Ford will import tall cargo van

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CHICAGO --- Ford Motor Co. is bringing a small but tall commercial van from Europe to the United States for use mainly in congested urban areas.

The Transit Connect van debuted at this week's Chicago Auto Show, Ford said, to take aim at the urban market with a more fuel-efficient option. It resembles the Dodge Sprinter van.

With its standard, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine, Transit Connect will have an estimated fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway. Ford says the vehicle has a carlike ride.

Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said the automaker hopes the Transit Connect will follow a trend of people moving back to densely populated U.S. cities.

The cargo capacity is 143 cubic feet, which can handle loads up to 6.5 feet long and 4.7 feet wide. Ford tried to make the cargo space more accessible with sliding doors on both sides.

The Transit Connect is manufactured in Kocaeli, Turkey. It will be available in select North American markets in mid-2009, Ford said.

In other news from the auto show:

- Chevrolet is adding a crossover with three rows of seats to its lineup -- the Traverse. The utility vehicle, which borrows its front end styling from the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, will go into production in Spring Hill, Tenn., in the third quarter of this year.

The Traverse is based on the platform used by the successful Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.

- Chrysler LLC is introducing the Dodge Challenger, a retro version of the 1970s pony car. It has the long hood, wide stance and racing stripes of the original, which was introduced for 1970 and was phased out five model years later. Even the same orange paint is available.

Unlike the original, which had nine power-train options, the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 has just one: a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 with 425 horsepower.

- Ford introduced a factory-customized model of its Edge crossover that has lower-profile tires, a lower grille and bigger wheels. The 2009 Ford Edge Sport will go on sale this fall.

The Edge Sport has side and rear skirts and polished dual exhaust tips.


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