The Future of Commercial Fleets?

Remember a few years back when Daimler-Chrysler introduced the awkward-looking Sprinter van to the North American market, at Dodge and Freightliner dealers? Back then, only a few people at FedEx thought that this very Euro vehicle could make much of a dent in the full-sized van market, but today the Sprinter is well into its second generation and is a common sight on American highways. Well, the Sprinter is going to have to make room for another unusual vehicle from across the Atlantic. Yesterday I had the opportunity to drive a new Ford Transit Connect compact utility van around the city of Chicago, and in all respects it looks like a winner for contractor fleets, P&D fleets and any other fleet that needs a versatile, maneuverable, economical city vehicle that can swallow a lot of cargo. Like the Sprinter, the Transit Connect is tall and boxy, for maximum space utilization. But the new Ford is a better match for smaller jobs with quicker turn-arounds, and is an easier fit for less-experienced drivers. As part of the Ford press event, we visited with several small business owners--a restaurateur/caterer, a paint & wallpaper store owner, and a home & garden store owner--who talked at length about how the new cargo-hauler could benefit their businesses. It was an effective presentation, and I left wondering if "smaller & quicker" might become the mantra of tomorrow's commercial fleets... If so, then Ford is ready with the right product. Good show! PS: Ford is working with Smith Electric Vehicles to produce a battery-electric version of the Transit Connect that will hit the market a year from now, and I have a feeling that Ford may have a hit on its hands.