In the United States, Ford Motor Co. has officially started to replace its E-Series commercial van with the all-new Transit. On Wednesday, the automaker had rolled its newest van off the line at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri.
The E-Series van, previously known as the Ford Econoline, has been the best-selling van in the U.S. for 35 years. It was first sold in the U.S. market in 1961. The vans are often used for business and medical purposes.
Its replacement is not exactly new—it is only new in the region. The Transit was launched in Europe in 1965 and has been the sales leader in the commercial van segment in the United Kingdom for 49 years. At present, the Transit is sold in 118 markets on six continents.
To allow a smooth transition for its North American commercial customers, Ford will continue selling the E-Series vans and wagons alongside the new Transit for the 2014 calendar year. The Dearborn automaker will also continue building and selling the E-Series cutaway and stripped chassis for a couple of years more. The Transit will be rolling out into showrooms in the summer.
Ford is introducing the new Transit in the region to remain the leader in the commercial vehicle segment in the U.S. market. Joe Hinrichs, Executive Vice President and President of The Americas at Ford, said that the Blue Oval holds a 40 percent share of the said segment.
Commercial vehicles are currently selling very well in the United States. As noted by The Detroit News, the commercial vehicle market sold more than 300,000 units and commercial van sales jumped about 7 percent in the first quarter of the year. Smaller vans like the Nissan NV200 also saw strong demand in 2013. Hinrichs pointed out that the recovering economy is mostly responsible for the high demand of such vehicles.
April 30th marked the official start of Transit production at the Kansas plant, though pre-production had started weeks prior. Transit vans are also made in Ford facilities in China and Turkey.
Kansas City Assembly Plant was the recipient of $1.1 billion in investments. Ford spent a considerable amount to retool and prepare the facility not only for the production of the Transit but also the production of the new F-150, which will sport an aluminum body for the first time.
The automaker has added a 437,000-square-foot stamping facility as well as a 78,000-square-foot paint shop, which will apply three-wet and two-wet monocoat paint processes. The Kansas plant also received about 550 new robots for its body shop, over 700 new assembly tools to be used for chassis and trim, and 18 new conveyor systems.
Ford also expanded its Kansas City Assembly Plant workforce—it hired an additional 2,000 employees.
The new Transit van provides cargo volume as much as 487 cubic feet and maximum payload capacity of 4,650 pounds. Its maximum towing capacity is 7,600 pounds. The Transit will be offered in three roof heights, two wheelbases, three body length options, four body styles and two trim level options. The van comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 engine, but is also available with the F-150’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and the 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel engine.
The 2015 Transit recently made its TV debut on the April 30 episode of the History Channel’s ‘American Pickers.’ Hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz swapped their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for the biggest Transit van, that which has a long wheelbase, high roof and extended body. Ford is promoting its newest van and celebrating the van’s TV debut with a scavenger hunt.
Photo credit: media.ford.com