DETROIT, April 30 Ford Motor Co on Wednesday
formally marked the end of a profitable half-century run for its
E-Series commercial van, trumpeting the start of North American
production of the replacement Transit van at its Kansas City
E-Series vans, known for years as the Ford Econoline,
account for 46 percent of the U.S. market of full-size
In the last several years, Ford has made a $1.1 billion
investment and hired 2,000 workers at the plant in Claycomo,
Missouri, where its F-150 pickup trucks are also made. The
plant's total workforce stands at nearly 5,000.
While the automaker has made pre-production models of the
Transit in recent weeks, the official start of production was
Wednesday. Transit vans are also produced at plants in China and
Joe Hinrichs, head of Ford's North American operations, said
the Transit was being introduced to the region in part to save
costs by sharing design and engineering work around the globe.
Introduced in Europe in 1965, the Transit has been the
top-selling commercial van in Britain for 49 years and it is
sold in 118 countries on six continents.
The E-Series was first sold as the Econoline in the United
States in 1961 and has been the best-selling van on the U.S.
market for 35 years.
Hinrichs said the company has been preparing its North
American commercial customers for the last year-and-a-half for
the transition to Transit. The E-Series will be sold alongside
the Transit as the 2015 van is rolled out this year, he said.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Alden Bentley)