The Ford Transit van, seen here in its present global incarnation, is being re-engineered for the North American commercial market in anticipation of its launch in 2013.
Ford invited our small club of fleet- and commercial-minded journalists yesterday to tour the Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, Mich., home of the F-150, and put us in commercial vehicles on the Proving Track. While it’s always good to put product through its paces, the big news was with a vehicle we could not yet drive and only view: the Ford Transit van.
The Transit is being brought from Europe in calendar year 2013. The arrival of the Transit spells the end of the E Series van. That’s right, the E Series — the Econoline, the workhorse that sold 8 million units in 50 years of service — is being put out to pasture.
While the first Transit model arrives in 2013, the E Series won’t meet its maker in one fell swoop; it’ll stick around for a while as Transit sales ramp up and more Transit model choices come online. (The E Series cutaway will stick around even longer, Ford says. RVer’s, you can rest easy.)
Ford is fixing up the baby room for its new arrival, investing $1.1 billion in its Kansas City plant to build the Transit stateside. Obviously, this is a high-volume move for Ford.
But why kill the E Series? It’s more about what replaces it — and a new philosophy in how we will use vans in America. First, the Transit fits Ford’s (and every automaker’s) new manufacturing philosophy. As automakers move to global platforms, so will Ford’s commercial vans. The Transit has 6 million in sales in its own right and is already available in half the world. It will be built on one of Ford’s 12 global platforms, which makes much more sense from a manufacturing standpoint.
From an end-user standpoint, the Transit promises to be a van for all seasons and reasons, with many more choices for wheelbases, roof heights and engines than would’ve been possible in the E Series.
Even more so, it’s about fuel economy — Ford expects the next-gen Transit to achieve a 25% improvement over a comparable E Series. Put “lightweighting” in your vocabulary — it’s one of the ways manufacturers are continuing to reap even better fuel economy out of an internal combustion engine. The Transit is 300 lbs. lighter than the E Series.
Ford has been spearheading this new philosophy with its penetration of the Transit Connect, the small European van that tapped into an unsatisfied niche of users needing a nimble delivery vehicle. The TC passenger version is basically re-inventing the taxi market as well.