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Dearborn, MI - Ford To Show New 7-Seater With Sliding Doors, Not A Minivan

Published on: November 13, 2012 11:30 PM
By: AP
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This undated image provided by Ford shows the Transit Connect Wagon. To the average buyer, or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co., the Transit Connect Wagon is Ford's first minivan after a six-year hiatus, but the Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars.  (AP Photo/Ford, Steve Petrovich)This undated image provided by Ford shows the Transit Connect Wagon. To the average buyer, or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co., the Transit Connect Wagon is Ford's first minivan after a six-year hiatus, but the Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars.  (AP Photo/Ford, Steve Petrovich)

Dearborn, MI - It looks like a minivan. It has sliding doors like a minivan. So why isn’t Ford calling its new seven-seater a minivan?

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For the same reason you don’t wear mom jeans or listen to Barry Manilow: It’s not cool.

The Transit Connect Wagon will debut later this month at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s set to go on sale late next fall.

To the average buyer - or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co. - it will appear that Ford is getting back into the minivan business after a six-year hiatus. The Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford’s Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford’s cars. It has sliding doors on both sides and comes in five-seat and seven-seat versions.

The new vehicle will have two four-cylinder engine options, one of which will get 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway. That would make it the most fuel-efficient minivan on the market - if it was a minivan. But Ford insists it’s not.

“It’s anything but a minivan,” said David Mondragon, Ford’s general manager of marketing. “In our mind, it’s a people mover. We think of it as more of a utility, or kind of a hybrid sport utility, than a minivan.”

Mondragon says the m-word is too polarizing and turns off Ford’s target customers: 30- to 42-year-old parents who grew up with minivans and like their utility but don’t want to sacrifice style. At one point, Ford even considered calling the wagon a “you-tility,” but it turned out another carmaker already had dibs on that one.

This undated image provided by Ford shows the Transit Connect Wagon. To the average buyer, or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co., the Transit Connect Wagon is Ford's first minivan after a six-year hiatus, but the Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars.  (AP Photo/Ford, Steve Petrovich)This undated image provided by Ford shows the Transit Connect Wagon. To the average buyer, or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co., the Transit Connect Wagon is Ford's first minivan after a six-year hiatus, but the Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars.  (AP Photo/Ford, Steve Petrovich)

“A lot of consumers in this segment are parents who still want their own identity,” Mondragon said. “There’s a lot of blandness in the industry, especially in regard to multi-passenger vehicles. They want something fresh and uniquely styled.”

The Transit Connect Wagon has a different look than the average minivan. The roof is higher, the windshield has a steeper slant and it’s got a sturdier, more industrial look.

But more importantly for Ford, the Transit Connect Wagon will be priced like a minivan. The company’s current seven-seaters, the Flex wagon and Explorer SUV, cost $30,000 or higher. While Ford isn’t releasing a price for the new vehicle yet, Mondragon says it will compete at the lower end of the market with vehicles like the Dodge Grand Caravan, a minivan that starts at $19,995.

Dealers say the vehicle fills a void in Ford’s lineup. The company stopped making the Freestar minivan in 2006, citing falling demand as customers swarmed to new crossovers like the Ford Escape. But the decision cost it some customers who needed the utility of a minivan, says Terry Kidd, who owns Kidd Ford Lincoln in Morrison, Tenn.

“We still sell used minivans. It’s a very popular body style,” he said.

This undated image provided by Ford shows the Transit Connect Wagon. To the average buyer, or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co., the Transit Connect Wagon is Ford's first minivan after a six-year hiatus, but the Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars.  (AP Photo/Ford, Steve Petrovich)This undated image provided by Ford shows the Transit Connect Wagon. To the average buyer, or, in fact, to everyone outside of Ford Motor Co., the Transit Connect Wagon is Ford's first minivan after a six-year hiatus, but the Transit Connect Wagon, which is based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the high roof of the van but trades its industrial-looking hood for the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars.  (AP Photo/Ford, Steve Petrovich)

Kidd says the Transit Connect Wagon should be as good - if not better - than other minivans on the market. That’s a far cry from the clunky, inefficient Freestar, which had trouble competing with industry leaders like the Honda Odyssey.

Ford has been selling a five-passenger version of the Transit Connect van since 2010, but it’s designed for commercial use and has few creature comforts. The new version will offer lots of bells and whistles, including a panoramic sunroof, leather seats, third-row seats that slide back and forth and the MyFordTouch entertainment system. Its second- and third-row seats fold down to create 100 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, or about 20 cubic feet less than the Nissan Quest minivan.

U.S. minivan sales peaked at 1.37 million in 2000; by last year, they had fallen to 472,398. About 3 percent of new vehicle buyers are purchasing minivans now, down from 6 percent a decade ago, according to Strategic Vision, a consulting firm. Alexander Edwards, who heads Strategic Vision’s automotive division, says Ford can move that needle, but it needs to show what makes the Transit Wagon different - its optional rear cargo doors, for example - and target nontraditional minivan buyers like aging parents and outdoor enthusiasts.

“Yes, the term minivan is polarizing, but for those who are open to a minivan-styled vehicle, most do not care or worry about such stigma,” he said.

The Transit Connect Wagon will be made in Valencia, Spain, and exported to the U.S., Asia and Europe. Ford currently sells about 35,000 Transit Connects in the U.S. each year, and about 15 percent of those are the five-passenger wagon versions, which are used by taxi companies and others. It expects to double that with the new wagon.

Rebecca Lindland, an automotive analyst with IHS Global Insight, thinks Ford is worrying too much about focus groups. Cave in and call it a minivan, she says.

“It’s a great-looking vehicle,” she said. “I think they should celebrate the utility of it.”


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Read Comments (14)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 14, 2012 at 12:21 AM sechelyoshor Says:

It's funny that the rest of the world considers owning a minivan a stigma. In our world it's almost a badge of pride!

2

 Nov 14, 2012 at 03:48 AM Brooklynhocker Says:

Ummm... I rented this in Israel already last year Sukkos, it's called the Galaxy. It's basically the same van except it had swing doors. This thing can't compete with an Odyssey or a Sienna, and it makes the Flex redundant.

3

 Nov 14, 2012 at 03:54 AM Brooklynhocker Says:

Ummm... I rented this in Israel already last year Sukkos, it's called the Galaxy. It's basically the same van except it had swing doors. This thing can't compete with an Odyssey or a Sienna, and it makes the Flex redundant.

4

 Nov 14, 2012 at 04:38 AM Pimpernuter Says:

I cannot see where Ford wants to position this non-minivan. They already offer the 7-passenger Flex, as well as the 7-seater Explorer. Why do they need another 7 passenger vehicle?

Ford Windstar/Freestar was quite bad to begin with, and suffered from poor reliability & quality. Ford is so much better today in these terms, with excellent driving dynamics which are sometimes better than the competition; still, the front nose (grille) and the complicated MyFord touch interface may be a turn off for many.

And if they want my advice to increase even more sales, and to make it better than the 2 vehicles I mentioned above, offer a 8 seater version. You won't regret it!

5

 Nov 14, 2012 at 06:38 AM YossiP Says:

It would've been easier of FORD would have just gone bankrupt... They haven't added much to the auto industry in years, and this is no exception!

7

 Nov 14, 2012 at 07:30 AM Reb Yid Says:

No one who wants a minivan will buy this, even if the non-minivan name is appealing to them. Other minivans have a space between the two seats of the middle row for people to walk to the back. This one has three seats in the middle row so you have to fold one of the side seats forward in order to get to the back. Why build a minivan that incorporates an important disadvantages of an SUV? Also, if you have two child seats in the middle row, you won't be able to get to the back. I like the comment about Ford paying too much attention to focus groups, and I wonder even what focus group would even want a vehicle with such a design.

8

 Nov 14, 2012 at 07:33 AM cynic Says:

In addition to being made overseas, there's the question of the specialized tariff problems. The original "transit" van, which is used in the US for light trucking, is deliberately built with a passenger format in Turkey, and then these are removed in the US and rebuilt as light trucks. Which adds a couple of hundred dollars or more in stupidity, just to avoid tariffs.
The url sounds funny, but seriously, check out:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_tax
for info.

9

 Nov 14, 2012 at 08:45 AM klein in grub Says:

Reply to #4  
Pimpernuter Says:

I cannot see where Ford wants to position this non-minivan. They already offer the 7-passenger Flex, as well as the 7-seater Explorer. Why do they need another 7 passenger vehicle?

Ford Windstar/Freestar was quite bad to begin with, and suffered from poor reliability & quality. Ford is so much better today in these terms, with excellent driving dynamics which are sometimes better than the competition; still, the front nose (grille) and the complicated MyFord touch interface may be a turn off for many.

And if they want my advice to increase even more sales, and to make it better than the 2 vehicles I mentioned above, offer a 8 seater version. You won't regret it!

8 seater is gr8 for chasidim. Do you think ford can be in bussiness only from chasidim?

10

 Nov 14, 2012 at 10:00 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
sechelyoshor Says:

It's funny that the rest of the world considers owning a minivan a stigma. In our world it's almost a badge of pride!

No the badge of pride is a "Suburban" (sic)

11

 Nov 14, 2012 at 12:30 PM ShmuelG Says:

There is a 7-seater from Mazda: CX9. Unlike this ugly Ford, it looks great, and it drives like a dream, virtually "hugging" the road. Nobody who ever test drove Mazda CX9 would ever buy this Ford. Give it a try.

12

 Nov 14, 2012 at 02:01 PM Anonymous Says:

I own 6 of this in Europe, 2 of them are 8 seats. Excellent vechile. One of them has 200,000 miles and another 165,000 without breakdowns. They are built to strong strength. In Europe they are offer in75, 90 and 110 bph diesel and 1.8 petrol although they are rare. In Europe you can not buy automatic. They were importing them in Israel in 8 passenger but stopped because they are manual and the Israeli want automatic. Now the volkswage caddy with automatic 7 seater is selling well in Israel. It is funny because the connect come with 4 speed automatic in the USA but can't buy it any where else except there. If the new one is as good as the present one I will be buying a few. When they are used they represent great van. Their seats are very comfortable too.

13

 Nov 14, 2012 at 06:05 PM MarkTwain2 Says:

Anybody try the new Nissan 12 passenger van?

14

 Nov 14, 2012 at 09:55 PM JackC Says:

Reply to #8  
cynic Says:

In addition to being made overseas, there's the question of the specialized tariff problems. The original "transit" van, which is used in the US for light trucking, is deliberately built with a passenger format in Turkey, and then these are removed in the US and rebuilt as light trucks. Which adds a couple of hundred dollars or more in stupidity, just to avoid tariffs.
The url sounds funny, but seriously, check out:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_tax
for info.

Thank you.
Absolutely amazing.
Ain't politics wonderful.

15

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