BY JACLYN TROP
A new diesel engine for Ford Motor Co.’s Transit van will help fleet customers cut costs by boosting fuel economy at least 25 percent compared with Ford’s E-Series vans, the company said Tuesday.
The diesel will be an alternative to the Transit’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine and will meet demand from fleet customers to combat rising fuel prices and trim budgets, according to Kevin Koswick, Ford North America fleet director.
Production on the U.S.-built Ford Transit cargo and passenger vans will start next year in Kansas City.
Ford has staked its lead in the fleet vehicle business with a “secret sauce” that includes providing consumers with choice and value while balancing its portfolio and maintaining margins, Koswick said Tuesday at a luncheon hosted by the Automotive Press Association.
Ford has maintained market share in the $57 billion fleet industry with an innovative vehicle mix of trucks, vans, cars and hybrids, Koswick said. “The key thing for success is that the vehicle has to have a purpose,” he said.
Fleet sales account for about 20 percent of total new vehicle sales. Ford took the largest cut with 31.7 percent of the market in 2011, according to automotive consultant R.L. Polk & Co.
The automaker, which recently discontinued its Crown Victoria model for two new police vehicles, credits its strong fleet sales with providing power of choice “where we give our customers options and we work with them on that,” Koswick said.
Ford cornered more than half (52.9 percent) of the market for state and local government fleets and 42.7 percent for federal fleet sales, Koswick said.
The F-series ranked No. 1 in overall government fleet sales, with the now-discontinued Crown Victoria filling the runner-up slot. The E-Series, Ford Focus and Ford Fusion also made the top 10 for the government category.
Commercial fleet sales will strengthen as housing construction picks up and customers replace their aging fleets, Koswick said.
Ford has forecast few changes for its rental business, which makes up slightly more than 40 percent of its fleet sales. Ford took 12.9 percent of the market last year, with the Ford Escape and E-series rounding out the top 10 rental nameplates. The Ford Focus and Ford Fusion took the No. 11 and No. 12 spots, respectively.