Ford is looking to return to the U.S. minivan market with a family-friendly version of its Transit Connect compact van.
At its “Go Further” event in Amsterdam, Ford unveiled a new generation of multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) that will be marketed in Europe under the Tourneo Connect brand. In the U.S., the van sell as the Transit Connect Wagon.
“Ford’s Tourneo line-up is undergoing a radical transformation, led by the stylish new Tourneo Connect and with more exciting product to come,” said Barb Samardzich, vice president Product Development, Ford of Europe.
“These are good-looking, versatile and well-equipped vehicles that families, professional drivers and those looking for space to stow bikes, and even fishing equipment, will choose for their practical virtues and enjoy for their do-it-all spirit and attractive design.”
The new minivan will be offered in two versions: a five-seat Tourneo Connect and a longer-wheelbase, seven-seat Grand Tourneo Connect. Ford is touting the new Tourneo as ideal for active families or professional chauffeurs. In true minivan style, it has sliding rear doors, highly-flexible seating and lots of storage.
In Europe, the Tourneo Connect can be equipped with diesel or gasoline engines both of which will include Ford ECOnetic Technologies features. Ford hasn’t said what choices will be offered to American consumers.
One interesting factoid is that the Transit Connect Wagon will be North America’s first chance to see the Turkish-built van with the short wheelbase and regular roofline. Due to the “Chicken Tax,” a 25% tariff on importation of commercial vehicles, Ford currently imports only the high roofline version which is converted from a passenger van to a commercial van prior to delivery to Ford. Since passenger vehicles are exempt from the tariff, Ford can import those without the alterations, which should save the Dearborn automaker hundreds of dollars per vehicle.
The all-new Tourneo Connect is scheduled to go on sale in North America as the Transit Connect Wagon, in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Ford was a player in the minivan market from the introduction of the Aerostar in 1986 to the unlamented demise of the slow-selling Freestar in 2007. At one point in time, the Ford Windstar, the Freestar’s predecessor, offered a serious challenge to sales of the Chrysler minivans, but the Freestar, hampered by a name change many found silly, a substandard interior and brake problems, led the company to leave the segment rather than invest precious capital in a replacement.
The days of the familiar Ford E-series van and Club Wagon are numbered. The traditional full-size van, with styling that has remained basically unchanged since 1975, will pass into automotive history next year when it is replaced by the European-styled Transit that also was prominently displayed in Amsterdam. This will leave GM with the sole surviving American-style van.
The new Transit is part of the “One Ford” global product strategy where vehicles produced in any region can be sold in other markets after being tweaked to meet the needs tastes of customers in those markets.
“These new products will carry more, work harder, last longer, and cost our customers less to operate – just as Ford Transits have done for 47 years,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company. “The unprecedented launch of two all-new Transit models will extend Ford’s leadership in serving commercial vehicle customers around the world.”
In North America, customers will be able to choose between two V6 engines, including Ford’s 3.5-litre EcoBoost, or a diesel. Just as in Europe, the Transit will be offered in multiple wheelbases and roof heights and regular or heavy-duty chassis. To avoid the Chicken Tax, North American Transits will be built in Kansas City at the same plant that produces the F-150.
Ford’s got a lot riding on the Transit: the E-Series van has been the overwhelming best-seller in the U.S. for more than three decades.