Ford has killed a plan to replace its Econoline and Transit full-sized vans with one new van for North America and Europe, according to Automotive News.
A source familiar with the project told the motor industry newspaper that Ford was studying the new van, code-named V349, for assembly at one of two plants in northeast Ohio but the company cancelled the project just weeks before it served up one of those Ohio plants, Lorain Assembly, as a bargaining chip in the UAW contract negotiations – the plant is now scheduled to close under the new labour pact.
Supplier sources told Automotive News that Ford informed suppliers about the new van this year but hadn’t sought bids or received final approval for the programme. By mid-August, the report added, Ford had scrapped the V349 because of costs and concerns about market acceptance.
According to Automotive News, Ford officials wouldn’t confirm the V349’s cancellation but the paper noted that Ford COO Nick Scheele acknowledged in mid-September that the company had considered merging its full-sized van programmes, though the timing was not right.
“The Transit and the Econoline are really very different vehicles, although they look appealingly the same,” Scheele said according to Automotive News, adding: “There is some crossover, but this ain’t a slam dunk.”
Suppliers told the paper the V349 next-generation van would have been a significant departure from the Econoline, the perennial leader in the North American full-sized van segment, was to combine attributes of the Econoline and Transit and would have been produced and sold on both continents.
Automotive News said the V349 wasn’t Ford’s first attempt to merge its US and European vans, and it may not be the last.
The paper noted that Scheele, who as a young purchasing executive bought parts for the original 1968 Transit, said the company has explored the combination many times while some Transits even have been brought to the United States with their labels stripped for testing in commercial delivery fleets.
The van merger will remain on Ford’s radar, Scheele said, according to Automotive News.