DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) – Taking a page from its European division, Ford Motor Co. is bringing its small commercial van, Transit Connect, to the U.S. market.

The boxy cargo vans, the first of Ford’s European vehicles to cross the Atlantic, will be available in showrooms this summer, and Ford will show the car this week at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show.

The vans are aimed at small-business owners looking for a vehicle they can customize and maneuver easily through congested city streets. Ford said it is looking to fill a void that market.

“We believe no one is doing this. This is really a whitespace opportunity for us,” said Rob Stevens, chief engineer for commercial vehicles at Ford, during a preview of the vehicle last week. “We saw people trying to use small cars and minivans to deliver things.”

The cargo capacity is 143 cubic feet, which can handle loads up to 6.5 feet long and 4.7 feet wide. Ford tried to make the cargo space more accessible with sliding doors on both sides.

A catering company, for example, could retrofit the Transit Connect to contain shelving for trays and cakes. A cleaning company could outfit the vehicle to hold vacuum cleaners. Pricing starts at $21,000.

A similar vehicle has been available in Europe since 2003, with Ford selling about 110,000 of them in 2007, Stevens said. The Transit Connect is manufactured in Turkey.

Ford is bringing several other of its European vehicles to the U.S., including the Ford Fiesta, a subcompact and the European version of the Focus.

The Transit Connect is estimated to get about 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on highways. Ford is planning to bring a battery-electric version of the Transit Connect in 2010.


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