RICK KRANZ

Could Ford make Transit Connect a people mover?

Ford's Transit Connect is targeted at the taxi and delivery business, but Ford could decide to make a passenger version, too.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
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Ford's nixing of the seven-passenger Focus minivan doesn't necessarily mean it has given up forever on the possibility of offering a three-row compact minivan.

It still has an ace up its sleeve -- if it wants to use it.

Citing a market focused on fuel economy, Ford made the surprise announcement last week that next year it will introduce the Focus C-Max hybrid and the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Both vehicles are five-door hatchbacks.

The seven-passenger minivan, announced last year for sale in 2012 and also sharing the C-Max name, will not be sold in the United States, Ford said. A four-cylinder gasoline engine was going to power the people mover. The vehicle is sold in Europe; production also was planned in Michigan.

Besides a concern about fuel economy, an insider said the expected sticker price, estimated around $24,000 to $25,000, would put it head-to-head with the larger Dodge Grand Caravan. The business case was shaky at best.

But Ford still has an option on the table: the Transit Connect. 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.

Today, the TC is targeted at the taxi and delivery business. Gasoline and electric versions are offered, as are models with side windows and panels.

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.

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