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2015 Ford Transit: An American Brand Gone Global Comes Home


In March, Ford Motor Co. fleet executives announced their plans for a four-phase roll out of the 2015 Transit. In April, production of Ford’s biggest commercial vehicle launch began at its assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri, which was revamped at cost of over $1 billion in a move that Governor Jay Nixon called a “historic investment in Missouri.” In June, Ford began selling the first 2015 Transit commercial vans to fleets in the United States. 

“The commercial vehicles are obviously a very important segment, to the economy and to the company,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford vice president of engineering, said at the Ford media “ride and drive” event at their Kansas City plant in early June. “It is a substantial segment in the overall global automotive industry, and about 20 percent of the total industry right now is commercially based. Within that segment not only is the absolute number big, we expect it to grow about 15 percent between now and 2017.
“We lead the industry in this segment. In every segment where we compete globally, we are the leaders, and that is something we are proud of.”
More than an historic move, this is a decidedly modern move for Ford, as the Transit’s arrival in the U.S. makes it a legitimately global vehicle. The Transit has been sold in Europe since 1965. Today it is sold in just under 120 countries, has won two International Van of the Year awards, and with over seven million sold in total across the world, it ranks as the number one best-selling commercial van just shy of 50 years running.
Perhaps the most modern twist of this story, in line with the accelerating trend toward globalization in virtually every modern market, is the vehicle this global mainstay is replacing: the domestic, all-American E-Series. The E-Series has been around since 1961, better known then as the Ford Econoline, has reigned as the number one best-selling van for more than 35 years in the United States, and has essentially become the apple pie of commercial vehicles since it became exclusive to fleet customers in 2008.

“We lead the industry in this segment. In every segment where we compete globally, we are the leaders, and that is something we are proud of.”

 “This is quite a stunning statistic: of all the vehicles on the road, 41 percent of those vehicles are Ford vehicles.” Golhotra said. “Within that 41 percent there are a substantial number of Econolines, which have been in service for 53 years. There are more than 8 million Econolines that we have sold over those years, so it is a very important part of our portfolio.
 “But we do have another commercial van in our portfolio that has been sold in 118 other markets, that has been around for 49 years, with seven million sold around the globe.” Who knew? Everyone but us here in America.
While the symbolism and nostalgia associated with the retirement of the E-series may leave a lump in the throats of a few industry veterans, the 46 percent better EPA-estimated highway gas mileage customers will get with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost-equipped Transit should perk them back up. And if that doesn’t, the best in class engine torque rating of 400 lb.-ft., or maximum cargo capacity of 487.3 cubic feet might do it.
“We are excited to serve our fleet and commercial customers in North America with the all-new Transit,” Galhotra said in a Ford press release. “Transit is Built Ford Tough and represents One Ford at its best, building on lessons learned from our decades of leadership in the commercial vehicle markets in the United States and Europe.”
The Transit, essentially remixed for its North American debut, is available in more configurations ever offered by a Ford commercial van. Available configuration options include van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway body styles, three body lengths and two wheelbases for van and wagon, three different roof heights and XL and XLT trim levels.

The Transit, essentially remixed for its North American debut, is available in more configurations ever offered by a Ford commercial van.

 Particularly attractive to luxury ground transportation firms, most configurations of the Transit come with a center aisle combined with wide-opening side doors and substantial legroom to enable fast and hassle-free pickups and drop-offs. As the Transit is ideal for upfitting, Ford has accordingly had the foresight to make easy upfitting available with 11 upfit ship-throughs, eight of which are located within 20 miles of its Kansas City assembly plant where the vehicle is manufactured.
The Transit van’s gas engine maximum cargo capacity of 487.3 cubic feet is also best-in-class, with 75 percent more than the largest E-Series van. Ideal for shuttle operators, the extended-length wagon model offers 100.5 cubic feet of storage behind the last row of seats in a 15-passenger version.
Transit high-roof van models’ cargo height makes loading easier, and high-roof wagon models have passenger compartment height that will accommodate passengers standing 6 feet 4 inches. Additionally, the rear door opening height and available 270-degree swing-out rear cargo doors enable quick and easy access.
The Transit comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 engine but is also available in 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel or 3.5-liter EcoBoost, which gets a 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway EPA-estimated rating on low- and medium-roof, regular wheelbase wagons. Comparing that with the 10 mpg city/13 mpg highway EPA-estimated rating for the E-Series 6.8-liter V10 premium gas engine is where Ford gets their figure of a 46 percent improvement. In terms of the bottom line for your livery business, that fuel efficiency improvement can mean savings up to $1,700 per year per vehicle.
The 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 3.7-liter V6 engines have been proven in over 700,000 Ford F-150 trucks since 2011, and the 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel engine endured 4,000 hours of testing specifically for the Transit, which included running at maximum engine power for 750 hours (the equivalent of 14 nonstop round trips from N.Y. to L.A.) simulating 10 years’ of service and 150,000 miles. In order to simulate heavy use—the sort that fleet operators put their vans through—Ford also opened and slammed the vehicle’s doors 250,000 times.

The two most important needs for these customers are durability and cost of ownership.

The Transit’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost offers 310 horsepower and a gas engine torque rating of 400 lb.-ft., which is a best-in-class ranking among full-size vans, making this vehicle ideal for transporting clientele with extra luggage in tow. The new unibody structure offers long-term durability, which was tested for more than 7 million customer-equivalent miles by both Ford and real North American fleet customers.
Transit also offers its fleet customers an array of smart technology, including Crew Chief telematics, a service and mileage cost tracking system, as well as MyKey to promote driver safety. An available lane-keeping alert system detects lane markings with a forward-facing camera and vibrates the steering wheel to help alert drivers to steer back toward the center of the lane.
The Ford Transit “is designed to meet the key needs of [our fleet] customers,” Galhotra said. “The two most important needs for these customers are durability and cost of ownership. Fuel economy is very important, and we have made a tremendous improvement from the present vehicle to the new 2015 Transit.
“This is going to be built in three places around the world, one of which is right here in Missouri,” he said at the “ride and drive” event. “We invested over 1.1 billion dollars in Kansas City to both retool and expand the plant, which has had a ripple effect in the community, and has created 2,000 new jobs.” Sure, the Transit is definitely Ford’s global commercial vehicle, but the impact of the 2015 model is decidedly American.

Written by Adam Leitenberger
Associate Editor & Digital Media Manager



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