DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. wants to position the third-generation Transit Connect Wagon as a less expensive, more capable minivan alternative to help further expand its dominant share in the commercial vehicle market.
The seven-seat wagon variant of the segment-leading Transit Connect, introduced Thursday ahead of the Chicago Auto Show, comes with a new front end, new powertrain and a host of new driver-assist features. It's scheduled to go on sale this fall and will be the first U.S. vehicle with Ford's new 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel engine that's expected to get at least 30 mpg.
Ford owned about a 45 percent share of the compact van segment in 2017and hopes to grow that number by targeting active baby boomers who might not be able to afford a traditional minivan or large crossover.
"It's an entry-level product that brings customers into the fold for the first time," said John Ruppert, Ford's commercial vehicle sales and marketing manager. "Small vans have turned into a really big business for us."
Ford introduced the Transit Connect to the U.S. in 2010 and last redesigned it in 2014. In 2017, Ford sold 34,473 Transit Connects, nearly double the sales of the second-place Nissan NV200. To date, officials say, about 97 percent of the roughly 300,000 small vans sold since its introduction are still on the road.