The secret has been very poorly kept, but Chrysler’s Ram Trucks division finally completely confirmed it will sell a Fiat-sourced full-size van in North America. The vehicle, based on the Fiat Ducato van range, will be known as the 2014 Ram ProMaster, and will arrive at dealers in the third quarter of 2012.
This formal announcement isn’t all that surprising. Not only has Ram admitted it would sell another Fiat-based van on our shores, but early last year, Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announced the large Ducato – which is comparable in size to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Ford Transit — would also join Ram’s North American portfolio.
“The Promaster strengthens our commercial lineup, offering a full line of work trucks and vans,” Fred Diaz, Ram brand president, said in a prepared statement. “Our relationship with Fiat has given us access to great products and technology that will resonate with our U.S. and Canadian Ram Truck customers.”
Unlike the Sprinter, 2014 Transit, or any other full-size van presently sold in our market, the Ducato is a front-wheel-drive vehicle. Although Ram hints the model was “significantly redesigned” to offer “features and powertrains preferred by North American commercial customers,” it remains to be seen if a switch from front- to rear-wheel-drive is in the cards. The same goes for a cosmetic overhaul – Ram says to expect some Ram-like cues in the final product, although the test mules we’ve seen running around Michigan have sported few changes apart from a crosshair grille insert.
Chrysler hasn’t said which Ducato models will be adapted for our market, but given the spread of the present Ducato range, Ram could easily offer the ProMaster in cargo, passenger, chassis-cab, and cutaway guises. It also remains to be seen what engine is squeezed underhood. Overseas, the Ducato is offered with a number of small, turbo-diesel four-cylinders, ranging from 1.9 to 3.0-liters in displacement. Given the largest option yields 175 hp and 294 lb-ft of torque, we wouldn’t be surprised if something a little more powerful is being readied for the U.S.-spec ProMaster.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the North American-market ProMaster will be built within Chrysler’s plant in Satillo, Mexico, which presently manufactures a number of Ram pickup models. Time is certainly of the essence – if Ram manages to get the ProMaster into dealers this fall, it could beat the Ford Transit to our market. Ford says production of its U.S.-spec Transit van should begin in Kansas City, Missouri, by the end of 2013, but precise timing remains to be disclosed.