Ford plans U.S. version of Euro minivan

Ford has announced that it will return to the minivan market for the first time in four years, with plans to debut an American version of its previous European-only C-Max compact van.

With minivan sales dropping off, Ford made the decision in 2006 to discontinue the flailing Freestar model in America. Meanwhile, Europe got a small minivan known as the C-Max that was based off of the successful Focus platform.

Now, the success of small cars like the Focus and Fiesta coupled with an expected boom in the minivan market is causing Ford to bring the C-Max stateside. Ford product development chief Derrick Kuzack told Bloomberg that the automaker purposefully avoided making the car look like a "box on wheels," instead opting for the exterior styling featured on the company's more recent successes. Although smaller than competitors, the C-Max still features seating for seven and a focus on cargo space.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, minivan sales are expected to increase by 52 percent in 2012. That makes the arrival of the C-Max in late 2011 optimal for capitalizing on the rising number of families in the market for a vehicle.

Drivers who are interested in the company's earlier van models may be able to find used Ford Freestars or Windstars are their local dealer.