Ford Transit ready to take reins from retiring E series

Commercial van set to go on sale this month

The full-sized Ford Transit commercial van, built at the Kansas City (Mo.) Assembly Plant, will come in 58 variations.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ford Motor Co. will begin selling the new full-sized Transit commercial van later this month. The first available model will be the medium-roof-height, long-wheelbase version, which Ford projects as the biggest seller.

Ford believes the Transit’s versatility and increased capabilities open up new markets and set the Transit apart from the vehicle it replaces, the venerable E series, the mainstay of Ford’s van business since it went on sale as the Econoline in 1961.

The automaker is counting on the Transit to continue dominance of commercial van market, similar to its dominance of the pickup market. Ford held a 48 percent share of the full-sized van market last year.

Ford is offering the Transit in three roof heights, two wheelbases and three body lengths, along with three different engines, including a diesel. There are 58 variations altogether. Ford will sell the Transit in cargo van, passenger wagon, chassis cab and cutaway body styles.

The low-roof version starts at $30,560, including shipping.

The Transit is built on a unitized body construction, contrasting the E series’ body-on-frame construction.

Transit on tour

Ford is launching a 19-city blitz to introduce the Transit to customers.

“We’ll touch dealership salespeople, large fleet customers, small fleet customers and local media,” said Tim Stoehr, commercial vehicle product marketing manager, at the media launch here. Ford makes the Transit at its Kansas City (Mo.) Assembly Plant.

Fuel economy will be a big selling point. When equipped with the premium 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, the low- and medium-roof versions get 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, a 46 percent improvement over the top-of-the line E-series 6.8-liter V-10 engine. Ford says that translates to a fuel savings of $1,700 annually, based on EPA data.

The Transit also comes with a standard 3.7-liter V-6 engine and a 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel engine. All engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission in a rear-wheel-drive configuration.

The high-roof version of the Transit -- with 81.5 inches of maximum interior cargo height -- has enough headroom for a person 6 feet, 8 inches tall to stand upright.

Adding 2,000 jobs

The Transit offers as much as 487 cubic feet of cargo space and 4,650 pounds of maximum payload capacity. The Transit van delivers a maximum towing capacity of 7,600 pounds, Ford says.

In some configurations, the Transit offers up to 75 percent more cargo space than the biggest version of the outgoing E series, Ford says.

Ford has added 2,000 jobs and invested $1.1 billion in upgrading the Kansas City plant, where Ford builds the Transit and F-150 pickup, said Kumar Galhotra, Ford vice president of engineering.

The Transit has been selling in Europe for 49 years. Increasingly, the U.S. commercial van market has been switching to European-style commercial vans with vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Nissan NV, Ram ProMaster and Chevrolet City Express.

Ford will continue making the E series as it ramps up Transit production.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at

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