Ford releases new compact van in U.S.

LOS ANGELES The cost of gasoline affects anyone who owns a vehicle, and that's especially true for businesses. An increase in the price of gas can eat into the bottom line pretty quickly.

/*Ford*/ has just come out with an interesting business solution; a new compact van called the /*Transit Connect*/.

"The target customer is our small business owner," said Ford spokesman Len Deluca. "Anybody that has a business that's a plumber or in the home, an electronic installation's business, a florist, a caterer..."

The Transit Connect has already been on sale in Europe for several years.

Its 22 miles per gallon rating could be well received by businesses in the U.S. It could also show the country that car makers are listening.

"It's the kind of thing that puts a spotlight on, 'Hey what are these guys doing to meet my current needs and current problems in terms of the automotive industry now,'" said auto journalist Patrick Paternie.

The Transit Connect's appeal can be furthered with special interiors, such as storage and shelves for people like contractors and caterers.

Part of the appeal of a Transit Connect as a commercial vehicle is the fact that is has a relatively fuel efficient 4-cylinder engine. It can save a lot on gasoline.

Next year, Ford is expected to release a new electric Transit Connect.

The battery ones are still about a year away, but for now, the conventional Transit Connect uses about half the fuel of a big van.

Marianne Atkinson is the owner of Ivy's Flower Station. When she needed a delivery van last year, she chose the /*Chevy HHR*/, which seemed less wasteful.

"I would see a lot of the other flower shop vans and they'd have these huge vans driving all over downtown L.A. and they would have one flower arrangement in the back," said Atkinson.

She likes the HHR because it can do double duty. When she needs to drive her kids around, the rear seat can go back up.

Ford says its new small van offers much greater cargo space than the HHR and comes with a back seat as well, which potential customers have asked for.

"I want to use it during the week for my business but then I want to bring it home and use it because we go out and camp or we ride bikes on the weekend," said Deluca.

It may look kind of futuristic, but the Transit Connect is here now, ready to help companies of all sizes tackle the cost of doing business.

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