Ford targets boomers with Transit wagon redesign

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

If you liked the Volkswagen bus, Ford thinks you’ll really like the company’s 2019 Transit Connect Wagon.

Ford Motor Co. showed the new vehicle ahead of a press event at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday. The company hopes the redesigned Transit Connect Wagon will resonate with baby boomers and families on a budget, and help the company grow its share among consumers looking for bigger vehicles.

The five-passenger van — available third-row seating can boost the total number to seven — gets a tweaked fascia, technology updates and new engine options.

But the refreshed vehicle’s biggest selling point will be the price tag. Most of Ford’s new big SUVs and trucks come with a new, big price-tag. The seven-passenger Expedition Ford debuted during last year’s Chicago show starts at $51,695, for example. Although pricing for the 2019 Transit Connect Wagon hasn’t been announced, the current version on dealer lots sells for about half that price.

Transit gets a tweaked fascia, tech updates and new engine options.

For families with tight budgets, minivans and SUVs are out of reach, said Imran Jalal, Ford marketing manager for commercial trucks and vans. The Transit Connect Wagon doesn’t have a built-in vacuum cleaner or power-sliding doors.

The price point also targets another valued demographic: baby boomers. Jalal and others think the Transit Wagon could resonate with those who might have owned an old Volkswagen van some time ago.

And 1-in-3 boomers expect to buy a car in the next three years. Ford is marketing the wagon to some of those buyers. The refreshed wagon drives like a car, according to Tim Stoehr, Ford’s fleet marketing manager. And passengers don’t have to step up or down to get into the vehicle.

“From being easy to get in and out of, plus flexible seating and cargo space, Transit Connect Wagon makes it convenient for boomers to keep enjoying family time or explore new hobbies and careers,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said.

The refreshed wagon gets all-new gas and diesel engine options – at 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas engine, or a 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel – in addition to driver-assist features like standard automatic emergency-braking.

It’s available in two wheelbases for five or seven passengers, and an XL, XLT or Titanium trim level.

The center console has an available 6.5-inch touch screen. The Transit Connect Wagon, like all new Ford vehicles, comes with a standard 4G LTE modem that can provide Wi-Fi.

Ford leadership hopes the refresh could generate some momentum for a vehicle that’s known more for its commercial vehicle cousin than as a passenger vehicle. Transit Connect sales fell 20 percent in 2017 even as U.S. consumers move out of passenger cars in favor of bigger, more capable SUVs.

The lay-flat seats also covert the interior to haul cargo. Ford expects the wagon to be able to tow 2,000 pounds with a trailer tow package.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau