Ford used the Hanover CV Show to unveil its range of Transit-based conversions – which it refers to as the “phase 2” roll out of its big van.

Barb Samardzich, Ford of Europe’s chief operating officer called the show “the climax of the last two years” during which Ford has overhauled its line-up of LCVs.

She claims Ford, the UK’s undisputed number one, is now the fourth largest LCV brand in Europe and is honing in on the top three with pre-orders for the Transit up 70% on its predecessor.

The complete Transit Chassis Cab line-up, which will go on sale in the UK in the fourth quarter of the year, comprises five different lengths for the single cab (L1-L5) and four for the double cab (L2-L5), with gross vehicle mass ranging from 3.1 to 4.7 tonnes. In addition to the factory-fit dropside body options, the manufacturer claims they provide the ideal platform for box bodies and tippers, or other tailored solutions from refrigerated bodies and mobile workshops to emergency services vehicles or campers

Pride of place, and the largest chunk of stand space, went to the extra-long L5 chassis  cab – the longest production Transit ever built with a load length of 5.2m included in an overall length of 7.8m. Ford says the L5 has a reasonably tight turning circle of 15.8m and, when fitted with a dropside body, it offers 11.5m2 of load space.

Dave Petts, Transit product manager, told What Van? prices for the L5 will start at £27,000 for the chassis cab and rise to £29,745 with the dropside body fitted. All prices exclude VAT. He expects the L5 to attract a niche customer group needing to carry long items such as timber or plastic extrusions.

Prices for the chassis cab range overall kick-off at £20,000 for the L1 SWB single cab and rise to £26,000 for the L2 double cab, which now accommodates up to seven as standard due to a four person rear bench seat, which includes storage space underneath.

The double cab-in-van variant comes in three body configurations, from the medium wheelbase L2 with medium roof, to the extended long wheelbase L4 H3 model with high roof, which provides 10.5m3 of cargo space.

Petts says Ford will introduce a utility chassis cab model with extra storage space in the cab behind the seats for tools.

“It’s better than a box in the back that takes up payload,” he explains.

The L3 double cab tipper is available from £31,000, the L4 Curtain slider from £34,000 and the L3 Luton from £31,485.

Petts claims Ford managed a “seamless transition” between the stockpile of the previous generation Transit chassis cab range running out in August (production finished in December 2013) before the new model started in September.

In the UK Southampton-based VFS is partnering Ford to build the tipper, dropside and curtain slider while Ingimex is producing the Luton and dropside.

Petts expects the Luton to prove more popular due to it offering extra storage space over the cab and better fuel economy because of its rounded, aerodynamic top.

Petts illustrates the importance of SVOs (special vehicle options), which cover all forms of vehicle adaption, including racking or shelving, by revealing they account for half of large Transit sales. Full-scale chassis cab conversions weigh in with 25%, he adds.

Petts claims the adoption of European Whole Vehicle Type Approval laws has benefited Ford because fleets are now looking for one stop shop solutions rather than having to deal with third parties. What’s more, he says contract hire companies are quoting better residual values for manufacturer conversions compared to those from “under the arches” operations.


The evolution of panel van man

Ford claims the success of its Transit Custom with artisans and small businesses is helping the brand to break free from its association with the negative image of ‘white van man’.

Talking to What Van? at the Hanover Motor Show, Transit product manager Dave Petts said that 10 years ago three quarters of buyers of the previous generation mid-sized Transit specified the van in white but with the Custom this had tumbled to 54%.

He claims the trend indicates buyers are taking more pride in their vans and are increasingly likely to adorn them with different colours, metallic paint or livery.

Petts adds there was now also a higher take-up of mid-series rather than entry-level engines as well as the top of the range Limited trim level.

“It’s now more than 20%, it was single digit,” he says.

Petts reveals the manufacturer uses statistics showing the growing customer appetite for more sophisticated models to encourage dealers to order higher specification  vans rather than base, white derivatives.