UPDATED: 10/21/13 9:03 am ET - adds link
DETROIT -- The Ford Transit Connect Taxi is going global as the automaker announced that it would begin selling the vehicles in Hong Kong in early 2014.
New Transit Connect vehicles sold in Hong Kong, will come equipped with a Ford-engineered liquefied petroleum gas fuel system to make use of the well-established LPG infrastructure in the country. This feature is an option on the models sold in the United States.
"Since 2010, Transit Connect models sold have had the option to be upfitted with a fuel system that can run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas" Ford truck communications manager Mike Levine said.
In the United States, the 2014 model is available with a $300 factory-installed engine prep package that enables the vehicle to withstand the demands of CNG/LPG fuel.
The vehicles, expected to go on sale in early 2014, come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a six-speed automatic transmission. And by modifying the vehicles to run on CNG/LPG at the factory, or at a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier, the upgrades will not affect the factory-set calibrations.
"[The] Ford Transit Connect Taxi has proven itself in taxi fleets across the U.S.," Raj Nair, group vice president, said in a statement. "Now, we are building on that success, offering the vehicle for sale in even more markets, including global cities like Hong Kong."
The 2014 Transit Connect Taxi has decreased height to give taxi companies more clearance to place advertisements on the roof. The floor has been lowered to improve access. The taxi can be made wheelchair accessible through the Qualified Vehicle Modifier program.
The 2014 model also is longer than its predecessor, allowing for seating for five and increased cargo space. The extra interior space can be used to haul more luggage or to hold the CNG/LPG tank if the vehicle is converted from gasoline.
"We're leveraging our longtime leadership and expertise in the North American taxi market to ensure the Transit Connect Taxi exceeds the expectations of taxi operators and their passengers," Tim Stoehr, commercial truck marketing manager for Ford, said in a statement. "Transit Connect Taxi has been popular in major metropolitan cities since it debuted in 2010, and it has only gotten better."
According to Ford, it owns nearly 60 percent of the taxi market and in 2012, 55 percent of Transit Connect sales were to fleets.
In addition to the new Transit Connect Taxi being launched globally, Ford is planning on bringing the Connect Wagon stateside from Europe by early 2014. A move which Ford hopes will pay off for them.
"We believe there's an opportunity. The Transit Connect Wagon is virtually the same size as seven-passenger minivans were when they were introduced during the 1980s," Levine said. "Since then, they've gotten too big, too expensive and consume too much fuel."
The Transit Connect Wagon is a seven-passenger people hauler, and according to Levine, is expected to get more than 30 mpg, 5 mpg more than the Toyota Sienna on the highway.
Brad Wernle contributed to this report.
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