Ford executives are trying to manage an unexpected backlog of orders for Transit vans, which has led to lead times in excess of nine months for some fleet operators.
The company has admitted it underestimated demand for front-wheel drive versions of the new two-tonne Transit, introduced at the start of 2015, while UK registrations of the smaller Transit Custom are also higher than expected.
One public sector fleet manager contacted Fleet News
to say he had cancelled an order for eight L2 H2 front-wheel drive Transit 350 models placed in June after being told
that the earliest build slot he could expect would be in January 2016.
With a further 50-day shipping period from the vans being built at Ford’s plant in Turkey to arrival in the UK, he would have been unlikely to see his vehicles before April 2016.
He said: “It’s certainly a case of demand exceeding supply, and I think part of the cause has been the increase in courier vehicles delivering goods ordered online.”
His order could have been delivered sooner had he opted for rear-wheel drive models, but he said the slightly lower payload as well as the increased likelihood of the vans being off the road in winter weather made him cancel.
Fortunately, Vauxhall was able to meet his requirements with the Movano at short notice as a result of a cancelled order for a similar number of vehicles.
The fleet manager added that, at a recent Lex Autolease forum, there was a “collective groan around the room” when the subject of LCV lead times came up.
The problems for Ford were exacerbated in the summer by industrial action by factory workers in Turkey, affecting production of vehicles of a number of brands.
This also had an impact on bodyshops in the UK; one contacted Fleet News complaining that lengthy delays in obtaining replacement panels for damaged vans had resulted in it having to pay compensation to customers for the unexpectedly long downtime.
Ford has admitted it got its sums wrong when it came to predicting sales of the new Transit.
A spokesman said: “Before a vehicle goes into production, each market makes predictions as to how many vehicles will be sold and the split of specifications.
“Demand for front-wheel drive variants of the Transit has exceeded expectations, which led to capacity constraints in the plant, but Ford has processes in place to manage the build schedule accordingly.”
UK sales for the Ford Transit by the end of October were running at around 21,500 units.
This is almost 2,000 higher, compared with the same period in 2014, taking more than a quarter of the registrations in the large panel van sector.
The smaller front-wheel drive-only Transit Custom had reached 36,000 units by the end of October (compared with 28,700 for the same period in 2014).
This means that Ford is taking a third of the sales in the medium panel van sector.
The spokesman said: “With demand for the front-wheel drive variant in particular being so high, it has outstripped supply and there are constraints on production.
“Teams within Ford of Britain are trying to manage the build schedule accordingly to clear the order bank by early next year.
“However, planners not only have to make predictions based on vehicle, but also body style, series, engine, transmission etc.
“And with more than 450 variants available on the Transit alone, it can sometimes be a tricky task.”
Ford’s light commercial vehicle sales in November were up 26% on November 2014, at 8,744, mirroring its year-to-date rise of 26%, at 92,311 units (2014: 76,592).
The company is outstripping the total light commercial vehicle market, which is up 15.7% at 341,420 over the first 11 months of the year compared to 2014.
Adding in Ford’s registrations of 3.5-tonne to 6.0-tonne commercial vehicles, its November figure is up 24%, at
8,887 units, slightly ahead of its annual figure, up 21% at 78,265 units.