

“It’s a unique product for us,” said Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning. “This is really all about innovation, to have a little fun, because there’s been really nothing for this industry.”

Perry noted that in this category, contractors have had a few choices, like GM, Ford, Dodge: “All well-established,” he said, “but older technology.”

The NV also provides an outfitting service—building and installing up to 60 square feet of graphics, designed by the buyer, on the vehicle.

"It’s cool, futuristic-looking. Right now, our trucks are more a nod to the past – vintage," said Case. “It really shows that the food truck industry is here to stay and expand." 

The food truck craze has been taking off in recent years, revived by the gourmet trend. The L.A. Times reported in May that Americans are expected to spend $630 million on food this year from mobile vendors, according to the National Restaurant Assn. That's up from $608 million in 2010.

“We’re currently in four cities, but having a larger manufacturer like this really would enable us to have consistency across the country,” Case said. “Rather than hoping for the best with a local purchase."

“It brings a legitimacy to the food truck industry that we’re starving for.”

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--Rosanna Xia

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