Ford Transit Custom Hints at F-150 Future

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Ford continues it new van strategy with more new vehicles ready to enter the market. The new Ford Transit Custom just made its global debut at the Birmingham (U.K.) Commercial Van Show this week and, as unlikely as it may seem on the surface, there could be some hints at what's to come for future light-duty Ford pickup models. 

Although the Transit Custom will not be offered for North American markets, it will include some of their latest strategies in strengthening and weight-saving Ford has to offer that could make it vehicles sold in the U.S. As much as 40-percent of the Transit Custom's body is made from high-strength or ultra-high-strength steels, giving the van body more rigidity and weight savings to help with crash protection and fuel economy. And it should be noted, this new global vehicle (with either a 195-inch or 210-inch wheelbase) can carry loads in excess of 3000 pounds, when configured properly. 

Likewise, the coming larger Transit van, the replacement for the aging E-Series body-on-frame work vans, have also used significant amounts of high-strength steel in the chassis and body to stiffen and strengthen the shell. Ford reports they've saved hundreds of pounds and improved fuel economy by more than 25-percent when compared with the out-going E-vans. 

We've reported in the past Ford plans on using more aluminum and magnesium in future products to reduce weight, and there are more recent announcements that Ford is working with DOW Chemical to do more research regarding the developement and use of more carbon fiber materials to save vehicle weight, in some cases as much as 750 pounds per vehicle.

Carbon fiber materials have been used in airplanes, race cars, and the space shuttle for decades, due to it high-strength and low weight. Until recently, the costs have been prohibitive. 

Much of this motivation for all the truck manufacturers have to do with the significant bumps in fuel economy requirements in both 2014 and 2016. Ford is uniquely setup to do well with their huge investment in smaller, lighter-weight EcoBoost engines that range in size from a 1.0L I-3 to a 3.5L V-6.

We'd expect all the big pickup makers to make strong investments in weight-saving strategies from here on out. And, in fact, we've just seen the 2013 Ram 1500 completely redesign their frame with plenty of high-strength steel, as well as liberal use of aluminum in big pieces like the hood and control, saving almost 100 pounds. And if the new SRT Viper is any indication (more powerful and weighs less), we can expect to see more and more door panel, roofs, beds, and other body parts of trucks to make more use of lighter-weight materials.  

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I don't know how I'd feel about a "light-light" truck. Weight counts for something in the tow vehicle when towing. For the record, I own a 2011 F-150 Ecoboost.

So "Transit Custom" is the official new name then, eh? I really think Ford, GM and Fiat/RAM should think about bringing these midsizers here. I think a 210" wheelbase would look a little funny though on this van:
Weigth savings like this pay huge dividends in Europe, where CDL requirements start much lower- lighter van= more load w/o special license.

I wonder what a "double-cab-in-van" looks like.

I am trying to word this correctly as to not start a fight so forgive me if this comes across wrong its not a shot but something I have been wondering about the Ecoboost.

I look at the Ecoboost V6 and I wonder if Ford used the right engine for that. The Ecoboost V6 is a twin turbo and direct injected version of the Duratec 35 I noticed the Duratec 35 is a bigger bore smaller stroke engine which I would think would be wrong for this application. Most diesel engines have a longer stroke which gets peak torque between 1500-2000rpm. Also forced induction on longer stroke and smaller bore engines seems to help fuel economy as longer stroke and smaller bore engines have smaller valves so they don't breathe as well ex. regular 5.7L Tundra 14/18 and the Supercharged 5.7L Tundra when driven normally gets 15/20 city and highway. Am I missing something because this doesnt seem right to use the Duratec 35? Can someone give me info on that.

Is Ford setting a standard here?

"We'd expect all the big pickup makers to make strong investments in weight-saving strategies from here on out."

Way to go!

The n/a 3.5 and Ecoboost are two different set-ups. Do some research.

I love that ecoboost engine my sisters husband has a 2011 fx4 eco and just such a all around great truck fuel milage is amazing . After i saw the 2012 eco fx4 strip package truck i was like crap wish i had that Ford just makes such awesome trucks and makes me wish i can have them all!!!

The reason I asked was for research so if you don't have answers or dont want to be helpful you dont need to reply as I dont feel like getting into it with you.

My only concern for future trucks are as follows...

#1 - I'm totally fine with the fact that they want to use lightweight materials to improve fuel efficeny...But I hope that they don't make them UGLY...For god sakes let trucks look like trucks...Just look at what happened to the SUV...True SUV's are pretty much non-exisitant these days the majority of them are crossovers which are just cars raised up a little to look a little more rugged. The new Toyota 4Runner is an exception in which I would still consider it a true SUV as it still uses body on frame architechtiure, which brings me to my next point...

#2 - Please don't make all pickups Unibody...Anything between 1/2 tons to 1-ton's should be body on frame. It woulden't be such a big deal if midsize and compact trucks were to go to Unibody structures as they are not designed to do any serious hauling or towing anyways.

#3 - DONT DROP V8 ENGINES!....I can't stress this one enough...I own a 2011 F-150 FX4 Supercab and when it came time to check which engine I wanted I chose the 5.0L and have never looked back...I don't mind if Ford and/or other companys offer Powerful V6 or even I4 engines alongside their V8's...But I beleive that the V8 engine should always be there as an option for people like me.

So basically all I am saying is that I hope they DO NOT make future trucks look like the lovechild of a Current F-150 and a Mustang. With only V6 and I4 engine options and no true frame to support it. Keep the truckish look their offer efficent V8's alongside your V6's and yes V8's can be efficent despite the stigma that they aren't, I avarage about 19.5mpg mixed city/highway with my 5.0L.

Americans have Obama to thank for this,you will have small trucks,ugly,useless trucks and small useless cars,and higher gas prices to fill up your small truck !!! Americans got what you voted for ....

Ya' like your change ??? Paying more money for gas to fill up your ugly small dolts,do research before you vote !! You voted for a far left ding bat who is against vehicles and freedom..enjoy yourselves comrades !!Get your bicycle ready,thats your next will be LOL LOL LOL Americans voted for this change,you like EH ?

@ 5.3L LOL
Never mind Frank he's troll!!

no Johnny douchebag your the troll .....

Corys right.

johnny dumbass is the troll here.

HAHA Me troll? Never I state facts people don't want to hear is all.

What happens when the new F-150 is lighter than oxi's Taco? Ha.

Is that after Ford announced they will ship $760 million to China for more factories there and not here?

Oh wait, this is made in Turkey, a nation that disregards human rights...

Here is the link to Ford's new auto plant:

Hint: it's not in the U.S.

Looks promising. Unfortunately we need lighter, smaller, higher tech ideas these days.

Ford's ecoboost isn't the answer. It was a mindless stopgap, quickly obsoleted idea.

I have to laugh at Ford's taurus ecoboost tv commericals smoking tires and only giving 17/25 mpg city/hwy. There's normally aspirated large displacement V8's doing better than that. Even a F150 ecoboost can get 22mpg. WTF?

Why look to DOW CHEMICAL for advice on carbon fiber?!?!

They need to look to any of the exotic car makers for advice on that. Not Dow chemical!

Would you like some cancer with that?

So my guess is that the transits sold overseas are going to become that minivan shown in the picture and the transits sold over here will be some supersized americanized version like the current transit. We will once again not have a true global vehicle. That's my prediction.

@5.3- the EB 3.5 V6 is a sound package, especially when (exclusively) teamed up with a 6speed auto. In theory you could get some benefits by having an under-square bore-stroke ratio, but there are engineering challenges and economies of scale involved here. Unlike what Frank spewed, the 3.5 EB is based on the Cyclone V6, and shares the 3.5 NA bore/stroke dimensions. I would guess a longer stroke was just not practical in the existing block. Also, longer stroke makes the rotating assembly heavier than a bigger bore. In transient operation, that requires more energy (=fuel consumption). I thought that using the Barra Turbo would have been sweet. But the Cyclone engines also needed to be car engines, and for that, the short stroke works great.
The short of it, it works, and its cost effective.

@Mr Knowitall
I would like to thank you for answering my question as better understanding was what I was looking to gain.

Other car companies aren't going to give advice to Ford nor do they need it. What they need is a partnership to research, develop and supply it. The partnership with Dow will seek to combine the best of Ford's capabilities and experience in design, engineering and high-volume vehicle production with Dow Automotive's strengths in R&D, materials science and high-volume polymer processing. The joint development effort will also leverage work that The Dow Chemical Company has already begun through partnerships with AKSA and the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory. BMW and Volkeswagon are also trying to do team up with suppliers to achieve similar ends.

What is the problem with Ford building a plant in China for the Chinese market? It's not like there is a plan to import Chinese-made Fords to the US. It's no different than Toyota building plants here for the US market.

Google Toyota building plants in China. Same difference, oxi.

Not a lefty. Do you're own research. The president nor the government have any control over gas prices. The market and world events do you dolt!

Here's a viewpoint from someone who used to be in the Aviation business. Aluminum is a nice, light-weight metal. Aluminum is a fairly strong metal. Aluminum doesn't rust (well, not in the conventional sense.) However, Aluminum is a very soft metal; easy to bend and tear compared to steel. A load-bearing aluminum part either needs to be cast for strength or, as the flooring of a truck bed, made with a honeycomb sandwich to give it the strength to carry a typical load--making it frequently thicker and in some ways more brittle if you overload it. Sure, it molds easily in presses, allowing for some very intriguing lines for appearances sake, but you have to wonder how long it will hold those lines in everyday use.

Essentially, the complaints many of you Ford and Ram proponents argue about the GM trucks is coming to your platform of choice--road rash prone. If you like the looks of the truck, you may be replacing body panels frequently as aluminum tends to take and hold dings far more easily than even the thinnest steel. Quite honestly, the carbon fiber path is likely to be the best for a combination of strength and durability.

On the other hand, as the article states, carbon fiber is expensive to produce; not necessarily because of the cost of the fibers themselves but rather because the components have to be laid over a mold much as other vehicles' fiberglass panels are molded. Where fiberglass panels usually consist of one--or maybe two--layers of material, carbon fiber panels may use ten layers or more for strength and even the body panels on the pricy supercars use at least four layers. In other words, look for the price of your truck to skyrocket even beyond their current bloated prices. An F-150 Custom, conventional cab 4x2 shortbed may cost as much as your F-150 Crew Cab King Ranch Longbed. I'm sorry, I'm simply not willing to pay $35,000 to $55,000 for a basic pickup. I don't envy you who already pay that much for your rigs and for as much as I hate buying used vehicles I'll quite honestly let you guys eat the depreciation when it comes to trucks.

@ TD,

Just a correction, it's not "the market and world events".

It's just *the market*

If Obama were a true communist like Sean Hannity's sheep on here would have you believe, he'd kick the privately owned companies out and have government take over those industries. This would stabilize the oil prices here at home and make each one of us, potentially very wealthy.
But unfortunately Obama's isn't. He's done the opposite. He's expanded oil drilling leases more than any other administration before him. And hasn't done jack to crack down on speculators. He's done everything the rightwing could have hoped for.

The 195" and 210" dimensions are OVERALL LENGTH, not wheelbase. (A Ford F-350 crew cab long bed's wheelbase is only 172!)

From Autoblog's story:
"Buyers outside of North America will be able to choose between a short wheelbase version with a total length of 16.3 feet or a long wheelbase configuration that spans 17.5 feet from stem to stern."
Stem to stern would be body length, not wheelbase, PUTC...

"This would stabilize the oil prices here at home..."

Please explain exactly how nationalization of the oil companies would lead to oil price stabilization.

@Luke in CO: It's apparent that you really don't understand Communism; you've absorbed the propaganda without trying to learn the truth one way or another.

Nationalizing the oil companies would be like creating a monopoly--they all would have to pay the same price for their oil and they would all have to sell their output for the same price; literally, no competition. When you consider that most foreign oil fields are being tapped by American companies, that means that speculation on oil prices would be flat eliminated and the government would set the price wherever they want it. You could be lucky and see the price go down, but the opposite is also true that your taxes would simply be replaced by much higher gas prices and no station allowed to even attempt to undercut another station's prices.

The prices would stabilize--for better or worse.

An addendum to my earlier monologue about Aluminum vs Carbon Fiber. Saturn set a standard that I'm really surprised GM didn't continue and other brands didn't adopt. For all that we're trying to lighten the weight of new cars and trucks, we're running into an issue of easily obtained damage in everyday use.

Here's a question: How many Saturn cars and SUVs have you looked at that have visible damage on their sides? Sure, I know the aluminum (or very, very thin steel) on the hood, roof and rear gate ding pretty easily, but their sides remain essentially un-marked even after 15-20 years of everyday driving. Their price tags were also remarkably low while still offering GM a profit (albeit a small profit.) Why?

Plastic. Not fiberglass. Not carbon fiber. An inexpensive, somewhat flexible plastic. Remember way back in 1972 when a Pontiac commercial boasted its unbreakable nose cap on the Tempest/GTO? They went so far as to strike it with a sledgehammer. The body panels of the Saturn were made with a very similar plastic that was still lighter than the equivalent part made of steel.

Granted, plastic body panels aren't load-bearing parts; the Saturn used a "space frame" construction where the body panels were literally nothing but skin covering an otherwise ugly-looking frame. Maintenance was remarkably easy as access to areas under the skin was as simple as the old body-on-frame cars of the '60s and 70s. Pop the fender, to the heavy work, remount the fender. Door panels the same way.

Why then, are the automakers talking about using ever more expensive processes to drive costs up when plastics can do the job for less without compromising other means of reducing weight and strengthening frames? Unibody construction (otherwise known as monocoque) is great for making the body part of the frame, but when you go to such lightweight and expensive materials as aluminum and carbon fiber, maybe it's time we looked back and putting the body back on the frame and using less expensive, more durable materials for the body.

Not really sure how you gleaned ignorance of communism on my part, or if I "absorbed the propaganda without trying to learn the truth one way or another" from my simple question. It seems you inferred some sort of political ideology.

The ownership structure of oil companies would do little to change the market price of oil, it would just redirect profits into government coffers. As long as oil is being traded it would remain a fungible commodity, a market would exist to set the price, and with a market comes some price volatility and uncertainty (and, in turn, a speculative market). Geopolitical events and technology that affect the production (and therefore price) of oil would not be eliminated by simply nationalizing oil companies.

This VAN with a nice grille looks nice. Wow, so the Van with Unibody frame will replace the E-Series with Truck Chassis.

Reduction in weight means increase in mileage. Slowly Vans with higher volumetric capacity and better mileage like Ford Transit, Nissan NV will slowly challenge Pickups especially since these Vans can be configured to be a passenger carrier as well.

Pickup have very low volume since its height is not much.
Great job Ford, bring in more plastics as well since Boeing 787 uses carbon fiber and has 20% extra range.

I hope GM & Chrysler are taking notice.


I think the general premise would be that if Government owned the oil companines they could do what all other "state" owned companies do (think Saudi, Venezuela, etc) and charge their own populace much less than prevailing market prices and with enough control (which would happen with Exxon-Mobile, Conoco, Chevron, etc) that you could effectively state you will sell to the rest of the world at $140 a barrel in order to cover the $60 a barrel charged to those in the US.

The world market can't make up for that kind of volume and will pay the price and we'd get cheap oil. Viola!

For your scenario to work, where we sell oil to ourselves at a much lower price than charged to the rest of the world, the govermnent would have to have so much oil production that the US would be a price maker in the global market. With only 9% of current global oil production, the government would have to drastically expand production. Also, the government would have to ensure production outstripped consumption, a tall order considering the US currently imports 60% of oil consumed.

@oxi - once again you go barking up the wrong tree. Care to google the number of plants Toyota has in China or countries other than USA or Japan?

@5.3 LOL - I've always understood that long stroke motors produce torque and HP lower in the RPM band but often will fall off more rapidly when revved. Physics and those pesky laws of motion dicate a maximum piston speed. A long stroke engine will reach that point earlier in RPM than a short stroke motor.
Your link was interesting. I didn't know that the 3.5 EB was shared with other V6 engines. The normally aspirated version of that engine must be pretty robust. Ford is trying to pare down global costs by shedding nameplates. Shared drivetrains is obviously another way to maximize profits and minimize R&D. One can pan an engine for being shared in a truck and car, but if one looks back to the performance car roots, most ran commercial or truck engines.

@Vulpine - great information. The only problem I see with using plastics (I use the term loosely and as an umbrella), is that conservative truck buyers will get gun shy of a "plastic" truck. I can just hear bob now if Ford uses plastic panels etc. LOL. If they do use plastics they most likely will hide that word by using other more exotic terms like polymers, and resins. Ford gets panned for the "plastic" brake pistons on the F150 even though they work great. Phenolic resins sounds much better than plastic. Ford is also rumoured to use a monocoque frame in the next gen F150. Again, that term sounds better than unibody.

I do like the looks of this van. It looks much better than either the Transit Connect or Transit van. Ford should bring all three into North American markets. This would make a good looking alternative to the Sienna, Odyssey, and Grand Caravan even though the minivan people hauler market seems to be slowly dying.

Next step? the train !

Like it or not, the future of pickups is going to involve lighter materials (aluminum, plastic, carbon fiber, etc), different chassis designs (unibody or the monocoque design Lou mentioned), and styling geared more toward aerodynamics than a "truck" look. All we can do is hope the accompanying price increase isn't overly obscene.

One thing I have never understood about American autos is why they manage to achieve such poor levels of fuel economy. In the U.K our most powerful Ford Fiesta (132bhp) manages 47 (city) mpg. Whereas, the U.S spec Fiesta can only muster 29mpg? Although, I guess gas isn't $9 a gallon in Americaland.

@Brill-Two reasons

1.) The UK uses Imperial gallons, the US uses US gallons. 1.2 US gallons=1IMP gallon.

29miles per US gallon*1.2=34.8 miles per UK gallon

2.) The UK gov. fuel econopmy test is completely different than the US test in many ways. For starters, the A/C is ON during the US test. In the UK, top speed is 75 mph and avg is 39. In the US top speed is 80 and avg is 48. (both during hwy test) Our tests range from 20F degrees to 95 F degrees, and some include up to 18% idle time. All of this consumes more fuel than the UK tests do and result in a lower fuel economy rating than the UK tests acheive w/ the same vehicle

@GM88 It looks like the UN is looking at worldwide standards on fuel usage.

When do we find out what Ford will actually be selling in the USA in term of full size vans ?


@Robert Ryan-interesting yet pointless. What purpose does it have that all fuel economy tests be done the same way across the world? Are vehicles tested the Australian way sold in the US? Are vehicles tested the US way sold in Australia?

NO. Every country tests the cars being sold there, giving citizens of that country an easy way to compare fuel economy (if desired)

@GM88.Yes vehicles that are sold In Europe/Australia or any other country have to be individually tested as each country or countries have their own testing procedure and SAE type standards.. This is more expense for the manufacturer, that they do not really need. Chrysler sells Jeep in several countries outside the US.
Where this lack of an overall Automotive standard really hurts is US Large Diesel Truck engines meeting European(default general global) Euro V or V1 emissions. Really hurting Navistar at the moment.

@GM88; @Robert Ryan: In your ways, you both are right, but as Robert clearly says, that makes it much more difficult for the manufacturer (which helps drive up prices) but also makes it significantly more confusing for the customer, no matter where they are. I've already discovered that the US mileage ratings are pure crap, as I've easily achieved far better mileage than the sticker denotes on both modern vehicles and even under the older system from 10 years ago. Quite simply, the tests do NOT make sense in the way they are performed.

Worse, on top of all that you have at least three different volumetric measuring systems you have to play with. The American "Statute" mile is different from the Norwegian mile which is different from the kilometer which has become universally recognized, even if not accepted. The same comes through with the Imperial gallon, the US gallon and the Litre. In the worst-case scenario then, the manufacturer and customer has to try and calculate as many as 9 different conversions off of a single set of data. Simply put, Km/Litre is the most logical and most easily converted data set no matter where you are.

Getting back to the measuring process itself, rather than the US method of trying to estimate mileage on an "average use" basis, they should use simple, fixed, objective rules that basically ignores the differences between driving styles. Say for instance that my Jeep Wrangler is estimated at 15 City/19 Highway.

That 15 for the city can be based on a set number of stops over a specific amount of time with a maximum speed of 30 mph between stops. This would most closely represent your typical stop & go traffic at lights but would ignore the frequently slow crawl between them and still give a reasonable estimate for comparison's sake. The clear and obvious statement that the testing method used may not be typical for an individual's personal situation can allow for the better or worse mileage they may experience. Either way, it's faster and cheaper to determine. Highway 19 is also grossly overrated (or should I say under-rated) because the average driver doesn't drive their Jeep (or any other car for that matter) at 80 mph. The rating should be based again on speed limits or as in the '70s and '80s, based on a set 55/65 mph which is really most cars' most economical speed. I read all the time of people in Jeeps getting 21-22mpg out of their Jeeps while I've been able to regularly get 23-25 mpg out of mine simply by keeping my speed down to 60 and using cruise control. By the way, I average 17.5 in a kind of mixed suburban/highway driving with an '08 Wrangler and could probably do even better with the new Pentastar engine.

Now, if that basic set of rules were used globally and measured in Km/L, suddenly anybody, anywhere, would be able to estimate their own fuel usage with far less effort.

However, this whole argument is way off the topic of the possible future of the F-150 (and by extension all pickup trucks) using exotic materials in body and frame to reduce weight and extend mileage.

I'm happy with the current mpg testing. It isn't supposed to be a guarantee, it is a comparison between vehicles using the same set of standards. So basically between a choice of two vehicles, you will know roughly what they both get, and which one uses more than the other.

It probably would be easier for gearheads and the automotive companies to have a universal standard. I suspect that as we see more companies develope uniform global vehicles that they will push for global standards. It makes sense and if it reduces unit costs it is a win/win for consumers and manufacturers.
There aren't many countries left in the world that haven't gone metric. I'm puzzled as to why USA attempts stalled in the '80's or was that the '70's? You have metric engines and parts but MPG, pounds etc.
There are only 3 countries left that are on the English Imperial system. (1 Liberia, 2 Myanmar-formerly known as Burma,3 United States of America) In some respects the USA system is a bit older than the British Imperial system. The United Kingdom is an oddity because they are metric but post road distance in miles and odometers are in miles.
I personally don't like the litres per 100 kilometers fuel rating. I've never been able to get my brain around it. It seems counter intuitive. A lower number equals better fuel economy, but why don't they just go with km per litre?

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