In what promises to be an interesting alternative in the full-size van market, production on the 2014 Ram ProMaster has kicked off at Chrysler's Saltillo, Mexico, plant in the state of Coahuila. The Fiat Ducato-based ProMaster takes the place of the Mercedes-Benz designed Dodge Sprinter, which continues to be sold at selected Mercedes commercial dealers across the country, and is also sold as a Freightliner model.

The ProMaster is unique among its peers in the U.S. market for having front drive. Both the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the upcoming full-size Ford Transit are rear drive. Ford sells a front-drive version of the Transit in Europe as the Transit Custom.

The U.S.-spec ProMaster also differs from the Ducato in offering a standard gasoline V-6 in the form of the 3.6-liter Pentastar. All Ducato models sold in Europe are equipped with diesel I-4 engines. The 3.0-liter I-4 turbodiesel will be offered as a $4000 option for the ProMaster in the U.S., mated to a single-clutch six-speed automated manual transmission.

The current-generation Fiat Ducato has been in production since 2006, so a next-generation ProMaster could be coming sooner than the traditional seven to 10-year product cycle for commercial vans, assuming product development resources are coordinated between Fiat and Ram.

Source: Chrysler