Focus on Ford

In Australia, it seems as though Ford is almost about to throw in the towel. But, with new product waiting to be introduced into our market, the blue oval has a whole new life ahead of it. Chris Mullett reports from IAA Hannover.

Take your mindset away from global carmakers continuing to indulge in local manufacturing. Like a shot duck, that scenario is already well into its death throes. Think instead of the potential for the future. What new product is available? Does it fit our market? Can it succeed and can it return a profit on investment?

For Ford, with its light-commercial and people-mover range, the answer is a resounding yes on all counts. But success comes from commitment, and that’s the question Ford management has to face if it is ever going to return to large black ink entries on the balance sheet.

The recently announced closure of manufacturing plants in Belgium and at the home of Transit in Southampton, England, leaves the van production currently at the Ford plant in Kocaeli, Turkey.

Ford is not alone for ignoring the earnings potential of its light-commercial range. Holden is probably worse by comparison, relying only on the aging Commodore and the new Colorado, and not considering other GM product it could source from Europe. Ford at least has continued to market the Transit in Australia, even if it has done so without any enthusiasm and certainly without any commitment. The lack of focus by Ford has resulted in its market share drop since the introduction of Hyundai’s iLoad, and the company has failed to react to the resulting reduction in sales. CARS_VANS_Ford-Transit_8

Now comes a second and, perhaps, final chance for Ford to regain its lost ground. Does it have the commitment and enthusiasm to turn around its fortunes, or is it hampered completely by not being prepared to fight for its own survival when faced with an overly dictatorial attitude of its US parent?

Insider comment from within the Ford enclave at Campbellfield in Victoria suggests that Ford Australia is not in control of its own destiny. Constantly hampered by a lack of freedom to make its own judgments and import vehicles it not only wants, but needs, in this market to gain sales, it’s been forced to accept marketing strategies from globally appointed agencies, rather than hunt for new blood and hire new talent.

So, what has generated this analysis of Ford’s under achievement? The answer is the new product on display at the IAA commercial vehicle show in Hannover, Germany. And, by new product, we mean the all-new Transit, plus the never released in Australia models such as the newly revised Transit Connect and Transit Custom, the Tourneo and Tourneo Custom.

Starting with the latest Ford in the fleet, we look firstly at the Transit Custom. This is where Ford now rejoins the one-tonne van and people-mover segment that it lost when it stopped marketing the E-Series, developed in conjunction with Mazda and sold on the Australian market.

Making its public debut at the IAA, the Transit Custom immediately scored the award of 2013 International Van of the Year, gaining a score of 117 points from a possible maximum of 133 points, the highest share of winning votes in the award’s 22-year history.

The all-new Transit Custom is the fourth Transit to win the award, following in the footsteps of the Transit (2001), Transit Connect (2003) and Transit (2007). The European jury of 24 specialist journalists specifically mentioned the styling, drivability, load carrying ability, safety features and low cost of ownership.

Transit Custom brings Ford into direct competition with the one-tonne SBV (Semi-Bonneted Van) segment, with a short and long-wheelbase offering to provide overall lengths of 4.97 metres or 5.34 metres respectively. Maximum cargo volume is quoted at 6.0 cubic metres for the LWB version.

Payload options run from 600 kg through to 1,400 kg, and there are all sorts of car-like inclusions that add voice-to-car technology, lane assist, auto high beam and a rear-vision camera. Electronic stability programmes are also included, along with Torque Vectoring Control.

With a two-year/CARS_VANS_Ford-Transit_150,000 km service interval, Ford has backed its products to beat the Koreans such as Hyundai, plus the buyer does get more choice, such as with an engine range of 100 PS (73.5 kW), 125 PS (92 kW) and 155 PS (114 kW) that can produce combined fuel consumption figures as low as 6.6 l/100 km. It hits the European market at the end of this year and could make it to Australia by mid 2013. It will not be available in North America.

Buyers looking for a people mover shift their attention from the Transit Custom to the Tourneo Custom. With three rows of seating, each of the rows is configured as single and dual-seat sections that can each fold separately into multiple configurations or be removed completely.

The traditional Transit has been replaced by the all-new Transit. This is a new generation product that has been developed on a new global platform under the One Ford product strategy for sale in six continents, including Europe, North America and other key markets worldwide.

“The Transit van is going global, and we’ve made it more productive, more fuel efficient and tougher than ever before,” said Barb Samardzich, vice president product development, Ford of Europe.

The all-new Transit forms part of an unprecedented renewal that will see complete redesign of its commercial vehicle range for Europe over the next two years.

Within Europe and worldwide markets, the new model replaces the heavier 2-tonne Transit derivatives, and joins the newly-released one-tonne Transit Custom in the line-up. In North America, where Transit makes its debut, it will eventually take over from the best-selling E-Series range.

The vehicle was engineered in Ford’s commercial vehicle Centre of Excellence in Europe, and, for the medium-commercial van market, it brings an unmatched range of body styles and derivatives, with multiple wheelbases, roof heights and chassis-cab/cowl versions.

Compared to the outgoing Transit, load volume has been increased by around 10 percent model-for-model, with the largest “Jumbo” van now capable of providing a cargo space of 15.1 m3. In addition, an all-new Chassis-Cab SuperJumbo derivative will enable 5 m floats or box bodies to be accommodated.

Particular emphasis has been placed on making the vehicle simple to modify for body builders, interior fitout suppliers and camper van converters, so all customer requirements can be satisfied.

For Europe, the alCARS_VANS_Ford-Transit_6l-new Transit is powered by the latest 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel with a choice of three power ratings –100 PS, 125 PS and 155 PS (73.5 kW, 92 kW and 114 kW) – and a standard 6-speed manual transmission. Front-wheel drive, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions will be available.

The comprehensive range of bodystyles and derivatives includes Van, Double Cab-in-Van (DCiV), Kombi, Kombi Van and Bus models, plus Chassis-Cab and Chassis-Cowl versions. Vans are available in three different lengths and two different roof heights, with multiple gross vehicle mass options of up to 4.7 tonnes. This combines with the all-new Transit Custom one-tonne range to deliver a significantly expanded overall line-up.

In North America, customers can choose from several engines, including the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 or a powerful diesel option; each features rear-wheel-drive and at least 25 percent better fuel economy than a comparable E-Series. Multiple roof heights and wheelbases will be available. North American Transit vans will be manufactured in Kansas City, alongside the Ford F-150.

An all-new interior, with a stylish and functional instrument panel, incorporates a range of smart stowage solutions. The cabin is significantly more spacious than the outgoing model, with increased shoulder room, head clearance and visibility, plus a more comfortable driving position with a fully-adjustable steering column.

A wide range of convenience features and driver assistance technologies featured on Ford’s latest passenger cars can also be specified, including the Ford SYNC voice-activated, in-car connectivity system with Emergency Assistance, a rear view camera, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning.

In Europe, the all-new Ford Transit is due to go on sale in late 2013, with deliveries starting by the end of the year. In North America, the all-new Transit is scheduled to go on sale by the fourth quarter of 2013.

Also making its debut at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany, was the Transit Custom’s smaller sibling, the Transit Connect.

The Transit Connect is also a development of the One Ford product strategy for sale in Europe, North America and other worldwide markets, and competes in the compact-van segment.

With a newly refined appearance, innovative load-carrying features and advanced technologies – including the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, Active City Stop and Ford SNYC – the all-new Transit Connect is available in short-wheelbase (SWB) and long-wheelbase (LWB) versions. Load volumes are 2.9 m3 and 3.6 m3 respectively.

Customers can choose between Van, Double-Cab-in-Van and Kombi derivatives, and, according to Ford, the new Transit Connect delivers best-in-class load carrying ability. Features including a load-through hatch in the bulkhead and fold-flat passenger seat enable long loads up to 3.0 m (SWB) and 3.5 m (LWB) to be safely carried in the vehicle.

Additional new features to boost everyday productivity include a dual passenger seat, so that van models can now carry three people in the cab.CARS_VANS_Ford-Transit_5

For Kombi and Double-Cab-in-Van models, maximum seating capacity is five (SWB) or seven (LWB) people – versatile rear seating and a movable mesh bulkhead allow the load area to be configured as required.

The new model has a stylish cockpit with car-like design and craftsmanship, a range of smart stowage solutions, and the latest Ford driver-assistance features and interior technologies. Transit Connect is the first in its class to offer Active City Stop, and features the Ford SYNC voice-activated, in-car connectivity system with Emergency Assistance.

The powertrain line-up in Europe includes the 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel with a choice of 75, 95 and 115 PS (55, 70 and 84.6 kW) versions. Also available is the new 100 PS (73.5 kW) 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine – 2012 International Engine of the Year – plus a version of the acclaimed 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine that’s available with a six-speed automatic transmission. The latest low-CO2 Ford ECOnetic Technologies help to minimise fuel consumption, including Auto-Start-Stop available on both diesel and petrol models.

A range of efficient petrol engines with automatic transmission will be made available in the US to meet local market needs.

The all-new Transit Connect is based on a global platform that is derived from the state-of-the-art C-segment platform shared by models like the Focus and Kuga/Escape.

Innovative technologies include an advanced Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) system featuring Load Adaptive Control, which adjusts the operation of the ESP stability systems to take account of variations in vehicle load, so the systems remain fully effective, whether the vehicle is partially or fully laden.

In Europe, deliveries of the all-new Transit Connect are due to start by the end of 2013. In North America, the all-new Transit Connect is scheduled to go on sale by the fourth quarter of 2013. For an on-sale date in Australia, your guess is as good as ours. Our understanding is that Transit Connect is still under consideration, but that Transit Custom and the Tourneo may be a starter. The all-new full-sized Transit might not surface Down Under until early 2014.

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