April 24 - They're one of the least glamorous forms of motoring but the 'white van' has been given its first makeover in 10 years and Ford hopes it will help the ''Transit'' increase its dominance in the lucrative commercial vehicle market. Andrew Potter reports.
Revealing a major revamp of one of Europe's most recognisable vehicles. Ford's new Transit is the first major upgrade of the iconic van in 10 years. Barbara Samardzich is with Ford Europe. (SOUNDBITE) BARBARA SAMARDZICH, VICE-PRESIDENT OF PRODUCT DESIGN, FORD EUROPE, SAYING (English): "I would argue that this is a pretty sexy-looking van. When we designed this van we recognised that customers wanted more than just the 'White Box' than we'd been used to, they wanted a vehicle that represented their business professionally and that they could take home at the weekends." Look around a city like London and the Transit van is impossible to miss. Since being launched in 1965 it's become the wheels of the choice for so-called White Van Men, the working people who rely on it as their rolling office. With that in mind Ford says driver comfort is at the forefront of the new Transit's design. Peter Lee runs the Ford Transit Fan Club and says the new model feels like a much smaller vehicle. (SOUNDBITE) PETER LEE, FOUNDER FORD TRANSIT FAN CLUB, SAYING (English): "It's exactly like a car. It's amazing. With the white van man thing and all the stuff around that we do get painted with one brush. But we're not all builders, we're not all guys who go around doing bank jobs, a lot of us have got a little bit of finesse." PTC: As its first new Transit in a decade Ford was keen to make sure its product worked in real-world situations. That's why one of these sliding doors was opened and shut a quarter of a million times, to make sure it lasts. The van was revealed at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, the biggest sales and marketing event for the UK's road transport industry. (SOUNDBITE) DARREN KEMPTON, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, SAYING (English): "It looks very nice. There's a lot of driver comforts and stuff inside. It's a very practical-looking van." (SOUNDBITE) DAVID FOSTER, MANAGES FLEET OF TRANSIT VANS, SAYING (Englsh): "The styling on the exteriors very good, not so sure about the interior, I don't know if it's rugged enough, it looks a bit flimsy in places." Some customers might be hard to please, but Ford dominates this sector ahead of rivals like Vauxhall, Renault and Mercedes. 30 percent of vans sold in Europe are Transits. The company hopes this one can broaden the model's appeal, beyond its traditional customer base. (SOUNDBITE) BARBARA SAMARDZICH, VICE-PRESIDENT OF PRODUCT DESIGN, FORD EUROPE, SAYING (English): "I think the changes we've made in the driving dynamics which make it substantially more car-like will actually play well with some of our female customers." Although Ford would like to move away from customer stereotypes one statistic speaks for itself. 85 percent of Transit vans are sold in white. Andrew Potter, Reuters