In a once unthinkable turnabout, Ford Motor Co. is bragging about how it now makes some of the smallest car engines in the industry — a sign of evolution for a company that once made its money selling powerful trucks, SUVs and the Mustang muscle car.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Ford’s race to smaller engines represents an industry trend as automakers woo fuel-conscious consumers and work to meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar, an auto price information company.
“We believe that we are going to pay more for energy going forward and that fuel efficiency is the top reason to buy,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive.
Mulally said Ford’s strategy of making powerful but smaller engines is part of the automaker’s goal to “increase the fuel efficiency every year forever.”
Ford has focused on small turbocharged engines, which it calls its EcoBoost line. Although Ford vehicles with these engines carry a premium, they have among the quickest paybacks from gas savings in the industry, Toprak said.
A recent TrueCar analysis of the latest offerings of small but powerful engines found Ford excelled at big vehicles with small engines, such as its Edge sport utility vehicle with the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and its big F-150 pickup truck with a six-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Ford is promoting that, after new introductions later this year, it will have seven vehicles with the smallest engines in their respective segments.
To read the entire Los Angeles Times article click here.
Next week, Ford will launch the new Transit Custom cargo van at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle show in the U.K. MotorTrend reported that the Transit Custom is the hard-working cargo version of the Tourneo Custom passenger van shown earlier this year, and goes on sale across Europe later this year.
It’s important to note that this van is front-wheel drive and rides on what Ford considers a light-duty chassis. The new Ford Transit that will be introduced in the U.S. market by the end of 2012 will be rear-wheel drive, boasting a tougher platform, and may have bolder styling echoing that of the F-Series truck line. As a direct replacement for the aging E-Series/Econoline vans, Ford says the new Transit will be 300 pounds lighter and 25% more fuel-efficient than the E-Series.
About 40% of the body of the new European Ford Transit Custom is made from high-strength steels, which help make the vehicle both lighter and stronger. As a result, Ford says the new van is 37% stiffer than before, which will improve handling and reduce interior noise. There will be two different wheelbases, with overall vehicle length 195.7 inches or 210.2 inches.
Clever concessions to use as a cargo van begin with a pass-through in the bulkhead, allowing long pipes or ladders to be partially carried in the passenger compartment. Ford says the Transit’s sliding doors are larger than those of the competition, and that interior room between the fenders is wider than in other cargo vans. There also will be a folding roof rack, that can easily be stowed when not in use, more convenient cargo area tie-down hooks, and “easy clean” floor surfaces.
Improvements for driver comfort include a seat that can move farther back, a newly telescoping and tilting steering wheel, and the Sync voice recognition software. Also new to the Transit are features like a backup camera, Lane Keeping Alert, and a feature that warns if it detects the driver is tired.
Power comes from Ford’s turbocharged 2.2-liter DuraTorq diesel inline-four engine, with 98 hp, 123 hp, and 153 hp flavors available. It’s very likely one of these will become available in the American-market Ford Transit; the automaker has already confirmed that our rear-wheel-drive Ford Transit will feature both an EcoBoost V-6 and a diesel engine. The European model also gets engine stop-start as standard.
Azure Dynamics, the company that builds the electric version of the Ford Transit Connect van, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Truck Trend News reported that having failed to raise sufficient funds through a company stock offering, the electric drivetrain manufacturer laid off 120 employees, 55 of whom were employed at its Oak Park, Mich. facility.
Along with providing power for the electric version of the Ford Transit Connect, Azure Dynamics builds electric powertrains and battery systems for delivery vans, plug-in hybrid trucks, hybrid buses and similar vehicles. The company was founded in Canada in 1997. In 2007, the company moved its headquarters to Oak Park.
Azure Dynamics was reportedly forced into bankruptcy after failing to secure approval from the Ontario Securities Commission to sell stock. The company needed the cash as it lost $26.1 million dollars during the first three quarters of 2011. With the company in bankruptcy, production of vehicles has stopped, although Azure Dynamics will continue to supply parts for vehicles. There are currently only about 40 workers on the job.
“We fully intend to be back and moving forward, but we have to reorganize,” Azure Dynamics’ vice president of marketing Mike Ellwood told the Detroit Free Press. “We still believe that electric vehicles are a part of the solution going forward.”
In early February, Azure Dynamics reported that it had taken orders for another 45 electric Transit Connects — 20 in Europe and 25 in North America. The company has taken a claimed $32 million in orders for the electric Transit Connect.
This isn’t the first shakeup involving the Transit Connect and its conversion company. Ford originally partnered with English EV firm Smith Electric in 2009 to transform the Transit Connect into an electric van, but by the end of the year, both parties mutually dissolved the contract. Smith claimed it instead wanted to focus its capital and resources on its own vehicle development programs.
Ford Motor Co. said Monday (March 5) that it will include the fuel efficient EcoBoost V-6 engine as one of the power options in the full-size Transit van the company will begin selling in the United States in 2013.
Transport Topics reported that the Transit, versions of which have been sold in Europe since 1965, is scheduled to replace the venerable E-Series cargo van here as Ford shifts to focus on more global platforms – vehicles which use similar components and can be sold in international markets.
The E-Series vans will be available for some undetermined time after the Transit is introduced here, Rob Stevens, chief engineer, said during a press conference held prior to the opening of the National Truck Equipment Association’s (NTEA) annual Work Truck Show here.E-Series cutaways and strip chassis will “continue into the future,” Stevens said.
The EcoBoost may deliver up to 25% better fuel mileage compared with the current E-Series vans, thanks in part to a 300-pound weight savings due to the lighter engine, Stevens said. The EcoBoost won’t be the only engine option, but Ford officials declined to say which others would be used. The Transit will be built in Kansas City.
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. recently was awarded quality recognition from Ford Motor Co.’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) Program.
• Compliance with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
• Conformance with all Ford industry guidelines for vehicle conversions.
• Annual facility inspection and review of converter’s processes.
• A commitment to continuous improvement.
According to Ford, the purpose of this program is to assure vehicle modifier’s have the capability and processes in place to complete the vehicle in a repeatable manner – maintaining the integrity of the Ford chassis system while meeting federal and other compliance standards in place at the time of the build, and providing end-users with a quality built vehicle that meets their expectations.
“We believe we have achieved excellence in Ford’s Motor Home Quality Vehicle Modifier Program because of the investments we have made in engineering technology and lean manufacturing,” stated Fleetwood RV President and CEO John Draheim. “Our continued commitment to the quality and safety of our products is a driving force behind the products we deliver to our customers.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has negotiated an exclusive member benefit with Ford Motor Company that could save ARVC members thousands of dollars with vehicles they lease or purchase for their businesses or personal use.
The benefit, available immediately to ARVC members, includes a non-taxable rebate off the guaranteed dealer invoice worth thousands of dollars that they can use at any time, so long as they are ARVC members.
“We’ve never offered a benefit like this before,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO, adding that this benefit alone is worth 10 to 20 times’ the annual cost of ARVC membership for a typical 100-site park.
In most cases, net purchase prices with the ARVC member discount will be 15% to 20% below the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) and applies to nearly every car, truck, or van in the Ford product line for 2011-12.
The Ford Motor Company discounts are the latest in a series of exclusive discount programs that ARVC has obtained for its members.
Other new benefits include an exclusive discount program with Just In Time Communications, Inc., a national distributor for DIRECTV, to provide satellite television service to ARVC member parks at rates that can save park operators tens of thousands of dollars a year, depending on the size of their park.
ARVC has also secured a preferred provider agreement with Skyline Corp., which now provides ARVC member parks with significant savings on towable travel trailers as well as park models, which are custom designed for use as rental units. Combined with existing agreements with long time member benefit providers such as Evergreen Insurance, John Deere, Suburban/Ferralgas/Amerigas LP, Sherwin Williams, and many others, a member’s savings can be significant over the course of a year.
Based in Denver, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds is the national voice of the outdoor hospitality industry. More information is available at www.arvc.org.
The following is a posting by Jeff Sabatini on Autoblog reviewing Ford Motor Co.’s announced transition from the E-Series van to the Ford Transit, a popular European platform.
It is not often that an automaker decides to dump a best-selling vehicle line, one that’s dominated its segment for decades. But Ford’s commercial vehicle team is doing it not once, but twice. Ford had been phasing out its Panther platform for a good five years before it finally ceased production of its Crown Victoria taxi, Police Interceptor and Lincoln Town Car livery offerings in September. Now the company is set to do similarly with its E-Series van, which will eventually be replaced by Ford’s Transit, the venerable European equivalent.
When the final Panthers rolled off the assembly line in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, Ford was left with no direct replacement. Instead, the company plans to sell the compact Transit Connect van in the taxi market, upgraded Tauruses and Explorers as police cars, and a “Town Car” version of the Lincoln MKT crossover to livery operators. All things being equal, these are significantly better products than their Panther-based predecessors, yet in a commercial market where “change” is a four-letter word, Ford has a lot of explaining to do.
The company’s transition from the E-Series to the Transit certainly seems simpler on the surface, as it’s a model-for-model substitution, but that’s not exactly the case. When it launches the North American Transit in 2013, Ford says the new van will be available in multiple body styles, with different roof heights and with multiple engine options, greatly expanding the choices available to its commercial customers. And those who just want to buy a plain, white E-Series will still be able to do so, as Ford will not be discontinuing the model, at least not initially.
“We have a transition plan,” said Doug Scott, Ford Truck Group Marketing Manager, but he declined to specify how long Ford will continue to build the E-Series after the Transit goes on sale, saying only that selling both vehicles concurrently, “will give us enough time to prove out Transit and win [customers] over.”
Scott did say the plan to phase out the E-Series was not sales-dependent, as Ford clearly does not want the E-Series to linger on like the Panther cars did. But Ford will actually continue to build the E-Series in chassis and cutaway cab form at its Ohio Assembly facility in Avon Lake in suburban Cleveland. This plant will be devoted entirely to commercial chassis production, with Ford’s Super Duty F-650 and F-750, and F-53 and F-59 models also being produced there. The F-53 is primarily a Class A motorhome chassis; the E-Series chassis is also popular for motorhomes.
While the E-Series has been the best-selling commercial van in the U.S. for 32 years with over 8 million sold, the Transit has been similarly successful in Europe, where it’s a best-seller both on the continent and in the U.K. Total Transit production has topped 6 million units, and it’s sold around the world in many different configurations. Unlike the E-Series, it’s a unibody vehicle, but with the flexibility to be offered in front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive. In Europe it has primarily been available with turbo-diesel engines, although for the U.S., Ford will certainly offer it with a gasoline engine. We are told that Ford has yet to decide which of its North American engines will be fitted under the hood, but that anything is possible, even a V8.
Ford says the transition to Transit makes sense for customers because the Transit will offer a 25% improvement in fuel economy, thanks in part to a roughly 300-pound weight savings, but without any sacrifice in durability or capability. By switching to a global platform, Ford expects to save money while being able to offer more frequent product refreshes, while also being better able to cope with increasing regulatory expenses.
Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries, Inc. was recognized by Ford Motor Co. for receiving the “fully meets” classification as part of their Truck Quality Program. According to a press release, Winnebago Industries has received this award from Ford since the program’s inception in 1997.
The Truck Quality Program is the highest honor awarded to vehicle modifiers. It is based on an assessment of a modifier’s engineering capability, design and build process controls, management commitment and quality control procedures. According to Ford, the purpose of this program is to “assure vehicle modifiers have the capability and processes in place to complete the vehicle in a repeatable manner that maintains the integrity of the Ford chassis system, meets Federal and other standards in place at the time of the build and provides end users with a quality-built vehicle that meets their expectations.”
“We work very closely with Ford, as with all our suppliers, to maintain the integrity of the purchased components in order to provide a superior product for our customers in the market place,” said Winnebago Director of Quality Control Chuck Hughes. “We believe we have excelled in Ford’s Truck Quality Program due to the advanced technology we utilize in the development and manufacturing process of our motorhomes with industry-leading designs, as well as by employing seasoned manufacturing engineering staffs and manufacturing management with the commitment to adhere to these stringent guidelines. It continues to be a priority for us in order to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations for the quality found in each Winnebago Industries’ product that we build.”
Ford has announced that the full-size Transit van, slated to begin production in the U.S. in 2013, is already here and in some select customer’s hands for testing.
Trailer/Body Builders reported Ford held a media briefing at its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters and provi How To Get Your Friend To Break Up With Your Ex Boyfriend ded an overview of its commercial vehicle lineup, an update on production for its F-650 and F-750 vehicles, and a glimpse at the Transit, which the company had on hand for viewing.
“Our ‘One Ford Plan’ is a plan that started [five years ago] as a global plan, not a regional plan,” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president-global product development. “It’s only natural that we extend that plan to our commercial vehicles with the Transit as a global van.”
The Transit, currently built in Europe, would be manufactured Ford’s Kansas City assembly plant starting in 2013. The vehicle has been a global success for the company, selling more than 6 million units since its debut. Ford plans to phase out the E-Series cargo van throughout the next decade, replacing it with the Transit as part of its overall strategy to reduce the number of vehicle platforms it offers to around 12 by 2014. A few years ago, Kuzak said, that number was 27. The company estimates that over 80% of its global vehicles will be covered by the 12 platforms.
Ford is making a $1.1 billion investment in the Kansas City facility to produce the Transit, Kuzak added. While specific details on the vehicle, such as powertrain options, have yet to emerge, Tim Stoehr, commercial truck marketing manager, told Fleet Owner that there will be “multiple configurations for multiple applications” in the U.S.
When it debuts, the van will represent the “next generation of the Transit,” Stoehr said, and would be a truly global vehicle, modified slightly for individual markets. In Europe, the van is offered in three roof heights, four lengths, and with three diesel engine options and in cargo, passenger and chassis cab configurations.
The E-Series van that the Transit will eventually replace has been Ford’s best-selling commercial van for more than 32 years.
“E-Series really has been our commercial workhorse,” said Rob Stevens, chief engineer-commercial truck. “It is well over half of the van market today. The E-Series van is really focused on the commercial market.”
One big advantage of the new Transit, Ford said, is the weight savings over the current E-Series model.
“The weight savings is at least 300 pounds, which translates to improved fuel economy,” Kuzak said. “That’s what it’s all about, substantial savings to the bottom line of our commercial customers.”
That weight savings should translate to about 25% better fuel economy than a similar E-Series van, Ford said.
Ford is building a new test road at its Michigan Proving Grounds to simulate the expected conditions and applications that the Transit will face here in North America.
Ford also announced that its F-650 and F-750 vehicles, currently made in Mexico under agreement with Navistar, will be manufactured at Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant, which now produces the E-Series van. Ford and Navistar have discontinued their Blue Diamond Truck LLC joint venture. The Ohio plant will also produce the E-450 stripped chassis, which Ford will continue to make even after phasing out the E-Series cargo van, as well as the company’s F-53 and F-59 stripped chassis products.
“It really is about dedicating that plant to the commercial industry,” Kuzak said.
Ohio is set to provide tax breaks to Ford Motor Co. which is spending $128 million to retool its assembly plant in Avon Lake, near Cleveland, to make commercial vehicles, according to a report in the Detroit News.
Ford announced in October, as part of a new labor agreement with the United Auto Workers, that it would convert the Ohio Assembly plant to make larger commercial vehicles when the Econoline van or E-Series is discontinued at the end of 2013.
The investment keeps the plant open and retains 1,900 jobs. No new jobs are planned, said Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans. Future plans call for Avon Lake workers to do medium-truck and frame assembly work that currently is done in Mexico. The Ohio plant also will do motorhome chassis work and continue to make E-Series cutaways that are then modified for use as service vehicles.
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority met Monday (Dec. 6) with an agenda that included Ford’s incentive request. Most automotive investments receive state and local aid.
A press event is planned for Tuesday morning at the Ford plant where Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to confirm state incentives.
Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North America manufacturing, will be in attendance as well as a UAW regional representative, to confirm the company’s previously announced investment plans.
Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley, and Ohio state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, will hold a press conference call to criticize Kasich for not actively supporting the $85 billion auto bailout.
Even though Ford Motor Co. didn’t receive a bailout — as General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC did — some have argued that Ford might not have survived if its rivals’ collapse had destroyed the auto supplier base.