Around the same time that the one millionth U.S. built Kia rolled off a Georgia assembly line, the first Ram ProMaster was being built in a Mexican Chrysler factory. The ProMaster, a revised Fiat Ducato, will give Chrysler/Dodge/Ram dealers a large commercial van to sell for the first time since the Mercedes based Sprinter went away in 2010.
It will be interesting to see how American businesses and tradesmen embrace the ProMaster. Unlike traditional full sized vans, like all of the competing products from Ford, GM and Nissan, the ProMaster has front wheel drive. Commercial and fleet buyers tend to be conservative. Look at how police officers and forces have regarded the FWD Impala, for example, compared to the Crown Vic. The Ram brand is hoping that FWD’s advantages, the lower load floor, greater headroom in back, more cargo space and improved fuel economy will offset concerns about durability as well as handling and traction when loaded. Conventional vans have a forward weight bias so adding cargo in the back improves handling and putting that weight near to the driven rear axle improves traction. Adding cargo to a FWD drive vehicle moves the weight bias away from the driven wheels.
It will take until the fall for the pipeline to fill with the new ProMaster and for the trucks to start arriving at the 800 Chrysler “BusinessLink” dealers that specialize in commercial vehicles.