Ford light commercial vehicles won a host of prizes at the What Van? Awards 2023, including the headline Van of the Year accolade for the groundbreaking E-Transit.

It was not just the manufacturer’s outstanding product portfolio, however, that attracted recognition from the sector’s leading independent title, Mandy Dean, Ford of Britain’s commercial vehicle director, was inducted into the What Van? Hall of Fame. 

Ford’s Make it Visible campaign, which, in partnership with construction contractor Balfour Beatty and the Lighthouse Club charity, undertakes invaluable work to support the mental well-being of construction industry workers, won the Editor’s Choice Award.

Having ensured Ford has maintained its position in the UK’s light commercial vehicle sector while steering the brand towards a zero-emission future, Mandy Dean is a worthy entrant into the Hall of Fame.

Dean graduated from the University of East London with a bachelor’s degree in business studies and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration and management. 

Throughout a Ford career spanning more than 25 years, she has immersed herself in the business with roles in sales, programming, marketing, planning, dealer communications and brand management. She became Ford of Britain marketing director in 2019. 

With her background, and a skill set to match, she was subsequently tasked with the responsibility of sustaining and growing Ford’s commercial vehicle market leadership in the UK and Ireland. She was appointed commercial vehicle director in 2020. 

Dean steered the commercial vehicle arm of the business through the Covid-19 pandemic at a time which saw so much of the population rely on Ford’s vans, which were used by key workers up and down the country. 

To support the unprecedented changes in the way vehicles were used during the Covid-19 crisis, Dean worked with the Ford dealer network to expand the fleet of mobile service vans to deliver on-site maintenance for customers. She also helped to expand the brand’s portfolio of converted vehicles available to vitally-important service providers, such as the ambulance fleets and the supermarket chains.

Additionally, Dean has played a crucial role in overseeing the UK implementation of Ford Pro, a new global business dedicated to delivering solutions to commercial customers of all sizes. It embraces vehicles, conversions, software, electric van charging, financing and servicing.

Crucially, in 2022 she launched E-Transit, Ford’s first fully-electric Transit, which now accounts for more than 10% of all Transit sales.

Under Dean’s transformational leadership the Transit Custom retained it’s status as the UK’s best-selling vehicle for the second year in a row, outselling even the best-selling cars. E-Transit Custom will go into production in late 2023 with an estimated range of up to 230 miles*.

Thanks to the Ranger, including the high-performance Raptor, Ford takes more than 65% of the UK’s fleet and retail pick-up market but it is Dean’s advocacy of battery-electric technology that points the way forward.

She is certain electric vans will appeal to local small business people such as carpenters, plasterers and plumbers just as much as they do to larger fleets, and that range anxiety is unlikely to be an issue. “Remember that the average daily journey for a van is 69 miles,” she points out.

To her immense credit Dean has championed Ford’s Make it Visible campaign to promote mental well-being within the construction industry and helped to launch the initiative at the 2022 Commercial Vehicle Show.

Despite the extensive physical safety measures taken to protect on-site workers, the UK and Ireland, construction industry loses two workers every working day, not to the obvious physical dangers, but to suicide^. 

The Make it Visible campaign aims to put well-being support for the construction industry in sight on every site. In partnership with the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and with Dean’s support, Ford created the campaign and donated two highly visible transit vans to the charity. Each van is operated by two Mental Health First Aid trained Tradesmen with lived mental health experience wearing higher- viz safety vests. Their aim is to lower suicides within the industry by spreading awareness of the well-being support services available to the construction workforce and to start the conversation on the subject of mental health. 

 As market leader, Ford has the clout to make a difference through raising awareness of the crisis in mental health that has been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis affecting so many workers.

 In 2022, the Make It Visible Onsite vans visited over 173 building sites and started the conversation with over 8,800 construction workers. During these visits, the charity delivered immediate counselling to 25 critical interventions, these were individuals that were contemplating suicide.

 The Make it Visible campaign aims to put mental well-being on the same footing as physical well-being on building sites.

As Dean says: “This campaign is hugely important to Ford and highlights the importance of mental well-being alongside physical well-being on the construction site.

“As the UK’s best-selling commercial vehicle brand, it is likely the majority of construction workers are also Ford customers and operators, so we feel we have a duty to support them through this partnership with the Lighthouse Club, raising awareness and getting support to those in need of it.”

The Make it Visible initiative follows on from Ford’s Elephant in the Transit campaign from 2018, which raised awareness of male suicide and promoted the front seats of a vehicle as a safe space to talk.

Bill Hill, CEO of the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, comments: “Quite simply, this highly visible initiative is the best project we have ever collaborated on. It raises awareness of the support services available to the boots on the ground, the most difficult community to reach,  it starts the dialogue and normalises the conversation on mental health within a predominantly male workforce and it is ultimately saving lives.”

Ford’s campaign to place mental well-being on a platform alongside physical well-being is hugely significant and as such is a worthy winner of What Van?’s Editor’s Choice Award.