Monday, February 09, 2009

Ford USA moves forward by reaching into the past of Ford Europe

From the Detroit News:
The first European product in Ford Motor Co.'s lineup to reach American shores could change the way some companies do business.
The 2010 Ford Transit Connect is versatile, has average fuel economy in the 20-mpg range, and a starting price of $21,475.
Derrick Kuzak, Ford's vice president of global product development, said the Transit Connect will achieve 40 percent better fuel economy over the company's full size E-Series van.
They go on to further quote Kuzak as saying, "One way to maintain leadership is to take our product in a whole new direction". A "whole new direction" is achieved by building a vehicle that they have been making in Europe for over 40 years? Okay, so the first generation of the Ford Transit looked more like a VW van, but they first rolled of the assembly line in 1961 in Koln, Germany, and was the Ford version of a previous van that started production in 1953!!!

Okay, so the current model of the Ford Transit - the one that Ford USA is unveiling in Chicago - is more akin to the 7th generation of the vehicle (which has been in production since 2006, and - at least in terms of body shape - not significantly different from the 4th generation that started production in 1986).

So what is a Ford Transit, for all of you dear readers not living/have lived in Europe? Well, a Ford Transit van is a cunning piece of engineering: take a car engine, stick it in a vehicle body that is (from the top) basically a box that fits perfectly the dimensions of a lane of traffic. Make the front-end somewhat aero-dynamic (i.e., give it a slant-angle), the cargo area as roomy as possible, and able to handle the most commonly used size of building materials (i.e., 4x8 sheets of plywood, 2x4x8 lumber). There you go: you have the basic concept of a Ford Transit.

Will this vehicle do well on dirt roads? No.
Will this vehicle go well on an obstable course? No.
Will this vehicle be able to haul large loads? No.

What is this good for, then? Well, it gets much better mileage than a vehicle built on a truck engine, since it need all that extra horsepower. It is optimized for working in cities, where its size is perfect for maximizing hauling capacity without sacrificing drivability. It's been used by everyone from bands hauling equipment between gigs to small businesses making lots of deliveries to using it as a getaway vehicle to police using it for various purposes. However, if you are a trained racing driver, you can really do some performance things with this puppy!

Yay to Ford USA, finally racing forward by trying to catch up to its European branch! Maybe they will finally introduce the Ford KA to this country, soon, too. (After all, what can Ford do to compete against the Mini and the Smart?)

Addendum: I mixed up my vans, apparently. Ford USA is going to start production of the Ford Transit Connect (not to be confused with the Ford Transit). Sorry. The FTC is a smaller vehicle that began production in 2002. Still, though, Ford USA is reaching into the ingenuity bag of another international division to make itself better on the home-front. (And I thought that this sort of thing was supposed to happen more quickly.)

True, the US version is going to be all electric, but it doesn't really change the crux of my argument.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no snow pictures this month??