Ford plans to unveil all-electric Transit van as home deliveries skyrocket

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

As the home delivery business continues to surge amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ford Motor Co. plans to unveil on Nov. 12 its zero-emission, all-electric E-Transit, a green version of the top-selling cargo van.

Not only is cutting greenhouse gas emissions a key priority in the highly lucrative California market but consumer surveys show the public is concerned about extreme weather changes in the U.S. and globally.

"There's been a lot written about the electrification of our industry," Ford CEO Jim Farley said during a third-quarter earnings call with analysts on Wednesday. "Ford's bet is different. We're betting on a full lineup of commercial electrified vehicles."

He previewed the van announcement during the call and the company released initial details early Thursday with a promise of more in mid-November.

James D. Farley Jr. then-President of New Businesses, Technology & Strategy at Ford Motor Co., at The Factory at Corktown in Detroit on May 7, 2019.
James D. Farley Jr. then-President of New Businesses, Technology & Strategy at Ford Motor Co., at The Factory at Corktown in Detroit on May 7, 2019.

Car prices keep climbing: $100,000 vehicles hitting the road in droves

Personal finance: How these 3 credit cards became way more valuable during the pandemic

This latest news is a "milestone" in the company's $11.5 billion commitment to investing in electrification, Ford said in a news release.

The Ford Transit cargo vans saw a 12% spike in the average transaction price to $43,275 during the third quarter, its highest in five years, according to Cox Automotive.

Demand helps drive higher prices.

A strategy for Ford, now, is transitioning buyers to all-electric.

"We're kind of in the first inning of this transition of the industry to a battery-electric future," Farley said. "We're getting more and more excited about an electric future ... and our capital is following."

Ford doesn't want to be just one of many automakers transitioning into electrification, he said. "We want to lead the electric change. That's why we've committed to Paris (accord). That's why we're standing with California" on emissions policy.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has publicly reached out to President Donald Trump for help with unprecedented wildfires attributed by scientists in part to climate change, has repeatedly praised Ford for its vision and commitment to sustainable design that transitions away from fossil fuels to improve air quality.

"Bill Ford gets it," Newsom said in mid-September.

The Democrat revealed a plan to phase out sales of new, gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035, though people could still own them and buy them used. California is such a huge market for car companies that its policies carry national influence. It's the nation's most populous state with nearly 40 million people.

"Cars don't need to pollute our air or melt our glaciers," Newsom tweeted Sept. 23. "Thank you @Ford for using your market power to build a cleaner, brighter future with California."

He retweeted a Farley post that said, "Fighting to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions"

Leaning Green

Adam Jonas, an equity analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote on Oct. 2 that while auto industry sales were down overall, battery-electric vehicle sales were climbing and still dominated by Tesla.

Ford cited a recent survey taken in partnership with Google that showed more than 60% of Americans care about the environmental impact of home deliveries, which have grown as families have reduced trips outside the home to avoid exposure to COVID-19. The survey showed a 12% growth in support from earlier this year.

In the U.S., United Kingdom and Germany, the survey showed more than half the respondents would choose all-electric delivery over gas-powered if the price and arrival times were the same; 54% in the U.S. and 60% in the U.K., Ford noted.

Nearly half the Americans and British surveyed said they would wait longer for a delivery using zero-emissions vans.

The electric Transit is "a really big deal" for the company, Farley said. "When you look outside of North America, the growth that matters for us is commercial vehicles in Europe. That's the key growth metric for us."

E-commerce sales jumped about 32% in the first three months of the year and 44% in the second quarter of 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Market analyst Jon Gabrielsen said, “The Electric Ford Transit Connect is a perfect fit for the increase in demand for green home delivery vehicles that Wall Street and many others are anticipating."

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512 or phoward@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ford to unveil all-electric version of its best-selling Transit Van