Stand by for the most significant light-commercial van and people-mover launch from Ford in a decade.
It’s probably the strongest nameplate in commercial vehicle history and can claim to have been the foundation of providing crooks, robbers and vagabonds with the perfect getaway vehicle for bank raids.
Transit has spawned global sales of over seven million vehicles since it was first introduced back in 1965, and in its latest form it spans a range of vehicles from the smaller Transit Courier and the Transit Connect, through the Transit Custom and on to the Transit Cargo.
Delivery Magazine saw the first versions of the range last September at the IAA Show in Hanover, but Australian buyers will have to wait until 2014 before they can look, touch and experience the new model in sheet metal.
The production of Transit has traditionally been based in the United Kingdom at Southampton, and in Belgium at the company’s Genk production facility. All that now changes with local manufacturing for commercial vehicles in the UK and Belgium going the same way as Falcon production in Australia. Both these plants are now closed or are due to close imminently, and in future the entire manufacturing bases, at least for the larger models, will centre on the Ford factory in Turkey.
The complete range is really comprehensive, but, in these early days of ramping up production in Turkey, the Australian market will be limited to just two models – the Transit Custom and the Transit Cargo.
Designed to be the most stylish and safest Transit range ever, the all-new Ford Transit Custom and Ford Transit Cargo have bold and expressive new looks and are packed with the latest safety technologies, as part of Ford’s mission to appeal to a broader range of customers, including skilled tradesmen and small businesses.
“These two cargo carriers are designed to meet the most demanding needs of van users – small and large,” Ford Motor Company Chief Operating Officer, Mark Fields, said.
Ford Australia President and CEO, Bob Graziano, is equally enthusiastic, saying that although it provides a more car-like interior and driving experience, the new Ford Transit Custom has lost none of Ford Transit’s legendary toughness, combining class-competitive load-carrying ability and attractive cost-of-ownership with the fuel efficiency expected by van customers.
The Ford Transit Cargo adds the flexibility of multiple combinations for customers, which will include multiple roof heights, single and double cab/chassis models and a 12-seater bus.
The Ford Transit Custom and Ford Transit Cargo are both important components of Ford’s transition story in Australia.
“We’re committed to offering our customers the latest technologies and design, and that includes providing wider choices for those customers seeking more versatility from their van,” Graziano said.
“Both are stylish, modern vans that our customers will be proud to have in their driveway, and yet will have the hard-working attitude customers expected of a Ford Transit,” he added.
The Ford Transit Custom features a bold new exterior, which embodies the same dynamic character as Ford’s latest passenger cars.
The new model offers class-competitive load carrying ability, including a number of innovative new load-space features, such as a unique integrated roof rack system and an ingenious load-through hatch in the bulkhead for extra-long items.
In the cab, there is a modern, driver-focused cockpit, which features a sculpted instrument panel that combines stylish looks with smart stowage solutions for bottles, phones and papers.
Once behind the wheel, the driver can call upon a wide range of driver assistance technologies shared with Ford’s latest passenger cars, including the Ford SYNC voice-activated connectivity system.
The strong driver appeal of the Ford Transit Custom is reinforced by dynamics and performance that have been carefully tuned to reflect the same natural and easy-to-drive character that customers appreciate on Ford’s passenger car range, together with much reduced noise levels.
Designed to be the safest Ford Transits ever, the Ford Transit Custom features an optimised body structure to maximise occupant protection that features ultra-high-strength Boron steel for the first time on a Ford Transit.
Like all Ford commercial vehicles, which share the Transit badge, the all-new Ford Transit Custom has been developed to offer exceptional cost-of-ownership and durability.
The all-new Ford Transit Custom has also been subjected to Ford’s ultra-stringent commercial vehicle testing and durability standards.
Even before the vehicle goes on sale, it will have been driven the equivalent of five million kilometres, including at least 400,000 km with existing Transit customers. Key components and systems are tested to the limit. For example, front doors go through an intensive regime of 250,000 non-stop slam cycles, which is three times more punishing than Ford’s equivalent passenger car test.
“Ford has now completely transformed its commercial vehicle line-up, with four all-new, class-leading Transits for European customers,” said Barb Samardzich, Vice President – Product Development, Ford of Europe. “With the all-new Transit range, we expect sales to grow to 400,000 units per year by 2016, well over 50 percent more than we sell today,” she added.
If Ford wants to get really serious about competing in the light commercial market it should add the Transit Connect from day one to the model line-up in Australia.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre Econetic diesel that offers a claimed fuel economy benefit well in advance of rivals the VW Caddy, Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo and Renault Kangoo. Given that Mercedes-Benz is also about to launch the Citan small van onto the Australian market, it would be a worthy contender from day one.
The all-new Transit Courier van goes on sale in Europe in April 2014 and is the smallest member of the all-new Transit range. Its release will conclude the four-vehicle line-up that is also complimented by the new Fiesta Van.
The Ford Transit Custom will feature Ford’s latest 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine, and, apart from Australia, will be sold in more than 90 markets worldwide.
Full specification and features of both the Ford Transit Custom and Ford Transit Cargo will be revealed closer to launch, but Delivery magazine has been looking at some of the claims made for the new vehicles prior to their launch in the UK, and it all looks rather impressive.
More than 150 professional test drivers, plus customer fleet drivers and Ford engineers, put the Ford Transit Custom through a punishing regime, covering the equivalent of three million miles. Ford Transit Custom tests included marathon non-stop driving tests to simulate an extremely demanding 10-year lifecycle in just six months, along with extreme climate testing and corrosive salt- and mud-baths.
Ford analysed data from real-world Transit use gathered from more than 600 vehicles, over six million miles, in seven markets around the world; that helped inform worst-case usage durability targets based on a 10-year, 150,000-mile lifecycle.
Accelerated durability testing took place at Ford’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium, scene of more than 30 separate vehicle tests. These included the “trailer tow general durability” test, one of the ordeals that condense an extremely tough 10-year lifecycle into just six months.
During its development, Ford Transit Custom prototypes also endured the toughest “real world” conditions, surviving the extremes of 40o C heat in Dubai and -40o C biting cold in Finland, plus high-mileage road testing in the hands of professional fleet drivers.
In the test labs, Ford subjected the all-new 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel engine – powering the all-new Transit Custom – to 46 days of continuous high-load urban driving on specialised rigs, as part of tens of thousands of hours of engine testing. Component test rigs, simulating real-world punishment, can prove-out a full 10-year vehicle lifecycle in as little as 30 days.
Ford has engineered more than 100 significant improvements as a direct result of its testing regime. These include the redesign and strengthening of the engine mount brackets and body rocker panels. The same regime will deliver similar benefits to the all-new Ford Transit and Ford Transit Connect models due for launch in 2014.
The all-new Ford Transit Custom is the first vehicle in its segment to achieve a maximum five-star rating from independent vehicle safety organisation Euro NCAP.