In the case of the all-new Ford Transit Custom one-tonne van it was more like tough love.
More than 150 professional test drivers, plus customer fleet drivers and Ford engineers, put the Ford Transit Custom through a punishing regime, covering the equivalent of three million miles. Ford Transit Custom tests included marathon non-stop driving tests to simulate an extremely demanding 10-year lifecycle in just six months, along with extreme climate testing and corrosive salt- and mud-baths.
“I don’t think many customers would believe what this vehicle has been through,” said Barry Gale, commercial vehicles chief engineer, Ford of Europe. “We inflict the worst possible treatment that a van could endure, and we’re only satisfied when our new vehicle comes through with flying colours – just as the Transit Custom has done.”
Ford analysed data from real-world Transit use gathered from more than 600 vehicles, over six million miles, in seven markets around the world; that helped inform worst-case usage durability targets based on a 10-year, 150,000-mile lifecycle.
Accelerated durability testing took place at Ford’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium, scene of more than 30 separate vehicle tests. These included the “trailer tow general durability” test, one of the ordeals that condenses an extremely tough 10-year lifecycle into just six months.
Examples of the extreme challenges included:
- Autobahnspeed: maintaining maximum speed for two months non-stop
- Figure Eight: executing figures-of-eight non-stop for one month
- Chassis strength: crashing into a 140mm kerb at more than 35mph
- Potholes and bumps: completing a potholed and bumpy course at speeds of up to 45mph – more than 5,000 times
- Corrosion resistance: driving over rough gravel roads, through salt- and mud-baths, and soaking in high-humidity chambers – for 12 weeks
During its development, Ford Transit Custom prototypes also endured the toughest “real–world” conditions, surviving the extremes of 40degC heat in Dubai and -40degC biting cold in Finland, plus high-mileage road testing in the hands of professional fleet drivers.
In the test labs, Ford subjected the all-new 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel engine – powering the all-new Transit Custom – to 46 days of continuous high-load urban driving on specialised rigs, as part of tens of thousands of hours of engine testing. Component test rigs simulating real-world punishment can prove-out a full 10-year vehicle lifecycle in as little as 30 days.
Ford has engineered more than 100 significant improvements as a direct result of its testing regime. These include the redesign and strengthening of the engine mount brackets and body rocker panels. The same regime will deliver similar benefits to the all-new Ford Transit and Ford Transit Connect models due for launch by 2014.
“Pushing the van to the limit and beyond helps us to deliver a stronger, more robust product. This translates directly into every-day reliability for the customer, however tough their working environment,” added Gale.
The all-new Ford Transit Custom is the first vehicle in its segment to achieve a maximum five-star rating from independent vehicle safety organisation Euro NCAP, and since launch has sold more than 2,000 units in the UK.