Heartland CNG entered some heady territory recently when it was certified as a qualified vehicle modifier by Ford.
That designation means the Oklahoma City company can convert Ford trucks and vans to run on compressed natural gas without jeopardizing Ford’s engine and powertrain warranties. General manager Justin Steckman said the process, which began in January, was a stressful one, but he is pleased with the payoff.
“We’ll be able to do much more work now,” he said.
Okarche-based OEM Systems LLC was the first Oklahoma company to earn Ford’s stamp of approval to convert its vehicles to CNG. It was the eighth company in the nation to earn that certification in October 2012. The list now numbers about a dozen nationwide.
Peggy Beaty, alternative fuels administrator at Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said earning Ford certification is a substantial accomplishment.
“It means the company has met all of Ford’s stringent safety standards and facility requirements,” Beaty said. “This certification should reassure customers that this company knows what they are doing in performing CNG conversions and any maintenance or repairs that may come later.
“Consumers should have the utmost confidence in a company that is Ford QVM certified.”
Norman Herrera, CEO of Sparq Natural Gas consulting firm, said the presence of two companies with Ford qualified vehicle modifier certification in Oklahoma should encourage more people to switch to CNG.
It “gives the customer a local point of contact for their entire purchase,” he said.
Steckman said Heartland had to register with the National Transportation Safety Board and meet federal safety standards as part of the certification process with Ford. A Ford representative visited Heartland’s Oklahoma City shop in January, giving officials a checklist of improvements necessary to earn certification.
“I learned so much through this process,” Steckman said. “We actually grew a lot as a company through this.”
He said he hopes improvements made to meet Ford’s requirements will allow Heartland to double its conversion business to about 50 vehicles a month.
“I’m excited about the future,” he said. “I want to expand what we’ve built so far.”
Steckman said Heartland’s Ford certification will accelerate the company’s growth. Heartland started in August with four employees, but it already has expanded to nine.
Heartland now will be able to bid on state contracts it was not eligible for in the past, thanks to its Ford certification. The company recently converted 16 trucks for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, but Steckman has his eye on even more business.
Ford is poised to introduce a new Transit van with a gaseous prep engine that is perfect for CNG.
“It’s going to be a huge, huge seller in this state,” Steckman said.