Transit Connect for the US – Well, Parts of It, Anyway
After long wait and almost a year of rumors, Ford finally introduced the US version of the venerable little van that could – the Transit Connect. This little van is about the size of the Focus (it even shares a few components), but sports a very rugged solid axle and leaf-spring rear suspension. “It drives like a car, works like a van and is engineered to be as tough as a truck,” said Rob Stevens, Chief Engineer of Ford Transit Connect in the U.S. In Europe, this van was introduced in 2003, and was received very well, scoring Van of the Year award, very good sales, and a very good name recognition.
The whole idea of Transit Connect is mostly alien in the U.S. and Ford is rightly calling it a “white space” model – a vehicle that is creating its own segment and does not have direct competitors. The Transit Connect carves a unique niche among panel version of compact wagons, panel version of minivans, full size vans and the Sprinter. Compared to these other offerings, the Transit Connect provides a unique combination of large cargo space, small exterior dimensions, impressive capability, high efficiency, and low price.
While many configurations are available in Europe, US will get the long wheelbase, high roof Transit Connect equipped to seat five. This configuration seats two up front, and three in the rear, features sliding doors on both sides, cargo space 6.5 ft long, 4.6ft wide and with overall volume of 143 cubic feet. While Ford is not releasing the tow and load ratings yet, the EU version can haul almost a ton of cargo.
The vehicle is virtually unchanged from its European cousin, but of course some changes were made. Most notably, the US version will not feature a diesel engine, but a 2.0l four-cylinder engine matted to a four-speed automatic transmission. This will probably limit its load rating and lower its mileage, but it will also significantly reduce its price. The expected EPA mileage rating is 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
There is one disappointing news about the Transit Connect – timeline and release scope. The new van will not arrive in the US market for another 15 months and when it finally does arrive, it will not be released nationwide, but only in select urban markets.
We are excited that the little van is finally crossing the big pond. It will no doubt offer a unique and very desirable proposition to many small businesses. Ford scored big with this vehicle in Europe and stands a good chance of repeating this success in the US; however, the slow timeline and limited scope of introduction sours this news somewhat. Ford should finally muster the confidence to blaze its own way in the market, go with their gut on something new, especially with products with high likelihood of success.
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