AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Ford made several important product announcements at a media event in Detroit this morning. Borrowing from its global portfolio, the Dearborn-based automaker is bringing an impressive array of commercial vehicles to the North American market, including a brand-new version of the Transit Connect.
For its Ram division, since the loss of the Sprinter, Chrysler has been looking at a large van to fill the void. With no indigenous offerings at home, the logical step would be to tap Fiat’s resources in Europe and bring over variants of commercial vans already on sale across the pond.
Rumors have been circulating for some time, that versions of the small Fiat Doblo (a Ford Transit Connect competitor), the Fiat Ducato and larger IVECO Daily (shown), are all being considered.
If all three vans do make it over here, theoretically it would give Ram division a one-stop shop when it comes to catering to small and medium sized business, for in addition to these, the division already offers a commercial variant of its Dodge Caravan minivan.
In terms of cost effectiveness and durability, the Ducato and Daily probably make the most sense. The former, despite being front-drive, has a fairly low cost of ownership and a flat cargo floor ensures maximum space utilization. Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating on the Ducato is 8,818 lbs.
The rear-drive Daily by contrast, boasts a GVWR that’s almost double the Ducato’s and is offered with both single and dual rear-wheel configurations along with high roof van bodies, plus chassis cabs, making it adaptable to a wide variety of different roles.
However, although Ram’s Marketing Manager, Bob Hegbloom, in conversation with Ward’s Auto World has said the division plans to introduce two new vans to North America, so far, he’s stopped short of saying which ones.
If two, or even all three of these vans make it over here, it will be interesting to see how they fare. The large commercial van segment is currently dominated by Ford and General Motors, the Sprinter, of which Mercedes now handles sales and service, along with it’s Freightliner commercial truck division, is still very much a marginal product in the segment, it’s high price and relative complexity, seen as drawbacks by many fleets.
The only other current competitor in the segment is Nissan’s recently launched NV (see our review here), which adopts much the same approach as the current Ford E-Series and Chevy Express/GMC Savanna.
Whether the Fiat sourced vans can make much of an impact against the current best sellers remain to be seen, a lot of it will no doubt hinge on pricing strategy, servicing and overall running costs, not just fuel consumption. We’ll likely find out soon enough.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
Bringing commercial vans from Europe to North America seems to be a growing trend among Detroit Automakers. It first began with the Dodge Sprinter (a Mercedes in all but name), then Ford followed with the tiny Transit Connect.
Now Chrysler, thanks to its alliance with Fiat is at it again, this time looking at bringing the IVECO daily to North American shores.
“It’s part of what we’re considering,” said Ram Truck CEO Fred Diaz in a recent statement. The Daily has long been a direct competitor to the Sprinter in Europe, where it’s offered in cargo and passenger configurations, with a choice of single and dual rear wheels and as a complete van or chassis cab.
Powertrain options across the pond include 2.3-liter and 3.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engines. Ram division is also considering Americanized versions of the Fiat Ducato light commercial van and confirmed that a version of the Fiat Doblo, which in Europe, competes directly with Ford’s Transit Connect, will also becoming to our shores.
But considering that the Daily and Ducato virtually occupy the same segment in their home market, is there room in North America for both vans? Difficult to say at this point in time, though in the short-term, it’s likely only one will get the green light. Given that the Daily boasts higher gross vehicle weights and load capacities than the Ducato, it probably makes more sense to import the former, especially for specialized school bus and larger camper conversions which require heavier-duty chassis. Stay tuned for more developments.
Last week Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne set out a long-winded plan for the future of the American automaker and how its future will be closely tied to its new Italian parent company. There was a lot to digest at the seven hour press conference and so we thought a model by model breakdown would be helpful and would shed some light on what appears to be the general plan to eliminate old Chrysler products and replace them with new Chrysler Group-branded Fiat models. So let’s start with Dodge…
From the smallest to the largest vehicles, Dodge will see the introduction of a subcompact car in 2013 based on the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Currently Dodge does not offer a sub-compact with its smallest offering being the compact Caliber, which receives a mild update this year but will be eliminated in 2012 and then replaced the same year by a Fiat Group-based vehicle. Presumably it will be another Alfa Romeo platform, however, the car will be built in the U.S.
Moving to the mid-size segment, the Avenger will also be updated for 2010 and then replaced by a Fiat Group platform in 2013.
The future for the Journey, Grand Caravan and Charger is more positive, with the Journey and Grand Caravan getting updates for 2010 with a new Grand Caravan due in 2014. The Charger will be all-new for 2011 with a new interior and exterior, after originally launching in 2006. A new rear suspension will also be part of the package. As for its Challenger sibling, it will be updated for the 2012 model year.
Two vehicles that will be eliminated are the Nitro and Viper, with the Nitro slated to be scraped in 2011 (with a possible successor), while the Viper will cease production mid next year with a potential sports car replacing it in 2012.
One new model will be added to the Dodge lineup; a seven-seater crossover based on the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee (pictured above).
The new Ram brand still won’t have a lot going on, although Fiat is looking to expand its offerings. The Dakota is scheduled to cease production late in 2011 with a possible unibody pickup to replace it. As for the Ram 1500, it will get a mid-cycle refresh in 2012, as will the heavy duty Ram trucks. A chassis cab version of the Ram will also arrive in 2010.
Two additions to the lineup include a front-drive small work van and full-sized van in 2012. The small van will be similar in purpose to Ford’s Transit Connect and will be based on the next-generation Fiat Doblo. It will be imported from either Turkey or Brasil. As for Ram’s new full-sized van offering, it will be one of two vehicles: either the body-on frame Iveco Daily or the unibody Fiat Ducato. Unlike the small van, this full-sized unit will be assembled in the U.S.
Starting in the small scale, the Chrysler Brand will also get a subcompact, although (surprisingly) it will not be based on the same Alfa Romeo vehicle as the Dodge sub-compact. Instead, it will be underpinned by the next-generation Lancia Ypsilon five-door hatch and will go on sale in 2013.
A new compact sedan (based on a Fiat Group platform) will be launched in 2012. It is not clear if the Fiat Group platform is the same one that will underpin the Dodge compact sedan. The same can be said for the Sebring, which, like its current Dodge counterpart (the Avenger) will get styling updates next year and be replaced by a Fiat Group platform in 2013.
As for the PT Cruiser, it will be eliminated late next year – although we’ve heard that one before.
The Chrysler 300, like the Dodge Charger, will be all-new for 2011 with the new model arriving some time next year. Styling is expected to be evolutionary, so don’t expect much change – which is probably a good thing.
And as for Chrysler’s final product, the Town & Country minivan, it will get updates next year with a new model in 2014. Fiat hopes to differentiate the Chrysler minivan from its Dodge counterpart by taking it more up-market. (Have we learned nothing from the R-Class?)
Finally, there’s the Jeep brand, where we’ve already learned the Patriot, Compass and Commander will be eliminated over the next few years. The first to meet the scrap heap is the Commander, with production ending late next year, while the Patriot and Compass will be get mild updates for 2010 before being retired in 2012. Interestingly, Fiat may build and sell the Commander overseas after 2010.
At the low end of the spectrum, a new subcompact SUV will arrive in 2013 based on the next generation Fiat Panda Cross, while a new compact crossover will arrive the same year based on an unnamed Fiat Group platform. A new Liberty will also arrive that year, again based on a Fiat.
As for Jeep’s core vehicles, the Wrangler will get a new interior next year, with a new engine offered in 2011. The Grand Cherokee will continue on as planned with the new model debuting next year as a 2011 model.
[Source: Automotive News]