Big fwd vans will fill gap in Chrysler lineup
Chrysler Group will fill a gaping hole in its commercial vehicle lineup this year with the 2014 Ram ProMaster, a full-sized front-wheel drive van based on the Fiat Ducato.
The ProMaster, introduced at the Chicago Auto Show last week, will come in 13 configurations. It will be available in two roof heights, three wheelbases and four body lengths.
Unlike its competitors, the ProMaster has front-wheel drive. It will be built in Saltillo, Mexico, for sale in North and South America, and is expected in dealerships this fall.
Because it has no rear driveshaft or differential, the ProMaster has a low load floor. Large sliding side doors and rear doors that open 260 degrees allow the ProMaster to accept full-sized pallets that can be loaded with a forklift.
The unibody ProMaster will have payload capacity of up to 5,145 pounds, depending on the configuration. The van's overall length can vary from 195 to 248 inches.
Power will come from either Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 or an optional 3.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbodiesel. The V-6 gasoline engine produces 280 hp and 256 pounds-feet of torque, and the optional diesel delivers 174 hp and 295 pounds-feet of torque.
Chrysler Group dealers haven't had a full-sized commercial van to sell since the automaker stopped selling a Dodge-badged version of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in 2010. That hole in the lineup has left Ram unable to compete for customers looking to buy a wide range of commercial vehicles from a single source, said Bob Hegbloom, director of marketing for the Ram brand.
In anticipation of the ProMaster's arrival, Ram has set up a commercial division that will work with dealers to sell and service commercial vehicles.
"Commercial customers are different," Hegbloom said. "They want to do one-stop shopping to make all their purchases from one dealership and get all of their service from one dealership."
A smaller front-wheel-drive commercial van, based on the Fiat Doblo, will be called the Ram ProMaster City and is expected to arrive in 2014. Pricing for the Ram ProMaster was not released.
Fred Diaz, president of the Ram truck brand, said the company expects to expand the network of dealerships that carry Chrysler's commercial trucks.
About 750 dealerships are qualified to sell the ProMaster, Diaz said, and that figure may edge up to 800 as Chrysler fills gaps in its geographic coverage.
David Sedgwick contributed to this report
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