The van market is slowly changing.
The Ford Transit Connect is the first to test new waters, determining whether there's a big market for a small commercial van. Dodge and Nissan are eyeing this market, too.
But is everyone overestimating this market?
Ford's Transit Connect is compact in size, front-drive and seemingly perfect for pickup and delivery, especially in major urban markets like New York City or Chicago. These are cities where traffic is difficult to maneuver throughout the day and parking is nearly impossible to find. For some businesses in this environment, a compact van is the perfect vehicle.
Ford is also touting the Transit Connect as a taxicab. The Ford Crown Victoria, popular with cops and cabbies, ends production sometime next year. Behind the Transit Connect's second-row seat, there's still loads of space, perfect for carrying a family's suitcases.
Ford is covering all bases, offering Transit Connects that operate on compressed natural gas and propane. A pure electric battery offering is planned, too.
Of course, Ford won't have this segment to itself. In the next several years, Dodge and Nissan will offer similar-sized vans for the U.S. market. Dodge's van will be based on a Fiat model. Nissan's will evolve from a Renault product. Although no details have been released by either automaker, the expectation is that they will be targeting the same buyers as Ford.
But, I wonder if the three automakers are overestimating the U.S. market for compact vans?
Through September, Ford has sold 19,244 Transit Connects. That averages to about 2,140 per month. If that trend continues, that could be 25,680 for the year. Not a big sales number.