KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Ford Transit Van has officially hit limousine fleets in the U.S., as Diane Forgy of Overland Chauffeured Services picked up her first one Aug. 21 at a local dealership.
The 2015 Ford Transit Van is also the first one sold by Towne Livery in Orchard Park, N.Y., a primary national dealer of livery vehicles. And it’s definitely among the first wave of Transit Vans that are taking chauffeured clients on the road this summer.
The all-black Transit Van bought by Forgy can carry up to 14 passengers plus the chauffeur, and has a 147.6-in. wheelbase for a GVWR of 10,350. It’s powered by a 3.5-litre, eco-boost, V-6 engine with 310 hp. Considered heavy duty, the luxury van also is equipped with dual rear-wheels, a high roof and extra-long wheelbase, which endows it with enough cargo space for the passenger load.
This particular Transit Van costs about $47,810 based on sticker price plus options and packages, but limousine operators can get such Vans in the $43,000 ballpark, making it considerably less expensive than a competing Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van model, said David Bastian, commercial fleet manager for Towne Livery and Towne Auto Group, who sold Forgy the van.
“I’m looking forward to selling this product to the industry and there will be demand for it,” Bastian told LCT. “It seems to be that this is what the majority of the industry is looking for.”
The entry of the Ford Transit Van into the chauffeured transportation market marks the beginning of serious competition in the upscale limo van market, which until now has been almost exclusively dominated by Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. A prototype Ford Transit Van suitable for chauffeured service debuted in February at the 2014 International LCT Show in Las Vegas.
The Transit line models — which include the large Van model ideal for the limousine industry, a base Transit model and a smaller wagon version — come in 85 different variations, Bastian said.
“The challenge in putting these thing together was figuring out what the industry really wants,” Bastian said. Operators can get Transit Van versions that carry eight, 10 and 12 passengers as well. The warranty on the Van models for operators is 3 years or 36,000 miles with optional Extended Service Plans available to purchase that range 2-4 years, or up to 125,000 miles.
Forgy, a board director of the National Limousine Association and its President from 2010-2013 who has been an operator for 25 years, told LCT the Transit is one of the most versatile and affordable fleet vehicles ever introduced to the limousine industry. The pricing puts it about $10,000 to $15,000 below a Sprinter Van, depending on models and options.
“It is a significant improvement to the Club Wagon with the extra roof height and fixed luggage space,” she said. “And it has the exterior styling that makes it appealing for a variety of services and events.”
Since Overland handles a heavy corporate and group business, the Transit Van will be assigned to runs ranging from basic shuttle trips and airport service to hourly charters for dinners and sports events, Forgy said. She opted for the cloth seating for now, but may eventually upgrade the interior with TVs, wood trim, more lighting and black leather seats. The Van has a 12V/USB plug-in/port up front and a 12V outlet midway in the back.
“In addition, we do a lot of large, high-end weddings and social events so this vehicle has all the styling and versatility to be extremely popular,” she said. “It’s going to work for just about anything that requires eight to 12 passengers at a good price point. “It will be exciting to see the possibilities for various interior modifications to include all levels of limousine and executive styling. I hope we can add more in the future.”