By on August 7, 2013

Rooster_Cat

I come to praise the chicken tax, not to bury it. In exchange for the short-term consequence of a few people paying too much for Toyota trucks with insta-rust beds, this country managed to acquire a pretty substantial infrastructure to build “foreign” automobiles while still providing jobs to Americans. It even helped the Japanese automakers, who managed to survive the 1985/1986 spike in the yen without abandoning the US market because they were largely in the process of moving production to the Southern states.

In recent years, however, the 25% tariff has come to be ever-so-slightly irrelevant, primarily affecting buyers of the Ford Transit Connect who can’t figure out why there are wrench marks on the floor of their brand-new cargo vans. And now it might be gone for good.

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By on July 9, 2013

2013 Nissan NV200

When Nissan invited me to sample the Versa Note hatchback, tucked away in a corner was the new-to-America Nissan NV200 compact cargo van. No, this isn’t a relative of the NV2500 that started out our commercial week in 2012, instead it’s a purpose-built cargo hauler [very] loosely based on the underpinnings of the Nissan Cube. You may have also seen the NV200 shown as NYC’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” choice, but this NV is all about hauling. (Strangely enough that’s why it makes a good taxi.)

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By on February 8, 2013

If you were an early adopter of Ford’s compact cargo hauler, news of the 2014 Transit Connect may upset you. Rather than letting the old baby-Transit languish in America like Ford did once upon a time with thee Focus, the new Euro van is coming to America later this year. With new engines, new transmissions and a corporate grille, should you put your purchase on hold?

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By on April 19, 2012

Americans with well worn passports often amaze their less-traveled friends with miraculous tales of a land full of tiny, fuel-efficient vehicles, expensive gasoline and miniature cans of Coke. (Really, those Coke cans are awesome.) The story inevitably ends with, “I wish I could buy X here”.  Ford has so far been the most receptive to these cries, with the tasty Euro Focus, Fiesta (and soon the Fusion/Mondeo) to our shores. But what about some fuel-efficient love for the man-in-the-van? That’s where the Transit Connect fits in according to Ford. TTAC is no stranger to the Transit Connect with our own Sajeev Meta taking a spin in 2009. However in this review, we’ll attempt to compare the Connect to the other commercial options on the market while channeling our inner Joe-six-pack.

The Connect is off to a good start, with sales climbing from 8,834 in 2009 to 31,914 in 2011 proving there is a market for a mini-bread-van. The small hauler even accounted for 21.4% of Ford’s US van sales in 2011. Meanwhile, sales of the ancient and thirsty E-Series increased from 85,735 units to 116,874 from 2010 to 2011. By comparison, GM shifted just 89,211 vans in 2011. The reason behind the sales jump is obvious: high gas prices and no efficient cargo haulers to compete with it. But does that mean you should own one?

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By on March 28, 2012

The Detroit News is reporting that the company that electrifies Ford’s Transit Connect Electric vans, Azure Dynamics, AZD, has filed for bankruptcy and suspended the production of the small battery electric van. Azure Dynamics announced that 120 employees, including 50 at their Oak Park facility just outside Detroit where AZD performed the conversions, have been laid off. So far about 500 Transit EVs have been made since late 2010. There is no word if the company will be able to restart production.

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By on June 16, 2011

Let’s face a fact here: as much as Jack Baruth likes the Ford Flex, Ford’s MINI-cum-Woodie-Wagon is a textbook case of what the literature refers to as a sales flop. Recommend one to a friend (particularly a friend of the female persuasion) and chances are they’ll say “even if it is a great car, I just don’t like the looks” and go buy a Traverse. For a while there it seemed like a seven-passenger version of Ford’s European C-Max would help the Blue Oval shore up its three-row options, but with that model canceled in favor of a five-door, hybrid-only strategy, Ford’s back to contemplating updates to the Flex. But Automotive News [sub] Product Editor Rick Kranz has another idea:

My understanding is that the next-gen Transit Connect arrives in a few years, will be assembled in North America and will be a more refined vehicle. The current version comes from Turkey…

While today’s Transit Connect seats five, a seven-passenger version could be a viable option for young families that don’t need the Grand Caravan’s bulk. Some urban families might prefer the nimble size of a seven-passenger compact minivan on the narrow neighborhood streets in the Windy City or the Big Apple.

From a business standpoint, Ford could increase Transit Connect volume by offering two flavors — one for commercial applications and the other for mom, dad and the kids.

The main reason the seven-passenger C-Max was nixed: a near-Caravan price point. A TC-based van could come in at a lower price… but would Americans really choose such a utilitarian vehicle? Meanwhile, would a Transit Connect really look that much more appealing than a Flex? It’s an interesting idea that Ford is probably looking at… but what say you?

By on September 26, 2010

Yes, I can muster some appreciation of Econolines of yore. But the painful reality is that the current E-Series is an ugly, primitive and inefficient pig virtually unchanged since 1974.  The fact that the American light truck sector hasn’t had the same revolution that European design influences have had on passenger cars is a mystery. Case in point: Ford’s Transit (not Connect) vans are a (several, actually) giant development leap ahead of the Econoline, offering FWD, RWD and AWD variants in three wheelbase lengths, numerous configurations, and driven by the most advanced diesels that can get well over 20 mpg. The Transit outsells Mercedes Sprinter in Europe. What the hell is Ford waiting for? (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2010

This is a continuation: part one is here.

After leaving the studio in St. Louis Saturday night, I found myself with the luxury of having absolutely nothing to do until one o’clock the following day. My guitars were locked up, I’d left my laptop at home, and I didn’t have so much as a magazine to read. This was not by accident. Sometimes it’s important to have no plans, to deliberately encounter what I think of as a “null state”.

The Transit Connect and I wandered past Forest Park, where just a few blocks separate gated-off private streets and boarded-up low-income housing. The white panel van is welcome everywhere; it is universally recognized as a vehicle driven by the service class. I waved at a security guard who silently swung a huge wrought-iron barrier out of the way and let me into his deliberately isolated neighborhood. Twenty minutes later, two vicious-looking men in a street full of broken-down cars and idle observers stopped their hand-waving disagreement to let me through. I am nobody in particular. I am here to fix, install, adjust, clean.

The invisibility conferred upon me by this little van made me think of all the times I had felt invisible in my youth, cleaning tables in restaurants, working on construction sites, bagging groceries. I realized that I could stop and sleep anywhere, that this van could come to a halt in an industrial-center parking lot or out in front of the largest home in St. Louis. This was freedom: I am nobody, and I have nothing to do.

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By on July 19, 2010

This is not a review of the Transit Connect. That’s coming next month courtesy of another TTAC writer. This is a story about childhood, loneliness, obsession, friendship, the Gateway Arch and its ridiculous security humiliations, and what happens when four old white guys play a Rage Against The Machine song in a state-of-the-art studio. You’ve been warned.

There’s this company, you see, called St. Louis Music. If you’ve ever heard of Dan Armstrong, Ampeg, or Crate, you’ve heard of “SLM”. They used to make good stuff, and they made a lot of it in the United States. During the Seventies, the product quality of many US-made items was in the toilet. The Big Two of American guitars, Gibson and Fender, seemed to be engaged in a war where the prize was bankruptcy and the weapons were crap guitars, high prices, indifferent corporate ownership, and refusal to listen to their dealers.

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By on June 3, 2010

Worried about the high MSRPs on most of the electric vehicles scheduled for launch over the next year? Don’t forget to include the cost of buying and installing a home charging station. Nissan reckons the charger for its Leaf will cost about $2,200, including a home electrical inspection [er, that's a medical marijuana grow...] and installation. Oh, and it won’t be Nissan coming into your home: Aerovironment, a firm otherwise best known for its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, has the contract to supply and install the Leaf’s charger. Coulomb Technologies supplies the home charger for Ford’s first EV, the Transit Connect EV, and according to Automotive News [sub], they’re partnering with Ford to give chargers away to the first 2,000 buyers of the electric-drive delivery van. But, as usual with good news in the EV sector, the charger giveaway is actually being funded by tax dollars…

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