The Transit Specialist Dealers (TSD) scheme has been developed under the manufacturer's 'Backbone of Britain' initiative, which sets rigid new sales and service standards for van dealers and was born out of the relaunch of the Transit range from 2000 and Connect light van launch in 2002.
It requires substantial additional investment from dealers to provide key services such as exclusive commercial vehicle workshops, dedicated sales and service staff, at least 70 hours a week opening, and emergency support. Ford won't say how much the average dealer has had to invest.
Most TSD holders are in the existing Ford van retailer network of 240 locations, although more than 120 have elected not to take up the franchise. Six are planning standalone TSD facilities.
Gary Whittham, commercial vehicles director for Ford of Britain – and who describes himself as a “trucks person in a trucks job” – says: “We haven't used a big stick to create the network and we haven't had to look outside. “We're doing business with dealers with whom we have enjoyed a long term relationship and who also see the business case. One hundred and fifteen put their hand up. Like me, they don't think that making money is a dirty word.”
Whittham adds: “The TSD and Backbone of Britain standards are crucial because we know our business customers need to be assured of the level of service they will get to keep their Ford commercial vehicles adding profit to their business.”
Ford has also announced increases in the payload of all SWB Transit models, as well as some MWB and LWB derivatives. Payloads are increased by up to 160kg on Transits produced after March 1, 2004. This co-incides with a new 135bhp, 2.4-litre TDCi engine, the most powerful diesel yet in a Transit, mated to a new six-speed gearbox.