Chicago 2008: Ford brings the Transit Connect to America

Before the demise of Ford's Windstar/Freestar in late 2006, the company - like its crosstown competitors - offered a cargo van variant of its front wheel drive mini-van for light duty commercial applications. There are many uses where businesses need something smaller and more fuel efficient than the full-size E-Series vans. It just so happens that Ford has what they felt was exactly the right vehicle in their European line-up: the Transit Connect. The Transit Connect is a front-wheel drive van with a profile tall enough to provide plenty of room for carrying lots of different stuff with easy access. At 6'8", however, is still short enough to slide into any garage. The Transit has sliding doors on both sides and rear doors that open up 180o for easy access.

The Transit Connect is available with or without a second row seat. In the two-seater configuration, it has 143 cu.ft of space behind the front row. In Europe, Ford is currently selling about 110,000 units of the Connect annually, all with diesel engines. Unfortunately, the U.S. will again have to make do with a gas engine, in this case a 2.0L four banger which is expected to get EPA numbers of 19 city/24 highway. Those numbers are about 2mpg better than competing cargo vans from Chevrolet and Dodge and a lot better than any Ford E-Series van. At the preview before the show, Product Development VP Derrick Kuzak said that a full hybrid version would likely be too expensive for the market but a start-stop capability was being looked at. Perhaps a 1.4L EcoBoost would be a fine choice. Either way, the new van will offer some help to Ford's truck CAFE numbers to offset a few of the E-Series and F-Series trucks. The Transit Connect will go on sale in mid-2009.

[Source: Ford]

Purpose-Built: Ford Transit Connect Delivers
Unique Compact Versatility For American Business

Purpose-built for small business owners, the Ford Transit Connect is a versatile compact van that offers a fuel-efficient alternative to full-size commercial vans.
Transit Connect, debuting at the Chicago Auto Show, is another example of how Ford is leveraging its global product lineup. Transit Connect is designed, engineered and manufactured by Ford of Europe. It was named International Van of the Year when launched in 2003.
Ford is the Commercial Vehicle leader in the U.S. with 40 percent share of the total commercial vehicle market and has been the full-size van leader with the Ford E-Series for 29-years running. Transit Connect further builds Ford's strong commercial vehicle portfolio.

CHICAGO, Feb. 6, 2008 – Ford is tapping its global product strengths to mobilize and connect small business owners in North America with the European-engineered Ford Transit Connect.

Introduced today at the Chicago Auto Show, Transit Connect is designed to bring American small business owners a new vehicle choice that offers improved fuel economy, bigger load capacity and better cargo accessibility than today's commercial vehicle offerings.

"Ford Transit Connect is built on a dedicated, commercial vehicle platform to meet the rigors business use demands. This workhorse is like nothing available today in the American market," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development.
"The Transit Connect provides another example of Ford's commitment to deliver 100 percent new or upgraded products that people truly want and value by the end of 2010," he said.

With its standard, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, Transit Connect delivers fuel economy estimated at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

Transit Connect will be a truly white-space product for North America. Its closest competitors are cargo vans offered by Chevrolet and Dodge. Transit Connect will provide a significant city fuel economy advantage, while offering more cargo space. Both are increasingly important to small business owners in today's changing marketplace.

"More than ever before, consumers are making the bulk of their purchases from the Internet and smaller, specialty businesses, which is increasing the volume of small package deliveries," said Kuzak. "Transit Connect is ideally suited to meet those delivery needs because of its flexible package, compact size and fuel-efficient powertrain. It will make the delivery process for small business owners easier and more affordable."

Global Product Innovation
Designed, engineered and manufactured by Ford of Europe to beat tough, medium commercial vehicle standards, Transit Connect has been a sales success for Ford across the Atlantic and is an ideal option for small business owners in North America.

"Ford is intensifying its efforts to leverage the best of our Ford product portfolio around the world," Kuzak said. "In Europe, this tough small van has carved out a niche for itself, building on the strength of the Transit name – which is synonymous with commercial vehicle leadership in Europe. Transit Connect can make a real difference to customers here."

Transit Connect was named International Van of the Year by an independent panel of leading commercial vehicle journalists representing 19 European countries when first launched in 2003.

Editors credited Ford for listening to the wants and demands of customers, both large and small and heralded the "long list of clever and practical solutions in the areas of handling, accessibility, security and safety" that Ford Transit Connect introduced.

Car+Van+Truck = Transit Connect
Complementing its truck toughness, Transit Connect handles and performs like a car and offers car-like fuel economy, interior comforts and safety features. "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.

This compact van was built around the following key attributes:
Class-leading cargo area functionality and versatility
High levels of durability through the use of thick, high-strength steel and a reinforced body shell with partial double skin sides and twin side crossmembers
Responsive and fuel-efficient powertrain
High levels of security and safety, with a rigid body structure, side impact protection, dual front air bags and an array of security features, including a lockable hood
Low cost of ownership, from lower fuel costs to powertrain durability

Opening with Versatility
Transit Connect has cargo doors on both sides and at the rear – dual sliding side doors and 180-degree-opening rear doors – that make accessing its generous cargo area convenient. Its front doors have large openings, making getting in and out of the vehicle easy – an important design feature for delivery people.

For its size and urban maneuverability, the Transit Connect cargo capacity is a massive 143 cubic feet. It can accommodate loads up to 6.5 ft. in length and 4.7 ft. in width.

"Transit Connect can swallow far more cargo than its users might think," said Len Deluca, Director of Ford Commercial Trucks.

"Its versatile cargo area gives Transit Connect an unequivocal advantage, accommodating for large, flat-sided loads and providing a totally flat load floor," he said.

Straight and square side walls of the Transit Connect also mean business on the outside. They provide a clean surface and perfect positioning for commercial branding logos and messages.
Inside, storage systems can make Transit Connect ideal for specific businesses.

For the Chicago show, Ford kitted out Transit Connects highlighting three local businesses – including a catering and event planning company, a wine wholesaler and home technology integration firm – as well as a five-member Chicago blues band.

The Windy City is a fitting place to debut the versatile Transit Connect. Its maneuverability makes it ideal for urban use, where streets are congested and parking space for delivery or service vehicles is limited. Its tight turning radius makes Transit Connect as nimble as a compact car. And its height makes it ideal for tight parking garages with limited-height clearances – Transit Connect gets in and out of garages with as little as 6 ft. 8 in. clearance.

Established Credentials
Transit Connect is part of a family of Transit commercial vehicles offered across Europe. Since the introduction of the Transit Connect, Ford's share of the European light and medium duty commercial vehicle market has doubled to 34 percent. In record-setting 2007, Ford sold 109,900 Transit Connects and 224,915 Transits in Europe.

For more than 40 years, the Transit brand has synonymous with commercial vehicle excellence, a success which continues to grow. In 2007, Ford achieved an all-time record European commercial vehicle retail volume across its 19-market region, including individual model volume records for Transit Connect and the Ford Transit medium commercial van. More than 5 million Transit units have been manufactured since 1965.

Thanks largely to E-Series, Ford is the reigning Commercial Vehicle leader in the U.S. with 40 percent share of the total commercial vehicle market and has been the full-size van leader with E-Series for 29 years running.

Transit Connect is manufactured in Kocaeli, Turkey, at Ford's most advanced light commercial vehicle assembly plant. It will be available in select North American markets in mid-2009.

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