Ford confirmed it is phasing out the venerable E-series Econoline full -sized van and replacing it with a (new to North America) Transit in 2014.
This confirmation came as Ford debuted their new generation Transit Connect and Transit (for the European market) at the Hanover IAA Commercial Vehicle Show this week in Hanover, Germany.
With the phase out of the E-Series Econoline commercial van (42% market share), the market segment will make a significant move to being predominantly “European” style vehicles.
The new light duty Transit Connect and heavier duty Transit have been developed by Ford as part of a new generation of global Transit vans, under their One Ford product strategy, for sale in Europe, North America and other world markets.
The new Transit Connect and Transit (designated as 2014 models) will begin delivery in Europe at the end of 2013 and sales in North America will begin fourth quarter of 2013.
Offering a huge range of body styles and derivatives, the all-new Transit is engineered to deliver class-leading load-carrying ability, exceptional toughness and durability, and targets best-in-class fuel economy.
“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. “With its legendary Transit and E-Series models, Ford has more experience of creating market-leading commercial vans around the world than any other manufacturer, and this all-new Transit will move the game on once again.
The new Transit for North America, coming to replace the E-Series Econoline, will be built in Ford’s Claycomo Assembly Plant at Kansas City which is undergoing a $1.1 billion remodel to build the new Transit alongside the F-150.
The Transit Connect van has been marketed in North America since 2009 for commercial use including service as a taxi cab in various cities including New York. Sales have continued to grow for Transit Connect with near 32,000 sold in 2011 and 23,000 sold in the first 8 months of 2012. At the current rate, Transit Connect sales could be about 35,000 for 2012.
The new Transit Connect for 2014 will have a dynamic new stylish body and cockpit with car-like design and craftsmanship and will include a range of the latest Ford technology applications for safety, communication and work productivity.
Transit Connect is built in Turkey by Ford for distribution to European and North American markets. Due to demand growth, Ford is moving the manufacturing to Valencia, Spain for 2013.
The actual transition and full phase out of the E-Series Econoline timetable is not yet set. There is a 2013 model Econoline being produced at the existing factory in Avon Lake, Ohio. It is likely there will be both E-Series Econolines and Transits for some period after the Transit is introduced.
There are about 300,000 to 350,000 commercial vans sold in the US annually. Ford, between the E-Series Econoline and the current Transit Connect, has a 53% market share for 2012.
The demise of the E-Series Econoline marks the likely end of the traditional commercial van style that has been the staple of the market for years. The “European” style van with narrower profile and higher rooflines began moving into the US with the introduction of the Sprinter commercial van through Mercedes Benz and Dodge when they were in partnership.
Nissan also has moved into the European style with their NV and NV200 models that includes (like Ford) a lighter duty (NV200) and a regular duty NV commercial van. The NV and NV200 are available and selling in North America currently.
It should also be noted that Ford and Nissan are aggressively working on or already have, alternative fuel versions of their new commercial vans including all-electric, diesel, hybrid And CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). They are also producing or planning to produce alternative versions of the vans for passenger use, consumer use and recreation.
The only commercial vans remaining in the traditional North American style will be the Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana and the Ram (was Dodge) Cargo Van.
Chrysler (Ram) has the Fiat Doblo commercial and courier van in the pipeline with a tentative date of 2013 for roll out in North America. I would expect the Ram Commercial Van will phase out as the Doblo arrives .
Though I have no specific information on General Motors (Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana), I would expect they will go this route as well. But they do have about 35% of the market with the current offerings and with Ford bowing out of the traditional van design , they may find market demand would continue to support the traditional design while embracing the new “European” styling at the same time.