Ford to Market Transit Connect in US

by : Anthony Fontanelle

Ford Motor Co. executives said last Wednesday that plans were underway to market a Turkish-made small van in United States by next year. The Transit Connect made its debut at the prestigious Chicago Auto Show.

The Dearborn-based automaker hopes to launch potential American shoppers to its Transit Connect van, which is built at the automaker's assembly plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, and ready for the market in 2009.

Ford is convinced the vehicle has no real competition in the United States for city deliveries and small businesses. "There is nothing quite like it on the road in America today," Ford group vice president of global product development, Derrick Kuzak, said at the Chicago Auto Show.

The front-wheel drive Transit Connect van will get 19 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway, a 40 percent improvement versus current small commercial vans, added Kuzak.

Ford executives said that the Turkish-made van would offer American shoppers improved fuel efficiency and better cargo accessibility than any other vehicle sold in the U.S.

The Transit Connect is a panel van which debuted in 2002. It replaced the older Escort van range, which had halted production a couple of years ago. The van, which was awarded "Van of the Year 2004" by Professional Van and Light Truck Magazine, never gained the fame of its siblings - Van and Ford Courier, the Fiesta-based auto.

The automaker built the Transit Connect for service and delivery businesses to use in Europe. Since 2003, the van has been available in the territory.

According to the Detroit Free Press, about 178 inches long, the Transit Connect is about 2 feet shorter than a Chrysler minivan. Its high-roofed design packs an extraordinary amount of cargo space into the small package, with 143 cubic feet of cargo space and room to carry loads 6 1/2 feet long and about 54 inches wide, it continued.

In January last year, Sabah, a Turkish newspaper, reported that Transit Connect will be exported to the U.S. starting in the fall of 2007. While the Dearborn automaker has been tight-lipped on the matter, in June 2007 first prototype was seen running in California.

The van will be sold in select urban areas in U.S. beginning in mid-2009 as a 2010 model. The Transit Connect is destined to be the first Ford minivan since the 2007 Freestar.

The Transit Connect is the first concrete example of Ford's new strategy of using its engineering centers to develop vehicles it can sell around the world. The automaker's truck lineup will get a fuel-efficient and roomy addition when the automaker begins selling the compact commercial van in the U.S.