RICK KRANZ

Multiple models are in Ford's van plan

The Ford Econoline will be replaced by the Transit in 2013
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- What's the latest trend in the full-sized van market? Variety.

Simply, operators are looking for taller, longer and more fuel-efficient vans, according to Ford.

At a press event at Ford's headquarters today, the automaker's commercial truck team provided hints about the Econoline replacement. The van goes into production in 2013 at Ford's Kansas City assembly plant.

Here's a few highlights:

• There won't be a next-generation Econoline. Instead, the van will be replaced with the redesigned Transit. That's the van Ford markets today on several continents.

• "Transit" will replace the "Econoline" name, a nameplate that dates back to the '60s. So Ford will market the full-sized Transit and the compact Transit Connect -- call it the Transit Family.

• The global vehicle platform will be flexible, meaning Ford will be able to produce front- and rear-drive models, along with all-wheel drive. Ford did not say what configuration is planned for North America. But I think you can safety bet rwd is the choice.

• The van will be offered in what Ford called "multiple wheelbases."

• Fuel economy will be increased at least 25 percent. No powertrain information was provided, but a diesel is a possibility.

• Finally, three roof heights may be offered in the United States, one being tall enough for the driver to stand and walk in the cargo area.

With Ford, Dodge and Nissan all planning new full-sized vans -- Dodge's is based on a Fiat model, and the Nissan NV2500 is going on sale early next year -- the only maker missing is General Motors.

Stay tuned for that one.

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