The future of Ford's large vans hails from Europe. Ford has announced a new multi-billion dollar investment in its Kansas City facility so that it can begin to produce the full-size Transit van in the United States. Bringing this van to the U.S. has likely been on Ford's mind for a while. After all, why would it bother to offer a smaller variant of the diminutive Transit Connect if not to provide a segue for the introduction of its larger, full-sized brother?
For those not familiar with the Transit, it is a large van that was originally developed in Europe and currently serves as the global face of Ford's workmen vehicles. In Europe, the engine lineup is dominated by four-cylinder diesel engines with manual transmissions. So, we should see the powertrain offerings altered for our tastes over here (with at least one diesel option feasible).
It remains to be seen just how ideal the Transit will be for the U.S. market, but it is certainty a favorite of the van culture in the rest of the world. In fact, Ford's decision to bring the Transit across the pond is likely a financial no-brainer for them. The E-Series van is primarily sold in North America, and the rest of the world gets the Transit. The savings of utilizing a global platform could easily offset Ford's investment in adapting and producing the Transit in the U.S.
Of course, corporate financial savings are useless if consumers cannot justify purchasing the bigger van in the first place. Fortunately, the Transit is attractive to those looking to haul a large family, and they'll certainly value how the traditional bench seating is replaced with bucket seats for more individualized comfort. Both consumer and commercial customers will likely enjoy the stability of the longer wheelbase the Transit offers over the similarly sized E-Series.
The move to the Transit platform will likely be a welcomed change considering Ford has not invested much in updating the E-Series in quite some time. Those few who are "E" van loyal will take solace in knowing that even after the Transit goes on sale in late 2013, Ford plans to keep the old style vehicle available "through most of the decade." Still, the truth is in the cards; the future is in Transit.