Ford Transit Connect on Hold for America
By Brendan Moore
A year ago Ford was talking bravely about bringing over more of their class-leading small cars to sell here in the States, but the dizzying descent of the dollar against the euro (and everything else) seems to have put paid to that idea.
And in the mix of the vehicles that we won’t be seeing here anytime soon is the Ford Transit Connect, a very tough little commercial van made in Ford’s plant in Turkey. The van is sold all through Europe and is powered by several variations of Ford’s 1.8 Duratorq TDCi common-rail turbo diesel engine.
From my perspective, I could see the van being quite popular with commercial customers (think of a smaller version of the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van) here in the U.S., and I think you would get some fair amount of rippling out in the consumer market, particularly if a small gasoline engine were added to the engine lineup. I am not unique in this point of view; the people at Ford were apparently thinking along the same lines, since one of the Transit Connects was spotted several times earlier this year in California with manufacturer plates on it, perhaps for the purpose of testing or customer clinics.
But a few days ago I asked Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, about the Transit Connect in the States, and his answer was that it would not happen anytime soon. Pressed for a timeline, he would not commit to the Transit Connect coming here soon, or for that matter, ever. One has to assume that the dollar’s devaluation has made the prospect of importing foreign-built vehicles somewhat ridiculous for Ford. It cannot make economic sense at this point. To his credit, Fields seemed very familiar with the Transit Connect and then turned the tables on me, asking me what I thought the market was for the van here in the States, and how that would break out between commercial and consumer buyers. I responded as above. Fields was very gracious and polite, but I got the feeling Ford doesn’t think there would be any consumer demand for the Transit Connect; that the vehicle would sink of swim solely on its commercial appeal.
But, I look at the success of the M-B Sprinter and the Toyota Scion here in the U.S. and then look at the Ford Transit Connect and I see the Transit Connect as a natural bridge between the extremes of those two market demographics.
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