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Author`s name Alex Naumov

Ford introduces North American version of its European van

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S.-based automaker, will introduce a North American version of its European commercial van today, part of a strategy to reduce costs by sharing products across markets.

Ford will begin U.S. sales of the compact van, known as the Transit Connect, in mid-2009, the automaker said in an e-mailed statement, Bloomberg reports.

The Ford Transit Connect is a panel van developed by Ford Europe an introduced in 2002. It replaced the older Escort van range, which had ceased production two years earlier. The Tourneo Connect, a leisure activity vehicle, is basically a Transit Connect with side windows and rear seats.

Despite the name, it shares very few components with the Transit; in fact its closes architecture is the C170 platform of the original Ford Focus. The Connect is built by Otosan in an all new production plant near Kocaeli, Turkey.

The Ford Transit Connect was awarded "Van of the Year 2004" by Professional Van and Light Truck Magazine. However, it never gained the popularity of the Ford Escort Van and the Ford Fiesta-based Ford Courier.

In January 2007 a Turkish newspaper Sabah announced that Transit Connect will be exported to United States starting in the fall of 2007. Production in North America is to begin in 2009. While Ford has been mum on this topic, in June 2007 first prototype was seen running in California. At the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, the official US unveiling of the Transit Connect took place. The vehicle will begin sales in the United States in mid-2009.