At a highly optimistic press conference this week at the NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Ford revealed its positive outlook for both its own company health and 2012 sales prospects, as well as internal findings indicating a strong economic recovery is beginning – for both the country as a whole and the commercial truck market specifically.
Eric Guenther, general marketing manager for Ford, said the company has shown consistent market share growth over the past three years while reducing debt by $6 billion – achievements he called a “tremendous turnaround.” Guenther added that dealer relations never have been better and that Ford’s partnership with the United Auto Workers never has been stronger.
At the core of his message, Guenther emphasized that Ford remains deeply committed to the North American commercial truck market. “Commercial trucks are not an add-on piece of business for us,” he said. “It is at the core of what we do, and the commitment is reflected in over three decades of class-leading products such as our F-Series trucks and E-Series commercial vans.”
Crunching the numbers, Guenther said that Ford sold 262,000 commercial vehicles last year, landing 48 percent overall market share in that segment. Looking ahead to 2012, Guenther said Ford sees a bright outlook, with a predicted overall North American vehicle market of 14.2 million cars and trucks. Initial surveys indicate the commercial vehicle market will contribute 655,000 units to that overall number, resulting in 21 percent growth for the commercial vehicle market at yearend, provided the forecast holds steady.
A key component to Ford’s continued success will be the introduction of new products. Rob Stevens, chief engineer for Ford, said 2012 will see the North American launch of the full-size Transit commercial van, which was developed in Europe and has been sold globally for more than 30 years. “Ford has sold 6 million Transit vans worldwide since 1961,” Stevens said. “We think this lighter but stronger product is exactly the right van for where the North American market is heading today.”
Stevens said the full-size Transit van, which is sold in Europe with either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, will be available in North America with the exact same 3.5-liter Ecoboost powertrain found in the F-150 pickup truck line. “This compact, efficient but powerful powertrain weighs 300 pounds less than our E-Series van line, but still delivers 11,300 foot-pounds of towing power while delivering 25 percent better fuel economy,” he said.
The full-size Transit van is undergoing North American validation testing now, with U.S. assembly and sales slated for early next year. To minimize customer disruption and allow commercial customers time to get to know the new van, Stevens said full production of E-Series commercial vans will continue to ensure a seamless transition as the new van comes on line. At the same time, Stevens said Ford will continue production of E-Series cutaway and stripped chassis platforms for the foreseeable future.
Ford also will begin production of a new gasoline-powered F-650 commercial truck, Stevens announced. The new powertrain will be based on Ford’s 6.8-liter V-10 engine, cranking out 357 horsepower and 457 foot-pounds of torque. CNG and LNG versions also will be offered, with availability beginning this summer.