Cab-chassis and cutaway versions of the upcoming Transit full-size van will replace the E-series cutaway. E-series vans will continue in production for much of this decade.

Cab-chassis and cutaway versions of the upcoming Transit full-size van will replace the E-series cutaway. E-series vans will continue in production for much of this decade.

Ford Commercial Truck believes its upcoming Transit full-size vans will help it keep its high market shares as sales continue their upward motion with the recovering economy.

Due to enter production late this year at a retooled plant in Kansas City, the Euro-style Transit van will include several sizes while cab-chassis and cutaway versions will replace one of Ford’s long-running E-series vans as they begin phasing out in 2014.

2012 was a “very good year,” with business up 11.7% from 2011, and Ford earning a 46.7% overall market share of Class 1 through 7 commercial truck sales, said Len Deluca, director, commercial vehicle sales and marketing, during a phone-in “preview” of its press conference scheduled for later today at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

Ford’s total ranged from an 11.9% share claimed by its F-650 and 750 to 58.4% by the SuperDuty conventional cab-chassis, he said. The E-series captured 49.9% of the full-size van market. Ford’s E has been the top-selling van for 34 years and the F-series has led pickup sales for 34 years. 

Continued sales growth is likely, according to forecasts Deluca cited. Various economic indicators are encouraging, from reduced unemployment claims to rising housing starts. Rising home construction has pulled up sales of light-duty pickups, he noted.

Consumer sentiment has edged down somewhat, probably due to news of the federal sequester budget cuts and the uncertainty they’re bringing.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of months,” he said, but trends seem strong and sales should increase over the next several years. Another factor is aging trucks.

"In 2002, the average age of a vehicle was 10 years, and now it’s over 11 years,” Deluca said. “To do their work, customers need reliable vehicles, and we anticipate increasing sales as a result.” Industry wide Class 1-7 sales in 2012 totaled 691,657, and that should soon go above 700,000 per year.  

New competition is pushing Ford to introduce the new Transit and restyled Transit Connect compact van so it can stay ahead, he said. The main competitor in numbers is General Motors’ existing G-series full-size G vans, while Chrysler’s Ram brand will bring out its Fiat-based full-size vans and Daimler’s Sprinter vans are being freshened.

Ford’s E-series window vans will be the first to go out of production, followed by cutaway chassis models. Those will quickly be replaced in 2014 by Transit window vans, then Transit cutaway and cab-chassis versions on which customers can mount special bodies.

As announced in December, the Transit vans will come in a choice of two wheelbases, three body lengths and three roof heights.

“Every customer has a different way he wants his vehicle, so this will help us give him what he wants,” Deluca said. So will the engine choices, which include two gasoline V-6s and an inline-5 diesel. All will use 6-speed automatic transmissions, “with the goal of best-in-class fuel economy.”

Alternative-fuel upfits will continue their availability from Ford, he said.

“We felt that natural gas or propane is the best way to go, so we worked with seven providers to supply upfits for natural gas from Transit Connect to the F-59 stripped chassis,” Deluca said. “Roush is the only supplier right now for propane. Since 2010 we’ve built over 25,000 units with gaseous-prep engines, up 350% since 2009. We feel we’re very well poised to meet the market demand.”