DEARBORN - Most people don’t pay much attention to commercial vehicles when they are going about their daily lives. But commercial vehicles make modern life possible. They are the shuttle busses that get you from your plane back to the parking lot, the trucks that deliver bread to your local grocery store or the police cars that patrol your community.
Ford is the leader in commercial vehicle sales, and the company recently held a Commercial Vehicle Forum for media – which included a tour of the Dearborn Truck Plant and a ride-and-drive event at the Dearborn Proving Grounds – to help increase awareness of its continuing sales leadership in the diverse, high-volume commercial vehicle market.
“We are a leader in this business and probably one of the most fundamental factors to our leadership is the breadth of our lineup,” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development. “It includes commercial vans and busses, heavy duty pickup trucks and chassis cabs, limos and liveries, police cars and emergency vehicles, taxis, motor homes and even school busses.”
Ford is the best-selling commercial vehicle manufacturer in the U.S., selling six of the top 10 commercial vehicles in the country.
“Commercial vehicles are a critical part of Ford’s business,” said Len Deluca, director, Ford Commercial Trucks. “We expect to sell over 250,000 commercial vehicles this year, which is huge.”
And Ford continues to grow its commercial vehicle portfolio, says Mike Levine, manager, Ford Truck Communications.
“We’re not sitting still on the commercial side. In addition to being a sales leader, we are leaders in alternative fuels,” he said. “We have the ‘big five’ powertrains available directly from Ford or from the company’s certified partners – gas engine, CNG/LPG, a battery electric option for the Transit Connect, and we have E85 and diesel capability in our vehicles.”
Ford Transit to Replace E-Series Commercial Van
Kuzak reiterated to media at the Commercial Vehicle Forum that the Transit van – which is Ford’s best-selling van in Europe and the U.K. – will soon replace the Ford’s E-Series van, which has been a popular vehicle choice among businesses for over 50 years.
“Recognizing the One Ford plan, we are converging to Transit in North America starting in calendar year 2013 as a direct replacement for the E-Series,” he said.
The Transit will be a truly global cargo and people hauler with improvements in handling, fuel economy and technology, says Kuzak.
“The transition from E-Series to Transit comes without any sacrifice in durability and reliability,” he said. “Transit brings with it the same type of durability that over eight million E-Series customers have come to know.”
The Transit van will be at least 300 pounds lighter than the E-Series van, which translates into a substantial improvement in fuel economy.
“What that means is that the cost of ownership will be much less, and that’s the life blood of commercial vehicle owners – whether it’s a single vehicle or a fleet,” said Kuzak. “That type of fuel savings over the lifetimes of these vehicles is thousands of dollars back into the businesses of our commercial vehicle customers.”
Ford Debuts New Super Duty F-650 Gas Model
Ford announced at the Commercial Vehicle Forum that it will soon launch a new Ford Super Duty F-650 gas model.
“It has a 6.8-liter V10 engine that costs $8,300 on average less than an F-650 with a diesel engine,” explained Mike Levine, Ford truck communications manager. “So for municipalities that are having a tough time with tax revenues because of the economy, this is a more affordable alternative to get medium-duty performance for things like snow plowing or dumpster service.”
Media Treated to Expansive Test Drive
Media who attended the Commercial Vehicle Forum had an opportunity to drive some of Ford’s most popular commercial vehicles and there was quite an assortment on hand – everything from the Transit Connect van to an F-550 fire truck and F-59 bread van.
“I probably went through about ten different vehicles,” said Gary Wien, NAFA Fleet Management Association, who said it was his first experience driving commercial trucks. “The fire truck was surprising. It rode for me just like a regular truck. I would have thought it would have been more difficult to drive for the first time.”
Brian Straight, from Fleet Owner magazine, said he had a “great” time driving the trucks.
“There was a lot of variety, which I liked,” he said. “I had not driven propane or hybrid electric trucks before so that was nice to experience that.”
Straight says he had the most fun driving the fire truck.
“I think every kid growing up wants to drive a fire truck at some point in their life,” he said with a chuckle. “And that rode really smoothly for me. I didn’t feel like I was driving a fire truck. I felt like I was driving a pickup truck.”
Tim Jackson, from Tow Times magazine, said he particularly enjoyed driving the Ford SVT Raptor, which had been upfitted into a Border Patrol vehicle.
“The Raptor was very impressive. I think that was my favorite,” he said. “The most unusual vehicle I drove was the bread truck. I had never driven a bread truck before so that was kind of a standout.”
Chris Brown, of Bobit Business Media, says he was impressed by the variety of vehicles he was able to test drive.
“It was interesting to walk into each of the different vehicles and to understand that an F-150 has so many different configurations even in the cab for various applications,” he said. “It’s amazing how varied the offerings are within Ford and the commercial vehicle niche.”