Europe is crawling with small utility vans. They hold a lot of stuff, are cheap to buy and to run, and are even cool in their own way. Plumbers, florists, caterers, you name it, buy these things by the gazillions. I've often wondered "Why not in the States?" Ford has addressed the question with the introduction of the Transit Connect here at Chicago. On sale in Europe for some time, it's on its way to the U.S. next year.
At a time when commercial vehicles in America are getting bigger and more expensive, this front-drive mini-box thing is relatively compact, cheap to run (with a 2.0-liter Duratec four underhood), and should be affordable. All the old cheap, hard-working vans have gone away, like the previous Dodge Rams. The old Aerostar was a good workhorse, and the V-6-powered, rear-drive GM Astro vans have evaporated too. Besides the obvious trades-related uses, I predict some people will treat the Transit like they did the xB: Watch out for custom-painted versions with lots of seats and audio speakers in back. Watch out for custom versions at future SEMA shows.
No, it's not the C1-platformed Ford Focus we all wanted so badly. Nor is it the slick, cool Mondeo sedan we all should want here too. But the Transit's appearance on our shores demonstrates that Ford is looking at its global assets and is willing to make the investment to bring one of them here when the market scenario supports it. Let's hope that thinking continues.