Ford has commenced production of its Transit van at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. The site will still build the E series – albeit for a while -- that the Transit is replacing. Ford has spent $1.1 billion and tapped 2,000 new employees to the site.
The carmaker said it has already accomplished 75 percent of its target of creating 12,000 hourly jobs in the United States by 2015. Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said in a statement that the carmaker’s investment in Claycomo site for Transit output is about “delivering world-class commercial vans” for a new generation of commercial customers.
Ford is now selling the Transit in 118 countries. For North America, the carmaker will offer the Transit van and wagon in three body lengths, two wheelbases and three roof heights -- along with chassis cab and cutaway variants. Ford will also offer the Transit in two trim levels -- XL and XLT.
The commercial van will be powered by one of the following: a standard 3.7-liter V-6 engine; the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine the powers the F-150 pickup; and a 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel engine. The engines are paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox using a rear-wheel-drive configuration.
The high-roof version of the Transit boasts of 81.5 inches of maximum interior cargo height – high enough for a 6’ 8” tall person to stand upright. The new Transit van also offers up to 487 cubic feet of cargo space and up to 4,650 lbs of payload capacity. It also offers up to 7,600 lbs of towing capacity, according to Ford.
Ford revealed that the facility responsible for production of the Transit is the same one that will serve as support for the F-150, given that customer demand for this model is increasing. It was important then to expand and retool this facility and to make this possible, the brand invested a total of $1.1 billion. Part of the expansion projects will include adding a stamping facility with an area totaling 437,000 square feet.
A paint shop measuring 78,000 square feet will be added as well which utilizes a two-wet and three-wet monocoat paint method. The advantage of using these two processes is that compared to the usual painting process, less time is needed. In addition, it is also friendlier to the environment. This same investment has allowed the body shop to have 550 new robots as well as having at least 700 new assembly tools for the chassis and trim.
Further, 18 new conveyor systems amounting to 5,565 feet has also been contributed. Ford disclosed that the new investment is expected to help the production in 2015 of the new Ford F-150 at the Kansas City Assembly. The brand clarified that this will only be after the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant launches the truck by the later part of 2014.
Bruce Hettle, who is the Ford vice president for North America manufacturing, shared that the upgrades have allowed the Kansas City plant to become the global standard, especially for the brand’s new manufacturing facilities around the world. He added that in order to be able to support the global growth of the brand, three new manufacturing plants will be opened in 2014. Of these, he said, one will be in South America and the remaining two will be in Asia Pacific. The 2015 Ford F-150 will be the most capable, smartest, and toughest F-150 made ever.
Thus, it is expected to set the new benchmarks when it comes to the future of trucks. The fully boxed ladder frame, which is a signature of the F-150, is made better with the use of more high-strength steel. This means it is not only stronger but even lighter. Military-grade and high-strength aluminum alloys are used for the first time on the body of the F-150.
These are the same materials used in energy, commercial transport, aerospace, and a number of other rugged industries. As such, it helps the body save weight and improve the ding and dent resistance. The use of the aluminum alloy has enabled the new F-150 to save at most 700 lbs. This also means that the new F-150 can haul more and tow more. Stops are shorter and acceleration made quicker. Finally, the aluminum alloy also helps with the efficiency.