Ford will showcase a seven-passenger vehicle aimed at young families at the Los Angeles Show later this month.
The people-mover will feature sliding doors and will be based on the European Transit Connect commercial van. A five-seat Tourneo Connect version was shown to journalists at a Ford product event in Amsterdam last September. European buyers are already offered eight- and nine-seat Tourneo Custom models based on the larger, mid-size Transit Custom.
The company said the US Transit Connect-based models will be smaller, more fuel efficient and less expensive than minivans sold in the country by Toyota and Honda.
It added that its design – with a high roof and squared-off rear – will not trigger the ‘soccer mom stigma’ among under-30s who are beginning to start families.
Ford’s head of global engineering Hau Thai-Tang said: “Many of them grew up in the back of a minivan. Historically, different cohort groups tend to reject what they’re familiar with. We think that’s another reason a product like this would be appealing to them.”
Ford has been selling the Turkish-built Transit Connect in the US since 2009 as a commercial vehicle with about 35,000 in sales a year. The people-mover version will go on sale by the end of next year and be built in Valencia, Spain.
Minivan sales in the US peaked in 2000 at just over 1.3m and have since halved. Ford stopped production of its Freestar minivan in 2007, turning its focus to crossovers such as the Flex and the Edge and SUVs like the Escape and the Explorer.
Analysts say that minivan sales slowed due to a social view that it signals the driver has lost his or her individuality after becoming a parent, such distaste is acute among the younger generation known as the Millenials.