Ford expands its product line yet again.
With much fanfare, Ford production workers at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri, started production of the 2015 Ford Transit on Wednesday. The Ford Transit is a large van, one that the automaker expects will help Ford claim a larger slice of the expanding commercial market. Ford invested approximately $1.1 billion and hired 2,000 workers to aid it in that endeavor.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas, noted: “Producing our Built Ford Tough Transit lineup in Kansas City is a big deal for the local community. Our investment in Kansas City Assembly Plant for Transit production is about delivering world-class commercial vans for a new generation of commercial customers – while building on our decades of leadership in the market and supporting new jobs throughout the region and across America.”
Ford Transit: New to America
The Kansas City plant was opened in 1951 and recently retooled. A new stamping facility was added in 2012 and its paint shop expanded for the installation of a three-wet paint and two-wet mono coat process. Ford says that the new painting process is just as efficient as the previous method with improved environmental benefits too.
Although new to America, the Ford Transit has been in production since 1965. Its earlier models were built and sold in Europe. More recently, the automaker has launched production in Vietnam, Russia and China.
The Ford Transit will replace the Ford E-Series (formerly Econoline), a model introduced in 1961. Like the E-Series, the Transit is rear-wheel drive although in Europe you can choose front- and four-wheel drive models. Ford says that the new van will have 300 pounds greater hauling capacity than the E-Series while delivering a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy.
Multiple Configurations Available
Ford will offer the Transit in three body lengths; two wheelbases; three roof heights; and in van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway body styles. Wagon buyers will be offered both XL and XLT trim levels.
What won’t be offered (or missed) are the larger engines powering the Ford E-Series, including a pair of V-8s and one V-10 engine. The new model will offer a standard 3.7-liter V-6 gas engine, an available 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 gas engine, and the first US application for its 3.2-liter five cylinder common-rail, turbo-diesel engine.
Like owners of the Ford F-150 (also built at the Kansas City plant), Ford Transit shoppers should find the EcoBoost engine provides V-8 equivalent power. All three engines will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Expanded Cargo Capacity
Another people pleaser should be the varying available roof heights. The high roof Ford Transit will provide 81 inches of cargo height to 72 inches for the medium height version. A standard 56-inch height is also available. Ford says that cargo capacity will range from 256 cubic feet to more than 550 cubic feet, the latter giving it a 75 percent edge over the competing Chevrolet Express. Ford is also touting the Transit’s rear doors, what will open at 270 degrees for ease of access.
The 2015 Ford Transit goes on sale this summer. Priced from $29,565 for the Van, it will retail from $32,100 for the Wagon XL and $33,600 for the Wagon XLT.
Online Configurator Available
Ford now offers a combinator to help shoppers build their vehicles, by choosing the body style, wheelbase and height for their vehicle.
For instance, wagon shoppers would choose either the 130- or the 148-inch wheelbase and a low or medium roof version. They also can choose an extended body version based on the longer wheelbase.
For van shoppers, the same configurations are presented with one important addition: a high roof model comes in. Wheelbase measurements for the chassis and cutaway models will come in at 138-, 156- and 178-inches respectively. A single 87.3-inch roof height is available with both models.
Handling and Suspension
Ford says that the Transit will offer improved handling, steering and ride qualities over the current E-Series. It will come outfitted with a power rack-and-pinion steering system for improved communicative steering feel for the driver.
The Transit’s front suspension is composed of subframe-mounted MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar, what Ford says will deliver “smoother, flatter cornering.” To the rear, the Transit is outfitted with leaf springs and heavy-duty gas-charged dampers to aid ride quality, load status notwithstanding.
Ford shoppers will find many of the same amenities available in the automaker’s other commercial vehicle products with the Transit. These include a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power accessories, LED lighting, audio system options, SYNC with MyFord Touch, and numerous safety features.
When the Ford Transit goes on sale this summer, it will compete with a host of newer offerings including the Dodge Promaster, Nissan’s NV, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Ford hopes that its diesel option, passenger configurations, and proven durability will combine to convince shoppers to go with the new Transit.
Photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.