The fight for bragging rights as the top seller of commercial vans in the U.S. has entered a new phase, and how it ends up matters to Ford Motor Co. and the Kansas City, Mo., area economy.
As reported by the Kansas City Star, the Transit van began production last week at Ford’s Claycomo plant, with one shift that added 900 jobs and will build 300 Transits a day. The company expects to add a second shift later this year with an additional 800 to 1,000 employees. Depending on demand there could eventually be even more.
Ford has a lot riding on making that happen. The Transit, new to North America, will replace its E-series vans, the best-selling commercial vans in the United States.
The company said the Transit is a big advancement over its E-series and will be able to fight off competitors with improvements such as better fuel economy and more configurations, including three different roof heights. Safety features such as a rear-view camera and a system that alerts when you stray out of a lane will be offered for the first time.
At the Claycomo plant the company already makes the F-150 pickup truck, also a best seller.
The Ford F-Series pickup truck has been a perennial best-seller for years now, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. MotorTrend reported that after previously announcing it will boost annual capacity for the pickup by 200,000 more units, Ford will soon add a third crew to its Kansas City assembly plant in Missouri to meet the increase in demand.
The third crew will consist of 900 new workers who will build the F-150, a key tow vehicle for RVs, topped the sales chart in July, selling 60,449 units for year-to-date total of 427,935 units. For comparison, the Chevrolet Silverado, which was the second-best selling vehicle last month, has sold 284,666 so far this year.
Additionally, Ford is creating about 1,000 more jobs at the same plant to help launch the all-new Transit van, which will start production early next year. The automaker is currently expanding and retooling its Kansas City plant as part of an $11 billion investment for production of the Transit van.
The new 2014 Transit, which represents another platform for Class B motorhome builders, utilizes a unibody structure and will be powered by Ford’s familiar 3.7-liter DOHC V-6, or the optional 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. Customers demanding a diesel can opt for a 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbodiesel.
While sold in Europe under the DuraTorq name, the engine will be labeled as a Power Stroke in North America. Regardless of the engine choice, all U.S.-spec Transit models will utilize a six-speed automatic transmission.
Ford Motor Co.’s all-new Transit full-size van, which goes on sale late next year, will be offered with a new clean-running 3.2-liter Power Stroke five-cylinder diesel, according to a news release.
The new diesel, Ford’s second in North America, already has established a proven record for reliability, durability and refinement in the global Ford Ranger truck sold in world markets. The new Power Stroke Diesel will be the only five-cylinder diesel engine available in a commercial van in North America.
“Commercial van drivers spend most of their working hours behind the wheel. We know they want a fuel-efficient diesel engine with smooth, responsive performance and low operating costs,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of powertrain engineering. “The 3.2-liter Power Stroke engine has been developed and proven globally to deliver a world-class combination of power, fuel economy and refinement.”
While power has not been certified for North America, the new diesel engine is rated in Europe at 197 horsepower and 347 lb.-ft. of torque.
Like the larger 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 offered in Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks, the fuel system has been carefully tailored and calibrated for combustion efficiency. It enables the newest Power Stroke to achieve exceptional fuel economy ratings without affecting power levels.
The 3.2-liter turbo diesel features state-of-the-art piezoelectric fuel injectors fed through a high-pressure common rail fuel system, and advanced emissions technologies.
Precise injection timing and calibration also ensures a smooth combustion process to reduce hard diesel combustion clatter, resulting in lower noise levels that are more like a gasoline engine. Each injector nozzle has eight spray holes and can deliver up to five injections per combustion cycle. A pilot injection controls noise levels and a main injection is used for power generation.
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.
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.
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.