Sure, the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 are slugging it out in the taxi fleet arena as we speak, but the battle may be won or lost on the homefront. To that end, Ford Transit Connect is being positioned as the “unminivan” in a move to draw in families seeking a nontraditional hauler.
A press release from Ford said the Ford Transit Connect is “a different kind of seven-seat people-mover,” all while trying to throw in the hashtag #unminivan as many times as possible. I kinda feel dirty just for having used the hashtag, to be honest, because I know I’m furthering Ford’s goal of spreading the hashtag even though I’m criticizing. But I digress.
Ford Transit Connect Brand Manager Minyang Jiang said, “Ford’s all-new Transit Connect Wagon is unlike anything else. It drives like a car, has the flexibility of a utility and can haul the payload of a full-size pickup. This new wagon is a great combination of affordability and functionality – a unique global vehicle we’re proud to offer our customers.”
I’ve told everyone I know that Nissan, in my estimation, would do well to create a non-taxi passenger version of the spartan little NV200 cargo van. Putglass all the way around, just like the NV200 Taxi, but ditch the hose-out interior and improve the infotainment picture a bit. It would be a hit with families who may not need the full seven-passenger capacity of a Nissan Quest and/or can’t stomach the Quest’s price tag, but who still appreciate an efficient, comfy people-mover. When I finally got to see an NV200 Taxi in person, I came away impressed with its ergonomics. It would make a fine family hauler.
Ford knows the same holds true for the Ford Transit Connect. That’s why making a passenger version of the Transit Connect is such a smart play. The bonus for Ford is that the Motor Company doesn’t currently have a traditional minivan like the Nissan Quest in its lineup, so there’s no risk of cannibalizing sales of a product with an already small, specific niche. While Nissan may be getting more attention from taxi fleets in some markets than the Ford Transit Connect, the Transit Connect will be getting all of the family van buyers. That’s not such a bad strategy at all. In the taxi business, perhaps the most important taxi of all that you, as an automaker, could sell is the Mom- or Dad Taxi.