Major components for Ram Commercial Truck’s upcoming ProMaster City compact van will cross the seas twice as part of assembly plans involving Europe, Eurasia and North America, executives said in a presentation to truck writers Monday night in Austin, Texas.
The vehicle’s engines and transmissions are to be built in the American Midwest and shipped to Turkey for installation in the vans, then return here inside the completed vehicles, said Bob Hegbloom, head of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand.
The 2.4-liter Tigershark gasoline inline-4 engine will be built in Michigan and the 9-speed automatic transmission will be made in Indiana under license from ZF of Germany. The ProMaster City itself is based on the Fiat Doblo, originally designed and built in Italy and now sold in many countries.
Financial people at Fiat Chrysler have determined that this is more economical than sourcing the components in Europe or elsewhere in the Old World, added spokesman Nick Cappa in an aside to a handful of reporters.
In another industrial oddity, all will be assembled as passenger vans in Turkey, then, when landed in the U.S., some will be stripped of seats and converted to cargo vans, but only for specific orders from dealers and customers, Cappa said. This will comply with U.S. federal customs duties on fully assembled cargo trucks – the so-called chicken tax that does not apply to passenger vehicles.
A similar strategy has been used by Ford for its Transit Connect, formerly built in Turkey and now in Spain. Daimler’s German-made Sprinter passenger vans come to America unburdened by that tax, but cargo versions are disassembled, shipped to the States and reassembled.
The Ram ProMaster City is a beefed-up and enlarged version of the Fiat Doblo, executives said. Its suspensions and structure are strengthened to survive North America’s rougher streets and more demanding hauling jobs.
“It was launched in February and boy, this thing is already a big home run,” Hegbloom said in his opening remarks. “There’s a big demand for this in the marketplace” because of its fuel economy and cargo carrying capabilities. The van claims 131.7 cubic feet of room that includes just over 4 feet between rear wheel wells for full pallet loading, and payload capacity of 1,883 pounds.
The powertrain and the van’s streamlining combine to deliver 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and a combined 24 mpg, according to EPA ratings, execs pointed out.
Ram has been on a sales roll since it was formed as a separate brand and organization within Chrysler nearly five years ago, Hegbloom said. Sales have grown year over year since then, and were up 55% over 2013 as of November.
The large ProMaster van has grabbed 18% of the Class 1 and 2 market since its production began early this year. He’s looking for similar performance from the small ProMaster City.