Have you ever sat in a Ford Transit Connect and said to yourself, “Gosh, I like this, but it’s just so darn big!“? Well, if Ford’s latest trademark filings are any indication, the Blue Oval might soon have exactly what you’re looking for.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Ford filed trademark applications for two names — “Transit Courier” and “Courier” — on July 22, 2016, hinting at possible Fiesta-based, B-segment vans for North America.
Wake up, ladies and gentlemen, and listen to the happy news: we are in an automotive renaissance. The kind of renaissance that comes around but once every decade or two; the kind that’s accompanied by new designs and new powertrains and new features and new competition.
I am referring, of course, to the cargo van renaissance.
I’m not sure if you’ve realized it, but that’s exactly what’s going on around us: a renaissance of cargo vans. An explosion of new models, and new segments, and new powertrains, and new features, and new designs. When we look back years from now, we will all agree that the cargo van segment was forever changed by the years 2014 and 2015.
Ford may soon have a new member in its royal family, as the 2015 Transit is asserting its dominance upon Flower Shop Lane.
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.
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.)
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?
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?
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.
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?
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…)