The aluminum F-150 pickup has gotten all the publicity, but it’s not the only high-stakes truck move the Ford brand is making this year.
The 2014 Transit Connect Van and Wagon are arriving in dealerships now. And the full-sized 2015 Transit commercial van goes on sale this summer. Together, the Transit van family represents a change for Ford almost as significant as the shift from steel to aluminum in the F-150.
With the rear-wheel-drive Transit, Ford is replacing the body-on-frame E series, the market leader and a profit machine for nearly three decades. In its place will be a unibody commercial van that was designed in Europe and adapted for the United States. Gone are the two V-8 engines and the 6.8-liter Triton V-10, replaced by two V-6s and a five-cylinder diesel.
As with the F-150, Ford is taking a big chance, replacing a proven market leader with something radically different — but not totally new. Ford has sold more than 7 million Transits in 119 markets since introduction in 1979.
In the United States, the E series has been shouldering the load for Ford’s commercial and large passenger van business since Richard Nixon was president, dominating the market almost as much as the F series rules the pickup field.
For the full story click here.
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.