Ford today revealed the details of the taxi version of its 2014 Transit Connect van. The taxi model will enter production in Valencia, Spain, and go on sale in the U.S. market next year.
Whereas the 2014 Ford Transit Connect cargo van — as well as the family-oriented Transit Connect Wagon — will be offered in two different wheelbases with two engine choices, the taxi version has just one configuration. It uses the longer wheelbase, seats five people, and uses a 2.5-liter inline-four engine. The engine can be optioned with a prep package so that a fleet can equip it to run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, which could save money for taxi fleet operators. Even with a CNG tank taking up some room, Ford says the Transit Connect Taxi will offer an impressive 60.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
Other upgrades for taxi duty include lowering the floor of the 2014 Ford Transit Connect, for easier wheelchair access. The roofline is also lower than on the previous Transit Connect, so cab drivers can add signs on top while still fitting under low garage entrances, and there’s now an interior hood release for easier fluid checks. As for whether it can withstand the rigors of taxi duty, the automaker says its rigorous testing procedures for the 2014 Ford Transit Connect included slamming the sliding doors 250,000 times. Optional equipment includes the Sync voice-recognition software, a backup camera, and MyFord Touch with navigation.
The news of a taxi model comes at the same time as reports surfaced that the federal government has warned Ford over the manner in which it imports the current Transit Connect. The van is built in Turkey and shipped to the U.S., but due to an old law colloquially known as the “Chicken Tax,” cargo vans imported here are subject to a 25 percent tax. Passenger vehicles, however, pay only a 2.5-percent tax, so Ford imports the Transit Connect with seats and seatbelts, then removes them in order to sell it as a cargo van.
Automotive News reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection warned Ford to stop this practice. In a statement, CBP said, “It is clear that the Connect is a commercial vehicle first and foremost,” and that Ford’s current importation program, “serves no manufacturing or commercial purpose… [except to] manipulate the tariff schedule.” Ford reportedly plans to appeal the ruling.