Ford Transit Conquers the World of Work

The Detroit Bureau

Over the years, the Ford Motor Co. has out­flanked its rivals by qui­et­ly con­quer­ing the world of work. In the U.S., rough­ly 41% of the vehi­cles used for com­mer­cial pur­pos­es. It’s a broad cat­e­go­ry that includes air­port shut­tle vans as well as vehi­cles used by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, min­ing com­pa­nies, ener­gy com­pa­nies, and at con­struc­tion sites and on farms, are now built by Ford. In addi­tion, 20% of all vehi­cles sold around the world are used com­mer­cial­ly so stay­ing on top is a strate­gic pri­or­i­ty for the com­pa­ny.

So Ford has invest­ed $1.3 bil­lion dol­lars in the devel­op­ment of a replace­ment for the big com­mer­cial E- Series van, which, with few changes, has been a main­stay of the Ford fleet for a half-cen­tu­ry, and the best-sell­ing com­mer­cial van used by plumbers, con­trac­tors and com­pa­nies that offer deliv­ery ser­vice of var­i­ous kinds.

The new Tran­sit van, which drew on the expe­ri­ence and resources of the entire Ford enter­prise through the “One Ford” plan, gives what Ford thinks is the best vehi­cle in the seg­ment. Hav­ing a vehi­cle like this is crit­i­cal to the com­pa­ny, not­ed Minyang Jiang, the brand man­ag­er for the Tran­sit, which will have to com­pete with vehi­cles such as the Mer­cedes-Benz Spring, Fiat Chrysler Auto­mo­biles Pro­Mas­ter and Nissan’s new NV2500 and the Chevro­let Express.

Ford’s 2015 Tran­sit van is replac­ing the old E-Series full-size van and will be offered with the maker’s new Pow­er Stroke I-5 diesel. Minyang, how­ev­er, said, “One Ford” has endowed the new Tran­sit with new pow­er trains, includ­ing an Eco­Boost and diesel options, a new chas­sis and new sta­bil­i­ty con­trols as well as no few­er than 58 dif­fer­ent body styles. The van comes in three dif­fer­ent heights, three dif­fer­ent lengths and two dif­fer­ent wheel­bas­es.

The Tran­sit also will be avail­able with dri­ver assis­tance, telem­at­ics and vehi­cle track­ing sys­tems as well as a large cur­tain-style airbags to pro­tect rid­ers in a Tran­sit out­fit­ted to car­ry pas­sen­gers either to and from air­port ter­mi­nals or to car­ry sports teams to away games. The new van offers a huge improve­ment in safe­ty for pas­sen­gers in vehi­cles such as air­port shut­tles, Minyang said.

In addi­tion, the cab of the Tran­sit is rel­a­tive­ly qui­et, eas­ing the stress on dri­vers or pas­sen­gers.

Even on a short dri­ve the Tran­sit impres­sive. It han­dled well even in tight cor­ners and the steer­ing the was smooth and effi­cient and even the 3.2-liter, third gen­er­a­tion in-line five cylin­der diesel engine Ford is using in the Tran­sit is qui­eter than a com­pa­ra­ble diesel found in the Mer­cedes-Benz Sprint­er.

Head toss is min­i­mal since the chas­sis is equipped with a sta­bil­i­ty con­trol sys­tem that con­stant­ly mon­i­tors­the vehi­cle on the road and man­ages the vehicle’s roll on curves, through turns and on all kinds of road sur­faces. The cab­in area has been upgrad­ed to the con­trols are easy for the dri­ver to reach.

Ford is look­ing for the new con­fig­urable Tran­sit to take up the slack for the dis­con­tin­ued E-Series van. The 3.5-liter V6 Eco­Boost engine is the same engine that has proven suc­cess­ful in the F-150, Minyang said.

The stan­dard 3.7-liter V6 is also more effi­cient and over­all Ford esti­mates the new pow­er­train will reduce fuel con­sump­tion by a whop­ping 46%, sav­ing typ­i­cal own­ers almost $1,700 per year, Minyang said. Tran­sit vans equipped with diesel engines, which are built at a Ford plant in South Africa, which yield even bet­ter fuel econ­o­my, are expect­ed to rep­re­sent about 20% of mix.

The vari­ety of body styles means that Ford can tai­lor the van to suit the needs of a wider array of users. In addi­tion, Ford invit­ed out­fit­ters to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram and near­ly a dozen of already set up oper­a­tions around the Ford plant in Kansas City, Mis­souri, where Ford has been invest­ed more than $1 bil­lion in a Tran­sit assem­bly line. The first new Tran­sits rolled off the assem­bly line in April.

By locat­ing near the plant, the out­fit­ters will be able to use the 350 spe­cial­ly built rail­cars Ford had built to ship the new vans across North Amer­i­ca, accord­ing of Ford spokes­woman Jes­si­ca Enoch.

Ford was sell­ing about 100,000 E-Series vans annu­al­ly when the com­pa­ny final­ly took them out of pro­duc­tion. Ford, how­ev­er, hopes the Tran­sit – with its vari­ants – will out­sell the E-Series. The Tran­sit is also a glob­al vehi­cle and will be built not only in Europe, but also in Chi­na, Minyang said.


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