Ford Might Kill The U.S.-Market Transit Connect In 2023, Marking A Turning Point For Small Vans In America

Morning Dump Ford Transit Connect

Ford might kill the Transit Connect, another American Hyundai supplier faces allegations of child labor use, Ford is reportedly cutting 3,000 jobs. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Ford Is Reportedly Killing The U.S.-Market Transit Connect

2021 Ford Transit Connect
Photo credit: Ford

It sounds like trouble might be brewing in small commercial van paradise. Automotive News reports that Ford plans on making 2023 the last model year for the Transit Connect in America.

Ford currently imports the Transit Connect from Spain. The automaker last year developed a plan to produce a next-generation version, code-named V758, at its Hermosillo Assembly Plant starting in 2023. It would have been built on the same platform as the Maverick compact pickup and Bronco Sport, which also are assembled in Hermosillo.

The automaker scrapped that plan earlier this year, according to the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss internal decisions that have not been made public. Ford will stop importing the van for the U.S. market by the end of next year, the people said, although the nameplate will live on as a Europe-only model.

With the Nissan NV200 put out to pasture, numbered days for the Mercedes-Benz Metris, and the reported upcoming demise of the Transit Connect, the only smaller mainstream commercial van sold new in America could soon be the Ram Promaster City. It’s a bit of a shame considering these city-sized vans are perfect for florists, pool repair companies, dealership parts departments and the like. This segment contraction poses a really big question: how long will these smaller vans stick it out in fleets across the country? Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari commercial vans stuck around for absolute ages after they exited production, so I’m curious to see if the Transit Connect and its ilk will have a similar legacy.

Another American Hyundai Supplier Faces Allegations Of Child Labor Use

Sonata N Line
Photo credit: Hyundai

Terrible things often happen, but if they happen twice is that a coincidence or a pattern? Reuters reports that the U.S. Department of Labor alleges another Hyundai supplier in Alabama is using child labor.

The Department of Labor (DOL) said that SL Alabama LLC, a subsidiary of South Korea’s SL Corp, employed underage workers at its Alexander City, Alabama factory, according to filings on Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Since last November, SL Alabama “repeatedly violated” labor regulations by “employing oppressive child labor” and “minors under the age of 16,” the DOL said in a six-page complaint.

In a statement to Reuters, SL Alabama admitted children had worked at the plant, which makes headlights, rear lights and other components for companies including Hyundai and its Kia affiliate. SL said the minors had been hired by an outside labor recruitment firm, which it didn’t identify.

These allegations come after claims of child labor at Hyundai subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC. This is a troubling story to see and it raises the question: Where else is this happening in the supply chain?

Volkswagen Reportedly Plans To Source Battery Materials From Canada

Volkswagen ID.4 Chattanooga
Photo credit: Volkswagen

Volkswagen may have found a way around America’s EV credit battery sourcing requirements, and it includes a generous helping of maple syrup. According to a Bloomberg report, the German automaker has reached a deal with Canada for raw materials.

The memorandum of understanding will be signed during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s current trip to Canada and is designed to shorten supply chains for VW’s facilities in the U.S. and avoid difficulties linked to tariffs and tax regulations, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. The move has partly been prompted by new rules that President Joe Biden signed into law last week, the person added.

Volkswagen and Canadian government leaders have scheduled a virtual press conference for Tuesday “to announce an agreement to jointly advance electric mobility in the country.”

As a Canadian, this agreement makes a ton of sense. We’re generally a little bit more aligned from a social perspective with Europe than we are with the U.S., plus we have a traditionally natural resource-based economy. It certainly helps that Volkswagen Group does alright up here sales-wise, with mainstream and high-end models all enjoying decent popularity, plus Volkswagen ID.4 production in Chattanooga, Tenn. and battery production nearby helps simplify the potential supply chain freight situation.

Ford To Cut 3,000 Jobs In Shift To EVs.

Ford Maverick Hybrid Xlt 03
Photo credit: Ford

Reuters reports that Ford is trimming 3,000 salaried and contract jobs as it restructures its workforce for the EV future, a fairly sizable blow to the global automotive workforce.

Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley has been saying for months that he believed the Dearborn, Mich. automaker had too many people, and that not enough of its workforce had the skills required as the auto industry shifts to electric vehicles and digital services.

“We are eliminating work, as well as reorganizing and simplifying functions throughout the business. You will hear more specifics from the leaders of your area of the business later this week,” Farley and Ford Chairman Bill Ford wrote in a joint email.

That’s a lot of people who are about to be given early retirement packages and pink slips, and the last thing we need given rampant inflation [Ed note: I don’t actually think inflation is as bad as some people are making it out to be and given the number of open jobs this could be cast as a realignment – MH] is people out of work. Higher costs of living mean it’s harder to put food on the table and keep on top of bills while searching for a new job, adding stresses that job seekers shouldn’t have to suffer through. While the 3,000 jobs lost will be scattered across the globe, Reuters says that most of them are positions in America, Canada, and India. It’s not great hearing that many positions will be cut close to home and I wish everyone caught up in this the best of luck in finding new jobs.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s almost hard to believe that August is winding down. I hope everyone had a wonderful automotive summer, and I’m curious to hear what car-related plans everyone has for the autumn. Do you hope to take your toy to a pumpkin patch, wish to hit up your local drive-in theater as the evenings cool, or plan on completing some much-needed maintenance? Whatever the case, I’d love to hear what you’re cooking up for the next few months before snow flies.

Lead photo credit: Ford

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43 Responses

  1. I wonder if there is enough overlap between the Maverick and TC buyers that they figured there wasn’t upside to develop a van version of the Maverick?

    It seems like this is driven by the TC being replaced by a rebadged VW in Europe, so there isn’t a business case for a US-only next gen TC. I’m a bit sad though since I had pushed hard for a TC wagon instead of the mall explorer I have now…

  2. So is the common factor in the underage workers really a Hyundai problem, or an Alabama problem??

    Not much planned, outside routine day-to-day stuff. Though we do have another camping trip planned, then will probably load the trailer to restock on firewood.

  3. So anyone have thoughts/experience on what’s left for the small van market? Will Chrysler be the only entrant, or will another company start making them do you think?

    Or is this a sign that the market here in the U.S. big van only at this point?

    The venerable E-150 seems to slot size-wise between the Transit Connect and the Transit, which makes me wonder if that’s the actually most useful size for the kinda businesses that use these.

      1. Perhaps the kids are so eager for a job that they lie about their ages. That seem more likely to me than recruiters driving around in ‘Free Candy Vans’ and trapping them with nets like Dog Catchers.

      2. Hyundai didn’t choose to set up shop in Alabama because it’s a worker’s paradise. If conditions aren’t great for adults, stands to reason people would be hesitant to stick their head up when they see violations

        1. Bloomberg some years back did an excellent article about the bad working conditions in OEM and supplier plants in the South. Obviously they are happy with the status quo.

          Pepperidge Farm remembers when Gov Snyder rammed through right-to-work in Michigan, promising all sorts of factories would locate here instead of other states. Hasn’t really made a difference.

    1. Alabama is a lot like New Jersey, it seems like everything is legal there. Til you get caught. Life is hard there for a lot of folks. It can seem to be like a 3rd world country in a lot of areas. And sometimes bad shit seems to slip through the cracks.

  4. Seriously bummed about the loss of the transit connect. I’ve been enjoying a 2020 that I converted for camping. I was waiting for the maverick based update hoping that they would finally make it possible to fit a full 4×8 sheet of plywood inside.

    1. They should restyle it so it looks like a larger Kei van, and market it like a Kia Soul. I’m not sure why Ford would want to kill a vehicle that is number one for sales numbers in it’s segment though. Kind of a head scratcher. I’d be more likely to bet that it’s still going to produce something like it in North America. Maybe a PHEV model in Tennessee. They just pruchased a bunch of land there.

    2. I am also disappointed by the loss of Ford Transit. I did a gig for a few years delivering flowers in one and I came to really appreciate it. A good, no nonsense vehicle.

      I seriously thought about (but never did) think about acquiring one as a sort of poor-man’s camper with room for a dirt bike, a hammock, a gas cooker, and jugs enough for 10 or 20 gallons of water… you perhaps couldn’t get too far off road, but otherwise you could anywhere.

  5. *That’s a lot of people who are about to be given early retirement packages and pink slips, and the last thing we need given rampant inflation*

    As harsh as it is to say this, one of the primary drivers of inflation is how few people are out of work. More people laid off would on balance reduce inflation, and the Fed raising rates so quickly has the unspoken but implied goal of cooling off the labor market.

    We can feel sorry for the people affected without implying that inflation would be affected negatively by the layoffs.

    1. Yeah, it’s caused by employment. Has nothing to do with the trillions in government money printing.

      It’s hilarious how every bank and government puppet media organization will write endless editorials about how “the bailouts won’t cause inflation”, which turned to “well, there is inflation but it’s only 4%” which turned to “inflation is actually good”, which became “Ok, inflation is here but it’s because the economy is doing so well” which turned to “actually we need to get rid of workers”. And people will parrot this nonsense.

      1. “one of the” doesn’t mean “the only”

        And I didn’t say get rid of workers, or even endorse the Fed’s policy. But the wage/price spiral is pretty well studied and understood, and if you’ve spent any time at all reviewing job openings the last year, you know that nominal wages really are going up.

      2. Whatever payrolls are doing to inflation is a rounding error compared to corporate profits and handouts, but the corporations have been training ‘muricans to think this way for decades.

        “”job creators” need their taxes cut and subsidies, regular people are just lazy and should just pull themselves by their bootstraps, while also paying taxes to keep the trough full.

  6. It’ll be time to dig out the Fluid Film and sprayer again in my never-ending battle with the tin worm. This year is an “unbolt everything” year for spraying. So all the underbody panels will be removed to spray behind them. As much as I dislike doing that, I hate dealing with rusty bolts more.

    1. Getting ready to apply Fluid Film myself. Along with a hard look at the protective shield under there: a pattern I’ve seen suggests that I can make my own shield / skid plate with a metal brake and creative use of metal shears & angle-grinder. Plus change to winter oil, and yearly coolant drain&refill. Also looking for any marginal steering/suspension bits: I’d rather wrench now while it’s nice than cut short an all-too-limited snow expedition day!

  7. I’ve got two more big car-related events before the weather changes: the Portland All-Btitish Field Meet at PIR on September 10, and the Goin’ With The Flo Vintage Trailer Rally in Florence, OR on October 7-9. Both always a good time.

      1. Yeah not fired just right sizing, reallocation of resources. What could be better during the highest inflation rates since Carter than being fired? I mean all those high paid engineers and union workers in their 50s get to collect unemployment while being retrained in a new field where they will get to restart their careers as interns or bottom of the barrel new associates with corresponding low pay. I’m sure everyone will be clamoring to get in on that.

  8. Yeah not fired just right sizing, reallocation of resources. What could be better during the highest inflation rates since Carter than being fired? I mean all those high paid engineers and union workers in their 50s get to collect unemployment while being retrained in a new field where they will get to restart their careers as interns or bottom of the barrel new associates with corresponding low pay. I’m sure everyone will be clamoring to get in on that.

  9. Just coming out of five years of working in freight expediting, the Transit Connect is immensely popular amongst small business and courier/freight expediting circles. The main problem with it is that Ford has kept the best and most efficient engines, the TDCI turbodiesel engines, out of the US Market. We ALMOST had them in 2020 – I was literally on the verge of pulling the trigger on ordering a brand new 2020 TC with the 1.9 TDCI, WHICH MET US AND CALIFORNIA EMISSIONS STANDARDS, I may add… and the week before the books were supposed to open, they pulled the plug on it. I was so irritated I decided to not go through with the order. The TDCI engines, btw, get 35 mpg city, 43 highway and 38 combined – dramatically better than the 22/30/27 of the 2.0 4 cylinder gasser.

    Moving this to the Escape Platform, with a hybrid and PHEV setup, seems like a no brainer here. But Ford is notoriously prone to shooting themselves in the foot. This insane fixation on profit margins is eliminating entire segements THAT FORD LEADS OR IS HIGHLY COMPETITIVE IN SALES. See the Focus/Fiesta/Fusion stupidity.

    The commercial sector, as a whole, is deeply overlooked in the North American market, and its super obnoxious. Perhaps Stellantis will use this as an opportunity to refresh the Promaster City and offer the midsize Peugeot/Citroen vans which have PHEV and EV powertrains, and take over the market.

    The first manufacturer that actually realizes that small-medium businesses NEED an efficient, reliable work van that is small enough to navigate tight urban cores will absolutely PRINT money. But every manufacturer seems to think that businesses should just rebuild old Econlines/Expresses and even crusty old Astros/Safari’s permanently. Meanwhile, every other market in the world has dozens of commercial vehicle options.

    The perpetual abject neglect of a multibillion dollar sales sector here in North America absolutely bizarre.

  10. My plans for Autumn are to get the new body shell for my custom microcar ready as a functioning prototype. I’m doing away with outboard wheels and they will be flush with the airflow due to a widened nacelle. Hoping to get a CdA of under 0.10 m^2. If it works, I will make a composite structure wrapped in marine grade fiberglass or maybe carbon fiber.

  11. Transit hypothesis: “Premiumization.” It’s a thing, across cars, and cameras, beer and bottled water, and on and on. Corporations want to increase the margin they make on each sale, and are happily willing to give up on volume to do it. It’s pretty hard to “premium-ize” a Transit – it’s a van. An empty box with wheels. No one who buys a van is going to spend much on fine Corinthian leather, so there’s not much upsell. If you’re Ford, the energy spent on selling Transits is better spent on selling F-150s.

    Second hypothesis. One of the factors causing inflation, over time, is that consumers just can’t buy the cheap version of many goods any more. They’re not being made.

  12. What’s Ford thinking?
    Swap the engine for the cheapest Mach-E drivetrain, stick with the long wheelbase model, hipsterify the bodywork a bit and get ahead of the incoming VW Buzz.
    License to print money right there.

  13. At my company we have Transits and Transit Connects, depending on which position/role is being filled. The big Transits are giant lumbering dinosaurs and are miserable to drive by compared to the nimble Transit Connects, I cannot fathom why there are people that choose to drive vans and trucks that big when they don’t have to.

    1. “giant lumbering dinosaurs” Just curious, have you ever driven an E-series? Anecdotally, I’ve seen people say the Transit is much more “car-like” and better handling than an E-series.

      I’ve never driven a full-size Transit but I daily’d an E-150 for seven years and got pretty well used to it, even felt fun sometimes. I actually think I’ve hit curbs on tight turns more with my Prius, somehow.

      I’m just sad it’ll probably be 20 years before conversion E-Transits are even close to affordable on the used market…

  14. Yeah, I think it’s just a money thing. Costs too much to build in Spain and import, no production capacity at Hermosillo.

    Stellantis doesn’t seem to care much about the PMC, either – at least for the US. They just sort of allow it to continue to exist as is.

  15. Once I get my transmission buttoned up (decided to replace the Torque Converter Clutch solenoid on a whim along with new solenoid o-rings and filter replacement), I plan to enjoy the fall with the top off on my Jeep. A couple months ago I bought a Bestop Sunrider, a soft top front header panel which lets you simply fold up the first 1/3 of the Jeep’s top in seconds. It’s probably one of the best upgrades I’ve made and I plan to continue getting full use out of it this fall. I may also take it out to some rural bike trails for autumn sight seeing if I get the chance.

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