Ford announced today it will expand its family of commercial vans with the addition of a Transit Connect Wagon that will go on sale in North America in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Comparisons with other vehicles on the road are difficult but Ford claims its new wagon is expected to deliver at least 5 m.p.g. better fuel economy on the highway (30 m.p.g.) and 2 m.p.g. better in the city than a seven-seat Toyota Sienna minivan. Cargo space exceeds that of a Mazda 5 but the wagon boasts heavier payload than a Toyota Tacoma Double Cab pickup or Dodge Grand Caravan.
"Transit Connect Wagon gives young families and people on the go the fun-to-drive and efficient vehicle they've been looking for," said Mark Fields, Ford's President of The Americas. "It's an all-new, smaller seven-seater that has better mileage than larger vans and creates a segment of its own. Customers also will love the unique combination of style, adaptability and affordability this wagon brings."
Engine choices include a 2.5-liter or 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. The wagon also comes in two wheelbase lengths and three trim levels: XL, XLT and Titanium.
Like the Transit Connect, it has sliding side doors, fold-flat second- and third-row seating and a choice of a rear liftgate or side-hinged cargo doors.
The commercial van segment is drawing new competitors because it represents profitable fleet sales.
Ford is overhauling its commercial vehicle lineup globally under the g the Transit name. The U.S. will get the Transit Connect family as well as the larger Transit that will be built here.
Ford is spending more than $1 billion to retool its Kansas City plant to make the Transit that will replace the long-serving E-Series -- or Econoline as it was once known -- which will end production in 2014.
Modern commercial vans are emerging as a competitive segment in the U.S. and many of them bear the European styling of their roots.
Chrysler is creating a Ram Commercial division to handle development and sales of commercial vehicles in preparation to sell the Fiat Ducato and Doblo commercial vans here next year as well as Ram commercial vans.
Nissan now builds the NV cargo van and passenger van in Canton, Miss., plant and is introducing the smaller NV200 which will become the official New York taxi next year.
Mercedes will redesign the Sprinter and may bring the minivan-sized Vito from Europe.
General Motors is becoming the square peg in a round hold with its American style, V8, rear-drive, body-on-frame box vans, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana, which are not scheduled to be replaced until 2015 or 2016. But they are sturdy, with lots of towing power, and GM has a large experienced dealership to sell them.
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