With a big lift from its Fiat partner, Chrysler Group's Ram truck brand is moving beyond its core pickup truck business into commercial vans.
The first entry will be the Ram CV cargo van, a panel van without rear windows. The Ram CV is a version of the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan that has been reworked for cargo use and rebranded as a Ram. These vehicles have been sold in the past as Dodge Caravans.
Following that, more commercial vans are on the way for Ram from Italian partner Fiat. Ram is planning its own version of the Fiat Doblo, a Ford Transit Connect-sized small commercial van, and a larger commercial van based on either the Fiat Ducato or Iveco Daily. Both Ram vans most likely will be slated for the 2014 model year.
Ram Dakota: Ram will stop making the Dakota this month. Sources say discussions of a possible replacement for the mid-sized pickup have been shelved.
Ram 1500: The Ram 1500 pickup is scheduled for a "major modification," according to the company's 2009 five-year plan. That's likely to come in the form of a new powertrain that would include Chrysler's Pentastar V-6 engine and a new ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission. The 1500 is not likely to get the eight-speed until the 2014 model year. Chrysler plans to start producing the transmissions in Indiana in 2013.
Ram 2500/3500: For the 2012 model year, Ram's heavy-duty pickups will get a new six-speed automatic transmission that will be mated to the 5.7-liter Hemi. A six-speed automatic is standard on models with the 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel. Sources say Ram is planning an air-spring suspension on its heavy-duty pickups.
Ram CV: The CV is a version of the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan that has been reworked for cargo use and rebranded as a Ram. The vehicles have been sold in the past as Dodge Caravans. The CV is scheduled to appear in the third quarter of 2011 as a 2012 model. It will be geared to small businesses and commercial fleets and will be powered by the Pentastar V-6.
Small commercial van: Ram is planning a van based on the Fiat Doblo that will target the Ford Transit Connect. Sources say the van is delayed but still on track and now is likely to appear in 2013 as a 2014 model. The Doblo's interior is being adapted to meet U.S. safety regulations.
Large commercial van: Chrysler also plans a large Ram commercial van to replace the Mercedes-built Dodge Sprinter. The Sprinter disappeared from Dodge dealerships after Fiat assumed control of Chrysler in 2009. The new large van is also likely to appear in 2013 as a 2014 model.
Between Fiat and its Iveco commercial vehicle unit, Chrysler has two large commercial vans to choose from: the front-drive Fiat Ducato and rear-drive Iveco Daily. The most likely engines for the van are diesels. Diesels equipped the Sprinter, and Fiat has an array of diesel engines in its European commercial van fleet.
Luca Ciferri contributed to this report