At the 2013 International Association of Transportation Regulators Conference in St. Louis, Ford unveiled its all-new Transit Connect Taxi, which offers more cargo and passenger room than the previous model.
The new and improved people mover features a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, which has an available $300 factory-installed engine prep package that will allow for conversion to clean-burning compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Ford expects the new Transit Connect Taxi to have best-in-class fuel economy, which will have to beat the Nissan NV200′s 24 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
“The new Transit Connect Taxi has been designed with the for-hire transportation driver and their passengers in mind, creating a product that combines stylish looks and improved comfort with legendary Built Ford Tough quality,” said Gerald Koss, fleet marketing manager for Ford, in a recent statement.
Changes to the new model include a longer wheelbase for seating for five passengers, increased cargo capacity, lower floor for improved access, upgraded driver technologies, interior hood release, and decreased vehicle height. The Transit Connect Taxi can also be modified to be wheelchair accessible, thanks to Ford’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier program.
Before unveiling the new Transit Connect Taxi, Ford put it through test after test, including opening and closing its sliding doors through 250,000 door-slam cycles, all in preparation for what it would be subject to while on the job. Production for the newest Transit Connect model will enter production and arrive at dealers by early 2014.
That is, if Ford’s recent spat with the government doesn’t get in the way. Ford brings over all Transit Connects with full interiors and strips them down to avoid selling commercial-grade vehicles with a 25-percent tariff attached to them, known as the “chicken tax.” The government is trying to close the loophole, forcing Ford to either pay the tax or forfeit selling the Transit Connect in the U.S. Meanwhile, Ford wants the U.S. to maintain it so that Japanese companies cannot start importing trucks into the U.S.–mostly because Japan’s sanctions on shipped goods make the chicken tax look like small beans. We’ll see what happens; you can’t always have your cake and eat it, too.