DETROIT – Ford is looking to capitalize on an expanding global commercial-vehicle market, expected to grow 28%, or 5 million units, by 2017.

Utilizing its “One Ford” strategy based on leveraging worldwide resources, the auto maker is consolidating its fullsize-van lineup to a single model: the more-global Transit. Ford will phase out its U.S.-market E-Series van in the process.

In a sneak peek at the auto maker’s plans for January’s North American International Auto Show, executives say the often-overlooked CV business will play a critical role in Ford’s success.

The CV segment “has more potential for growth than any other segment, mainly in truck-based commercial vehicles, which is our strength,” says Raj Nair, group vice president-global product development.

Nair says consolidating commercial vans on one platform will give Ford the same economies of scale already realized with its global B, C and C/D passenger-vehicle platforms.

Ford says it is the leader in the U.S. commercial van and truck sector and the top seller of vans in Europe. In South America, it offers a full line of medium- and heavy-duty trucks dubbed Cargo, which also is sold in Turkey and parts of Europe.

Additionally, Ford last year launched its new Ranger midsize pickup, which has performed well in Asia/Pacific, South America and Europe. The auto maker does not offer the Ranger in North America, where it would be priced and sized too closely to its top-selling F-150 fullsize pickup.

Last year, Ford delivered 788,000 CVs in North America for a 37% market share. Fullsize light-duty trucks accounted for 60% of volume, while heavy-duty models, such as the F-650, accounted for 17%. Vans took a 14% share of sales.

Of those three segments, the hottest is small vans, which Ford says is poised for 70% growth over the next five years.

“One of the growing parts of our (small) van business is the Transit Connect,” Jim Farley, executive vice president-global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln, says of the small utility van Ford launched in ’10. “We expect to sell 35,000 units this year, and we’re attracting a whole new customer.”

U.S. Transit Connect sales are up 12.3% through November to 31,440, according to WardsAuto data.

Ford hopes to pad volume with a next-generation Transit Connect that goes on sale in fourth-quarter 2013.

The ’14 Transit Connect, to be offered in both passenger and commercial applications, will come standard with a 2.5L inline 4-cyl. engine or an optional 1.6L direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost I-4. The latter will be offered with a compressed-natural-gas/liquid-propane-gas package to enable conversion by up-fitters.

The small commercial van will be offered in two wheelbases and trim levels. Payload will list at 1,600 lbs. (725 kg) and towing capacity at up to 2,000 lbs. (907 kg). Cargo capacity equals 130 cu.-ft. (3.6 cu.-m).

Farley says the Transit Connect commercial van will be marketed to urban owner-operators wjp consider the E-Series fullsize van too large.

Ford does not disclose mileage figures for the Transit Connect van, but says it will deliver 5 mpg (2.1 km/L) better fuel economy on the highway than Chrysler’s Ram C/V cargo van, rated at 25 mpg (9.4 L 100/km).

Joining the Transit Connect commercial van is the larger Transit. On sale in Europe and other markets since 1965, it will be offered in the U.S. for the first time next fall.

Plans call for the E-Series to be phased out in the U.S. shortly after the new-generation Transit arrives at U.S. dealerships in 2013. However, the E-Series will be offered in chassis-cab form through the end of the decade, Ford says.

The Transit will be available in three body lengths; two wheelbases; three roof heights; van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway body styles; and in XL and XLT trim levels.

“We’re going from an exclusively gasoline engine lineup of two V-8s and a V-10 in the E-Series to offering customers a standard 3.7L V-6, the same 3.5L EcoBoost engine proven in the F-150, and an all-new 3.2L Power Stroke diesel option,” says Len Deluca, director-Ford commercial vehicle operations.

Only the 3.2L Power Stroke is new to the North American market. Based on Ford’s Duratorq global diesel architecture developed in the early 1990s, the engine has been calibrated to achieve greater fuel efficiency without sacrificing power, the auto maker says.

It also features state-of-the-art piezoelectric fuel injectors fed through a high-pressure common-rail fuel system and advanced emissions technologies that meet U.S. clean-diesel standards.

Precise injection timing and calibration allow for a smooth combustion process to reduce clatter.

Each injector nozzle has eight spray holes and can deliver up to five injections per combustion cycle. A pilot injection controls noise levels and a main injection is used for power generation.

Additionally, the engine features cast-aluminum, low-friction coated pistons with cooling jets, which squirt oil on the underside of the pistons to keep the piston crowns cool under extreme operating conditions.

The diesel also has a water-cooled, high-performance, electric-controlled exhaust-gas recirculation valve that is able to withstand coolant pressure drops.

Ford has yet to release specifications for the new mill, but says in Europe the diesel produces 197 hp and 347 lb.-ft. (470 Nm) of torque.

For the U.S. market, the fullsize Transit will be built at Ford’s Kansas City, MO, assembly plant, which is undergoing a $1.1 billion renovation to accommodate production of the van.

bpope@wardsauto.com