Ford's Kansas City assembly plant is moving at full capacity to meet the demand for its Transit full-size van that begins arriving at dealers this summer.
A group of media representatives made their way to Kansas City last week to get behind the wheel of nine different versions of the 2015 Transit, including the three different roof heights, three body lengths, and passenger and cargo versions.
"We've been selling the Transit around the world for 49 years," said Kumar Galhotra, Ford's vice president of engineering, during a presentation before the test drives. "We have the opportunity to take [the Transit and the Ford E-Series] van platforms, and with the power of One Ford, go to one very important product."
The vehicles were put through their paces during an hour-long closed course driving session stationed next to Kansas City's Kemper Arena. No matter if it was the 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 or the 3.5L EcoBoost engines humming under the hood (or quietly rumbling in the case of the 3.2L I-5 Power Stroke Turbo Diesel), the Transit cruised through the orange-coned course easily, even when maneuvering through the slalom or the circular turnaround near the end of the course.
The interior offered a roomy driver's seat with a number of controls within easy reach, including the instrument panel and touchscreen, as well as user-defined factory-installed upfitter switches that can operate high-power relays for heavy-duty accessories and cup and phone holders that are easily found at the right and left of the steering wheel.
"The front row of seats is really an office on wheels," said Chris Brewer, chief engineer of commercial vehicles at Ford.
The next leg of the journey took the group to the Kansas City assembly plant that Ford invested $1.1 billion into, as well as adding 2,000 new jobs, to assure that the 2015 Transit was ready to make its way into U.S. dealerships. The vans were moving along the assembly line in different stages of completion, with plant employees working hard to transition each vehicle to its next station.
The group was then taken to SubTropolis, a 5,000,000 square foot, manmade cave in the bluffs above the Missouri River in Kansas City, which is home to a number of businesses, including Ford ship-thru upfitter Knapheide Manufacturing Co. The Transit, according to Knapheide Regional Sales Manager Nathan Campbell, has brought the upfitter into a new product segment.
By Stephane Babcock