Introduced in 1965, the Transit is the longest-running nameplate in Ford's European lineup. The Transit has a long history of hauling goods and people across Europe, South America and elsewhere around the world.
Now, the Transit of the future is ready to make its debut. It has been completely redesigned for the first time since 1986. Ford officials believe they have identified significant new opportunities to sell their trusty medium-size commercial vehicle.
Central to Ford's vision for the new Transit is the Internet. Mark Simpson, Ford brand manager for commercial vans, said Ford believes the Transit may be the perfect vehicle for today's dotcom retailers. Ford sees the Transit as a cost-effective door-to-door delivery vehicle for retailers and parcel distributors.
Simpson said Ford has had discussions with a number of Internet retailers and package companies about delivery possibilities.
He said countries like Germany, which has restricted shopping hours, could see sharp upturns in Internet shopping as a growing number of consumers go online.
The rise of Internet shopping also opens up another possibility for Ford - the sale of the Transit in the USA for the first time.
The new Transit is a direct result of the Ford 2000 product development process. Previously, the Transit had been developed primarily at Ford's engineering center in Dunton, England. Ford 2000 concentrated Ford's product development teams into three centers of competence. Small cars are developed at Ford's co-centers in Cologne and Dunton. The large-car and truck teams are in Dearborn. So, with an assist from Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), the Transit came to be developed in the USA even though it is not sold there.
'One of the prime issues is fuel consumption,' said Simpson, an Englishman who has been working with the Transit program at Ford's Truck Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, USA. 'It won't have escaped anyone's notice that gasoline prices in the USA have increased significantly over the past 12 months. That is going to have an impact. The Transit is more efficient from a powertrain standpoint. The overall loadspace and payload efficiency is far greater than you get (with commercial vans built) in the USA.'
The 'buildable combinations' of the Transit are so numerous Ford cannot count them, Simpson said. But six new variants will be launched with the redesign: the 120 Dropside, 150S Tipper, 190EF Dropside, 190 Double Cab Tipper, 190 EF Curtainside and 190EF Box Van. They will complement the existing Flareside, Dropside and Tipper models.
There are three wheelbases, including a new medium wheelbase, four load lengths and three roof heights. Prices will range from euro 18,700-euro 31,668.
A team of about 500 people worked on the Transit program during its peak, and was supported by Ford's engineering centers in Europe. The team concentrated on improving several facets of the Transit. These included loadbox functionality, cost of ownership, security and durability, strength and quality.
The Transit has always been offered with rear-wheel drive, but for the first time it will now also be available in front-wheel-drive configurations.
The Transit will be offered with several powertrains including Ford's DuraTorq 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter turbodiesel and 2.3-liter gasoline engines.
Ford is starting production of long wheelbase, rear-wheel-drive versions of the new Transit this month at its Genk assembly plant in Belgium.
The current version of the Transit will be manufactured at Ford's assembly plant in Southampton, England until the spring, when the plant will be converted. Short wheelbase, front-wheel-drive versions of the Transit will be built at Southampton.