New Ram chief's big job: Deliver on vans

Hegbloom's challenge: Establish the Ram brand in the market for commercial vans.
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Robert Hegbloom, the new head of the Ram brand, will get a crash course in the van market next year.

Ram plans to launch the ProMaster City in the first half of 2015 to compete with the Ford Transit Connect. In the second half, Ram plans to refresh the ProMaster full-size van.

Hegbloom, 50, who had been Ram's brand director, was promoted last week when Ram's chief, Reid Bigland, was given responsibility for Alfa Romeo in North America. Bigland's post at Alfa is a new position, and he retains his responsibilities as head of Chrysler's U.S. sales and CEO of Chrysler Canada.

Hegbloom is a Chrysler lifer who joined the automaker in 1986. His major challenges will be to establish the Ram brand in the market for commercial vehicles and with van users in particular.

Ram started selling the ProMaster full-size van in October 2013.

The ProMaster City, a small utility van, will compete with the Ford Transit Connect, the Nissan NV200 and the Chevrolet City Express, a version of the NV200 due this fall.

The ProMaster and ProMaster City are versions of Fiat vans sold in Europe.

Bigland's new responsibilities with Alfa Romeo are "an indication of how committed we are to the establishment of this brand in the North American market, a process that has already started with the introduction of the Alfa Romeo 4C," Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said last week in a press statement.

Bigland: "Ideal" for Alfa task

"Much more is expected from this brand in the next few years as outlined in our five-year plan presented on May 6, 2014, and Reid's seniority and experience are ideal for the significant task that is now getting underway."

Alfa Romeo withdrew from the U.S. in 1995 when the 164 sports sedan reached the end of its production run, ending a presence in North America dating to the 1950s.

In May, the company said it plans to invest 5 billion euros ($6.9 billion) to overhaul Alfa's lineup and position it as a luxury brand.

Last year, Alfa Romeo sold just 74,000 cars globally, the lowest level since the 1960s. Marchionne's ambitious growth plan for Alfa calls for volume to reach 400,000 globally by 2018, with the United States becoming a large market.

A new midsize sports sedan is due in the U.S. by 2016, and seven other new Alfas are in the company's five-year plan.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.


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