Bob Hegbloom, the new director-Ram brand product marketing for Chrysler, recently told Ward's Auto that the company may be bringing as many as three European vans to U.S. shores in 2012. The vans would be adapted to the U.S. market.
According to the report, Chrysler's product plan suggests two new Ram vans next year, one based on the European Fiat Doblo, a Class 1 vehicle with maximum payload of 2,205 lbs. Hegbloom also suggested that either the Fiat Ducato, a front-wheel-drive vehicle, or the Iveco Daily, a Class 3-4 van, could be heading ashore. Or maybe both, he said.
The Ducato has a maximum GVWR of 8,818 lbs. and would compete with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the new Nissan NV, and the Ford E-Series. The Ducato would fall into what Hegbloom said was the market's sweet spot: Class 2 trucks with a 6,000 to 10,000 lb. GVWR.
“That's where the big volume is,” Hegbloom said. “That's the largest piece of the pie.”
According to Ward's Auto, Class 2 truck deliveries (including pickups) are 13.1% ahead of 2010 sales numbers, with 637,050 units sold through May.
The Ducato is debuting in a number of overseas markets this year, Hegbloom said, with a 177-hp. 3.0L I-4 turbodiesel with a fuel economy rating of more than 25 mpg. Of the likely competitors for the van, only the Sprinter offers a diesel engine.
While the Ducato is a smaller van, customers looking for a Ram-branded product that is just a bit larger may have hope with the Iveco Daily.
With a 15,000 lb. GVWR and spanning Class 3-4, the Daily offers more space. And if packaged with the Fiat Doblo, a slightly smaller vehicle, Ram could offer a full “one-stop shop” for customers.
“One thing that you see with the bigger fleets, or even small businesses, is (customers) like to have a one-stop shop,” Hegbloom told Ward's Auto. “So whether they're buying pickup trucks or cars or they need vans, they want to have a relationship with a product, a manufacturer, a dealership. That's why it's important for us to have a full line.”
Hegbloom also said Chrysler is looking at utilizing Iveco's telematics solution. The system, developed with Qualcomm, offers real-time data measuring fuel consumption, mileage, and engine usage.
Telematics solutions are becoming a hot item in light- and medium-duty vehicles. Just this year, Isuzu Commercial Truck of America announced it was adding Teletrac's Fleet Director telematics system to its 2011 and 2012 model-year N-Series medium-duty trucks; and Hino introduced Hino Insights, developed with WebTech Wireless.
Ford is providing its fleet and commercial customers telematics information, including tire pressure and oil life data, through an agreement with Telogis, which will supply its telematics platform for the Ford Crew Chief system.