DEARBORN — (WWJ) Ford is preparing to put a new face on its mainstream van. The first Transit vans are being shipped to dealerships, ready to replace the aging E-series.

“Commercial vehicles are very important to Ford, and they are often overlooked,” said Transit brand manager Mingyang Jiang.

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The first Ford Transit was sold in Europe in 1965. It’s grown to be Ford’s global van, now sold in 118 countries. Jiang says Ford’s sold more than 7 million Transit’s in the van’s 40 year history.

She says it arrives in the U.S. just as recovery has brought new growth to the commercial vehicle segment.

“Today’s commercial vehicle segment is about 20 percent of all vehicle sales,” she said. “This is a segment that is also growing.”

The Transit will be used to haul cargo, equipment in passengers. It can be set up as an ambulance or a shuttle bus.

“With 58 basic body configurations, which is calculated by three roof types, two wheel bases, three lenghts and four body styles, in the forms of van wagon, chassis cab and cutaway, Transit is the right size vehicle to customize and fit what your business is.”

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Jaing says the transit will see improved fuel economy of up to 14 miles per gallon city and 19 highway, and overall reduced cost of ownership. She says that could save an average customer up to $1700 a year.

It comes as competitors launch new cargo vans of their own.

Ford has added a lot of technology to the Transit, including backup cameras, lane keeping assist, drowsy driving warning and even, says Jaing, an industry first side curtain airbag that covers five rows.

“It’s able to protect five rows of passengers, something that’s not yet been done.”

The Transit is built at Ford’s recently updated Kansas City Assembly Plant.

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