Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

Will Ford’s Euro Lineup Work in U.S.?


Ford Transit Connect

Ford Transit Connect

Enlarge Photo


At this year's Chicago Motor Show, Ford pulled the wraps off the Transit Connect, a roomy little commercial van that, in years past, might have been described with words like "ungainly" and "awkward." That's because the vehicle was designed for the tight streets of Europe, which require taller, narrower products than the conventional vans and other models we've grown accustomed to on American roads.

But in a surprise move, Ford has decided to introduce the affordable and oh-so-functional Transit to the States, marking the first product, in recent years, to make the trans-Atlantic jump in whole cloth - or, if you prefer, sheetmetal.

Over the decades, Ford has often tried to share products between its various, global operations. Several versions of the old Escort, for example, were developed by the automaker's Japanese affiliate, Mazda Motors. The small car's replacement, the Focus, was initially developed primarily by Ford of Europe.

So were the Ford Contour and Mercury Mistake, er, Mystique. Less than successful in the States, those two models suffered from a variety of problems, including the difficulty in developing a product for one market, then shipping it over to another. In Europe, customers are less likely than Americans to equate size with price. And the Mondeo - the European equivalent of the Contour - played in a much more up-market segment than the U.S. version did. That caused problems in several ways, as it was difficult to engineer out the higher production costs of the Mondeo to make it possible to sell Contour for a profit.

Going forward, however, Ford's European and American engineers will be working far more closely together, so if a product has potential on both sides of the Atlantic, that will be carefully factored into the initial design. Yes, there'll likely be more content - in the form of upscale features - on the European models. But that's less difficult if such matters are considered from the start.

What's critical is that by sharing product development, Ford can shave billions off its annual product development bills. (And that allows it to give us Americans more upscale features, by the way.) It's the basic logic that has driven the Japanese and European makers forever, it seems. (And which has motivated dramatic changes in product development at General Motors, whose new Saturn Astra is exactly the same car that's sold in Europe as the Opel Astra.)

The Transit Connect is the first of the Euro wave we'll be seeing Ford use to flood a market in transition. With gas at $4 per gallon, suddenly, the smaller, more fuel-efficient products of Europe may find a major, rather than niche, audience in the U.S.

So what's to follow?

The big one to watch for is the latest version of the Fiesta, the sexy subcompact that recently went on sale in Europe. For a host of reasons, Ford will begin importing it into the U.S. in the 2010 model year. According to Mark Fields, Ford's President of the Americas, the delay was meant to ensure everything was right for the States. Among other things, it requires setting up a production line, and for that, Ford is shutting down an F-Series pickup plant in Mexico, and converting it to build Fiestas, about as big a shift in scale as you could possibly imagine.

Next up the size ladder is the European Focus. Yes, you've seen the new, '08 Focus on the road, but it's little more than a lightly modified version of the original compact car, which has been around, in the U.S. for nearly a decade. Europeans got a total remake of Focus a couple years back, which is a markedly better product, according to most reviews. You'll see it here, finally, in 2010, probably as a 2011 model.

Though they may have to negotiate narrow streets and minuscule parking spaces, Europeans still like their room and comfort, and that's led to a different breed of product than we see here. Station wagons and hatchbacks are wildly popular. So are MPVs, or Multi-Purpose Vehicles, like the Kuga, which could show up here as a downsized version of the Ford Edge.

European minivans run a range of shapes and sizes, from the large and funky Renault Espace to the compact Ford C-Max. The U.S. maker just might bring that little van, about the size of Chevrolet's HHR, to the States. An alternative is the bigger, seven-passenger C-Max. Ford has officially abandoned the minivan market in the States, opting for a new generation of "people movers," starting with the boxy Flex. Something smaller than the 4,400-pound behemoth could prove critical in an era of renewed interest in fuel economy.

Other potential transplants range from the funky little Ka, which is sized somewhere between the Smart fortwo and the Mini; the latest generation of the mid-size (by Euro standards) Mondeo, and the Transit, the big brother to the newly imported Transit Connect.

Oh, and our thanks to the Detroit Free Press for the germ of this story.
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (8)
  1. The new Euro Fiesta and Focus look really good compared to the Focus we have now. The present US Focus looks like a victim of bad plastic surgery. I especially love the gauges in the Euro Fiesta. All business. I have written and begged Ford for years to bring these cars over. It looks like it is coming true. Let's hope it is not too late. We need cars like this NOW! Scratch that. We needed cars like this 2 years ago.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. Awkward, maybe. The 2010 transit connect has 155 cubic feet of cargo space, and 19/24 fuel economy. I can live with that.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. I have to say that wether it be Ford or GM, the Euro line up is pretty cool. I know that not all of them are great fantastic, but on the whole, well styled, well engineered vehicles. I think that the Euro-wave for Ford could be a big plus. Let's just look at the design of the Fiesta, the Euro-Focus, and the Mondeo. Come on, Ford of Europe has some BEAUTIFUL cars. Compare that to the US arm, we have a re-worked Focus that's not all that pretty, and the Fusion, which is a nice car, but not as sexy as the current Mondeo. I really look forward to the possibility of the Euro-line making it's way here.
    As far as the Transit Connect, it's a great choice for the small business owner who doesn't want or need an E-150/250/350. Smart move Ford!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. Given outside proportions, many people in the US think European cars are cramped and small. What people fail to consider is the way interiors are designed in Europe. In general, the interiors of European cars are very space-efficient, much more so than the average US vehicle. Bringing European vehicles to the US would redefine the standards of interior space, fit, and finish for the auto industry. Small should not mean cheap or poorly-designed. The best example (currently available in the US) to even remotely come close to a European standard would be Honda's Fit, which has good materials and ergonomics, as well as an incredible amount of interior space for a car of its size. The Fit, known as the Jazz in Europe, was designed with such a market in mind.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. That C-Max looks like a good candidate to bring over also.
    many people who think that they require a large vehicle, such as a a mid-sized SUV or Minivan would be surprised to find that they could manage just fine with a properly configurable compact wagon or subcompact such as the Fit. A vehicle which has a low floor, fold flat rear seat and passenger seat can hold a tremendous amount of stuff.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. This is no news flash about bringing the Transit over to the US. The Econoline will not meet roof crush or crashtest in the next decade. Also, the V8 Powerstroke suddenly does not look so appetizing as a 4 banger diesel with gobs of torque.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. The more I read!.[yes-tommy, the blind, deaf -mute]
    The more I become, lets say[written] "OBTUSE": to the overly lackluster, short sightedness, of the Business partners; to the north american auto industry.
    This Espouses itself, more so here at , the car connection!.
    How so indolent ! [ harlots] they all are. To think; they have three very important reminders, of: see not , hear not, speak not. Force feed the american consumer, what we tell them they want and need.
    Of course , it has to be; built, Designed , promoted, by whom else.
    Those that are throughly ""BLIND , DEAF , DUMB, to the american market place.
    The overal out come: well, We must mold america to our LIKENESSES, for we are the way, the light, the enlightenments!. Also these are all very "stupid, fools, requiring the failing of those; that not of there liken!.
    I will not buy any thing form europe, it has no place [here]: less the capacity nor capability for any american use[s]!..
    Don't waste your time building these here, nor should [you] waste any more of my tax payer money , on your "DELIBERATED" SCHEMES THAT ARE DESIGNED TO FAIL. So I and other's, are to pay for what!.
    To harkin back, the american consumer will not , does not , purchase, small; fuel- sipping, small cars or livery.
    Well these small american ""MAKES" where driven - OUT OF, the market, by similar Brain dead morons, That Are trying to DRIVE-STEER, The North American Auto Indusrty, FAILURE IS THE OUTSTANDING OPTIONS!!.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. well times are tough for both car makers and consumers...saving on development and on fuel are needed
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

More From High Gear Media


 
 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by Homestar, LLC. Send us feedback.