LOMMEL, Belgium – Ford’s Transit engineers are well-known for their passion for commercial vehicles. In the case of the all-new Transit Custom one-tonne van it was more like tough love.
More than 150 professional test drivers, plus customer fleet drivers and Ford engineers, put the Transit Custom through a punishing process, covering the equivalent of 5 million hard-working kilometres (3 million miles). Tests included marathon non-stop driving tests that simulate an extremely demanding ten-year lifecycle in just six months, along with extreme climate testing and corrosive salt- and mud-baths.
“I don’t think many customers would believe what this vehicle has been through,” said Barry Gale, chief engineer, Commercial Vehicles, Ford of Europe. “We inflict the worst possible treatment that a van could endure, and we’re only satisfied when our new vehicle comes through with flying colours – just as the Transit Custom has done.”
Ford analysed data from real-world Transit use gathered from more than 600 vehicles, over 10 million kilometres (6 million miles), in seven markets around the world; that helped inform worst-case usage durability targets based on a ten-year 240,000 kilometres (150,000 miles) lifecycle.
Accelerated durability testing
took place at Ford’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium, scene of more than 30 separate vehicle tests. These included the trailer tow general durability test, one of the ordeals that simulate an extremely tough 10-year lifecycle in just six months.
Examples of the extreme challenges included:
Autobahn speed: Maintaining maximum speed for two months non-stop
Figure Eight: Executing figures-of-eight non-stop for one month
Chassis strength: Crashing into a 140 millimetre kerb at 60 km/h
Potholes and bumps: Completing a potholed and bumpy course at speeds of up to 70 km/h 5,200 times
Corrosion resistance: Driving over rough gravel roads, through salt- and mud-baths, and soaking in high-humidity chambers, for 12 weeks
During its development, Transit Custom prototypes also endured the toughest “real–world” conditions, surviving the extremes of 40 C heat in Dubai and -40 C biting cold in Finland, plus high-mileage road testing in the hands of professional fleet drivers.
In the test labs, Ford subjected the all-new Transit Custom’s 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel engine to 46 days continuous high-load urban driving on specialised rigs, as part of tens of thousands of hours of engine testing. Component test rigs simulating real-world punishment can prove out a full 10-year vehicle lifecycle in as little as 30 days.
Ford has identified more than 100 significant improvements it has delivered to the Transit Custom as a direct result of knowledge gained from its testing regime. These include the redesign and strengthening of the engine mount brackets and body rocker panels. The same regime will deliver similar benefits to the all-new Ford Transit and Transit Connect models due to come to market in late 2013.
“Pushing the van to the limit and beyond helps us to deliver a stronger, more robust product. This translates directly into every-day reliability for the customer, however tough their working environment,” added Gale.
The first vehicle in its segment to achieve a maximum five-star rating from independent vehicle safety organisation Euro NCAP, the all-new Ford Transit Custom is now on sale in major markets across Europe.