Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Ford Motor Co. unveils a taxicab concept version of its Transit Connect commercial utility vehicle at the New York auto show today.

The Transit Connect will go on sale in North America in mid-2009.

Ford, which has been a leader in the U.S. taxi business for decades on the strength of its Crown Victoria sedan, says the Transit Connect Taxi concept builds on that reputation.

“Taxis are an important part of the urban landscape, and the Transit Connect Taxi concept represents a potential game-changer, given its small footprint; comfortable, spacious interior; fuel-efficient engine; and affordability,” Mark Fields, president-The Americas, says in a statement.

Designed, engineered and built by Ford of Europe, the Transit Connect, of which the Taxi concept is a variation, has been widely heralded by critics and consumers. It was named “International Van of the Year” when it was launched in 2003 by an independent panel of leading journalists representing 19 European countries.

The U.S. Transit Connect will come standard with a 2.0L 4-cyl. engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, Ford says. A diesel version is not planned for North America at this time.

The Connect Van can be configured in a number of ways to meet a variety of needs. The Taxi concept version can accommodate 75 cu.-ft. (2.1 cu.-m) of parcels, plus three rear-cab passengers, Ford says.

“When cities ran out of horizontal space at the turn of the 20th century, architects started to build upward,” says Peter Horbury, executive director of design-The Americas. “The Transit Connect Taxi concept brings that same idea to the streets, changing the shape of the space, making it taller with a narrow footprint.”

The exterior of the taxi concept boasts familiar yellow paint found on most taxis and a yellow “taxi bubble,” which is lit on all four sides – green if the cab is available; orange if it’s occupied, Ford says.

Inside, the concept boasts a new electronic infotainment and navigation system that shows passengers accumulating cab fare, scrolling news, weather, sports scores and a stock ticker.

An in-dash computer powered by Microsoft (Corp.) Auto software provides high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network and works with Bluetooth-enabled phones.