If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
You’ve heard that before. You’ve probably said it.
The problem with the “just don’t screw it up” mentality is that it kills innovation. Why make good better when good is fine?
Innovators see good and set forth on a quest to find greatness. Good isn’t an end result, it’s is a challenge. With the upcoming release of its Transit commercial van, Ford has set out on its own journey for greatness, leaving behind a perfectly good commercial van.
With the Transit, Ford is beginning to phase out its E-Series work van, the best selling van in the U.S. for more than 30 years. Why mess with that kind of success? The catchphrase of Ford’s commercial truck team is, “we own work.” Between the F-Series trucks and E-Series vans, it’s clear they not only own work, but they leave very little space for the competition to sublease among themselves.
The E-Series van was clearly a good vehicle, but Transit is remarkably better. It gets better fuel economy. It can haul more cargo. Visibility is exponentially better. The van is simply a better work tool.
In mid and high-roof configurations, workers can stand and move about effortlessly without having to slump over. Transit can haul more than one-and-a-half times the cargo, and it looks pretty snazzy in the process.
While the aesthetics and creature comforts of this van are largely unimportant to vocational users, they are there in ample supply. A cargo van is a tool of the trade barely different than a hammer, screwdriver or a plunger. For most, it’s the means to provide services and earn a paycheck.
Transit is an upfitters dream and the likes of Knapheide, Leggett & Platt and Adrian Steel have each flocked to an expansive 5 million square feet, limestone-entombed, underground industrial park in Kansas City, Mo. just to be near the assembly plant that turns out a new Transit van every 90 seconds.
Ford’s Kansas City Assembly plant was the beneficiary of a more than $1 billion investment specifically made to build these vans.
John Rupert, General Manager – Commercial & Government Operations at Ford Motor Company, says Ford’s biggest challenge will be in winning over some of its most ardent E-Series supporters. That’s always the case with innovations; convincing customers that NexGen is better than ThisGen. Innovations, in that respect, are a tough sell. We’ve all bought a computer or cell phone that was no longer LeadGen by the time we opened the box.
We’ve grown wary of Apple, Dell, Samsung and others padding their pockets with their “new greatest thing” every 45 minutes.
Now, to sell customers on innovations, you have to show them how the tool is better, not how it is new. Fuel economy numbers, towing and cargo capacity, all show how Transit is better. And there are plenty more features on that long list.
But Transit has the capabilities to do much more than simply move cargo and tools from Point A to Point B. At least for Ford’s bottom line and for customers looking to get off the jobsite.
Rupert says Transit could easily usher in a rebirth of conversion vans, an industry that practically died with the economy several years ago. There is more than enough space in the back for a few Captain’s seats, a bed and a nice flat screen TV. A family road trip in this van (when properly outfitted) would be plush. As evidenced by the ultra-luxury limo concept Ford rolled out earlier this spring, the bones to make something truly custom are there.
Ford may already own work, but they could soon own play, too.