Fiat Vans to be Ram vans: Ducato, Doblo, Iveco Daily
by Patrick McNamara
Fiat Professional is the new name for Fiat’s light commercial vehicle sales operation. This new branding started in 2007. Industry analysts who have followed Fiat’s turnaround under Sergio Marchionne’s guidance claim that separating passenger cars and commercial vehicles was one of his first moves.
The Fiat Doblo
The Doblo van is probably the business plan’s small imported van expected come to North America for the Ram brand. The Doblo was introduced by Fiat in 2001 and has since received a restyling in 2005. Fiat is expected to introduce a total makeover in 2010.
Doblo vans are not produced at any Fiat plant in Italy, according to internet sources. The European vans are produced in Turkey, while the Latin American and South African market versions come from Brazil. It is also produced under license in Russia, China, and Vietnam for other markets.
The base Doblo van has a wheelbase of 101.8 inches and an overall length of 168 inches. There are other Doblo versions available in some markets which offer extended lengths and raised roofs. This van has a front transversely mounted engine with front wheel drive, like Chrysler minivans. Fifteen inch wheels and tires are the standard offering in many markets. The Doblo’s suspension uses McPherson struts in the front, while the rear features a solid axle with leaf springs, the same setup found on early generation Chrysler minivans.
Doblos sold throughout the world are equipped with the Fiat motors and transmissions, which are common to each regional market’s Fiat passenger cars. For example, South Africa’s version has a 1400 cc Fiat motor while Latin American Doblo’s received GM’s Brazilian built 1800 cc four. (After the Fiat-Chrysler marriage was announced, supplies of this motor were cut off by GM; they could be replaced with the World Engine, which might explain why that engine is being extended to at least 2013.) Other enginess for different counties include Fiat-built diesels of up to 1.9 liters displacement. It remains to be seen what engines will be used in US bound Doblos, assuming the Doblo is the import van.
In the November 4th business plan, an electric version of the imported small van is shown to arrive around the end of 2011. Writing about this electric powered version of the small van, Alisa Priddle of the Detroit News wrote, "Marchionne let it slip during the question period that the van will likely be the Fiat Doblo." There is presently an all electric drive version offered in select markets, which is a conversion by a company called Micro-Vett.
The Ducato van, like the Doblo and Dodge minivan, has a transverse front engine with front wheel drive. It is sold in Mexico, but not in Canada or the United States. Also like the original Plymouth Voyager and the Doblo, the Ducato has McPherson strut front suspension and and a solid beam axle suspended by leaf springs in the rear. There is an option of air suspension offered in most markets. The Mexican market Ducato has 225/75-16 tires for the cargo and passenger vans. Some lighter cab and chassis versions are also offered with 15’’ wheels.
The engines most commonly found in Fiat branded Ducatos are a 2.3 or 3.0 liter diesel four cylinders. Some countries may use a smaller diesel. There are Citroen and Peugeot versions of this van also. They may use other motors or transmissions. The Peugeot van is also sold in Mexico. In many countries where the Ducato is offered, only a six speed manual transmission is available. CNG fueled motors and automated transmissions are just now starting to show up in some markets.
The Mexican market brochure shows many variations of the Ducato. Van, passenger van, chassis-cab and chassis-cowl models are all illustrated. There are regular or crew cab versions of the chassis-cab offered. Ducato models have wheelbases of 3,000, 3450, or 4,035 mm (118, 136, or 159 inches) in length. Not all markets offer all possible variations of the different models.
The Daily is not branded as a Fiat; it is an Iveco product (Iveco stands for Industrial Vehicle Company). Iveco, the heavy commercial vehicle unit of the Fiat Group, was formed in 1975 when Fiat merged the commercial vehicle operations of Fiat, Lancia, Magirus, OM, and UNIC.
The Daily was introduced in 1978 and was the first common design of the newly unified business unit. The Daily van is now in its fourth generation, currently featuring styling by Giugiaro. Some industry analysts consider the Daily a possible contender for the next Ram van, because Iveco factory literature uses the term “light commercial vehicle” in classifying some of the Daily van models.
There is some overlap of the Iveco Daily and Fiat Ducato model ranges. Like the Ducato, the Daily is offered in cargo and passenger vans, or regular and crew cab, chassis-cab models. Chassis-cowl models are not shown in factory sales brochures for the Daily. The shortest Daily wheelbase offered is 3,000 mm (118 inches) which is the same as the Fiat Ducato. Engine choices are also 2.3 and 3.0 liter four cylinder diesels. This is where the similarities of these corporate cousins ends.
The Daily is a rear wheel drive truck offering gross vehicle weights in a range from 7,055 to 15,432 pounds on the van models. The highest payload offered on a cab with chassis is 10,300 lbs. Higher GVW models feature dual rear wheels, which aren’t offered on any of the Fiat branded vans. Wheelbase lengths for vans are 3,000, 3,300, or 3950 mm (118, 130, or 155.5 inches) with cab with chassis models offering additional lengths.
The Daily offers two choices of an independent front suspension, transverse leaf springs or torsion bars. Both are double wish-bone set ups. The rear suspension also has two choices, leaf springs or an air bag suspension with a live axle.
Another Ram Van option
(What follows is speculation, the author has no inside information)
The Large Commercial Van announced in the business plan is based on a Fiat Group platform, but it might be something different from offerings in other markets. One possibility may be the importation of the Ducato chassis for completion in North America. This would be more than a knock down kit (like the Dodge Sprinter).
An exterior and interior unique to the Ram brand would be domestically manufactured and fitted to the imported chassis. The Kokomo-built, 62TE six speed overdrive automatic transmission might be a possibility. That automatic transaxle is paired to a diesel motor with 360 Nm of torque for the export Chrysler Grand Voyager. This transmission should be able to handle the power of the Ducato’s standard 2.3 liter diesel with 320 Nm of torque. The transverse transmission is also scheduled for further improvements as stated in the business plan.
Perhaps in the conversion process gasoline motors suitable for the North American market might be adapted to the chassis. A passenger Ducato van with seats would have about the same curb weight as a Buick Enclave. The Pentastar V6 should be up to powering such a vehicle. The allwheel drive system that Chryslers minivans used to have, can easily be adopted to the Ducato chassis, though it would require “beefing up” for commercial use.
Another possibility for North America would be Iveco Daily cabs and bodies fitted to a domestic chassis and drive trains. The front and rear axles would be shared with conventional Ram trucks, perhaps along with transmissions and gasoline motors. Chrysler does have the rights to the Allison Hybrid technology that will appear on a Ram pickup next year. Perhaps even the Wrangler could share axles and drive train parts with a rear drive Ram Van. Economy of scale is very important to Fiat managers. A common set of parts could help with the Wrangler’s unique platform.
And the Winner Is...
For an all out assault on the truck market in North America some vans will need to have dual rear wheels. Many school districts require dual rear wheels for minibuses. Southern California requires CNG for municipal vehicles. This tilts the scales towards the Daily for becoming a Ram. Will it be?
Sean Kilcarr, the senior editor of Fleet Owner, said the Ducato will be the large commercial van mentioned in the Ram truck portion of Chrysler’s product plan.It may be another few years before we know for sure what the future Ram Van will be.
The Fiat-Chrysler deal
In my opinion, unfortunately none of these can compare to the Sprinter.