INDIANAPOLIS. A new full size van, F-650 gasoline powertrain spec, and a bevy of alternative fuel and hybrid truck options are just some of the many moves Ford Motor Co. is making in the light and medium segments within the North American commercial truck market.
During a press conference here at the 2012 National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA) convention, Rob Stevens – Ford’s chief engineer for commercial products – noted that the full-size version of its Transit van slated to arrive in North Americanext year will be equipped with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine, which also powers Ford’s F-150 pickup.
The full-size Transit – to be built at Ford’s Kansas City assembly plant and representing a $1.1 billion investment by the OEM – is destined to replace its E-Seriesvan and wagon model. Equipped Weighing 200 lbs. less than the E-Series it replaces, Stevens said the new Transit should provide up to a 25% improvement in fuel economy.
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He stressed that the E-Series van and wagon models will remain available through 2013 to allow for “smoother customer transition” to the full-size Transit model, adding that Ford plans to continue making medium-duty E-Series cutaway and stripped chassis models.
Ford is also introducing a new gasoline powertrain spec for its F-650 medium-duty truck, marrying its 6.8L 375 hp. V10 Triton engine – capable of running on gasoline, CNG or propane – to its 6-spd. 6R140 automatic transmission; the same transmission used in the diesel-powered version of those truck models. Stevens said this powertrain spec will be available for the F-650 starting this summer.
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Eric Guenther, Ford’s general marketing manager for North American fleet, leasing, and remarketing operations, noted that the OEM is expanding the range of alternative fuel and hybrid powertrain options for its trucks – with only the F-150 remaining as the sole truck in its lineup without an alternative fuel prep package, something Guenther said the company plans to change shortly.
“This [the commercial truck market] is a ferociously competitive business, which is why we believe offering a wider range of fuel options will help us be successful,” he said, noting that Ford now offers commercial truck models ranging for its Transit Connect vans up through its F-Series lineup capable of operating on CNG, propane, biofuels, ethanol, and battery power.
Guenther also noted that Ford is very bullish on the prospects of the U.S. commercial light and medium truck market, projecting 21% year-over-year market growth, from total industry sales of 540,000 units last year to 655,000 this year – with sales expected to reach 705,000 in 2013.
“The U.S. economy keeps slowly improving and there are a lot of aging vehicles in commercial market right now,” he pointed out. “The signs are very encouraging.”