Posts Tagged ‘Ram Trucks’

Later in 2011, probably in the last quarter, Nissan will begin to sell a commercial van that easily rivals the ancient offerings from Ford (Econoline/E-series  full-size vans) and Chevrolet (Express series).

2012 Nissan NV commercial vans

The Ford and Chevy vans haven’t changed much in decades. These pictures, with some minor cosmetic changes, could have come from any of the past 25 years.

2011 Ford E-Series Passenger and Cargo Van

2011 Chevy Express Cargo Van

Dodge used to sell a commercial van, but that’s long gone.  Until recently, Dodge sold a rebadged Ram version of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, but after the Daimler-Chrysler divorce, those vans are now sold directly by Mercedes.

2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van

And let’s not forget that Dodge is no longer in the truck business.  New task-master Fiat split off Ram Trucks into a separate brand.  Fiat may eventually market its commercial trucks in the US under the Ram brand.

2011 Fiat Ducato Cargo Van - A line of commercial Fiat vans like this may be marketed in the US under the Ram Brand

The Nissan NV Utility Vans are based on the Nissan Titan pickup truck, sharing the frame and drivetrains. It will come in three variants: The 1500 is a light duty van and two heavy duty vans, a 2500 and 3500.  The HD versions can be ordered with a tall roof, similar to that available on the Mercedes Sprinter.   The base engine is a 4.0 liter V6, while Nissan’s ubiquitous 5.6 liter V8 is optional or standard, depending on configuration.  Diesel power is promised sometime after introduction, but no timetable or details are forthcoming from Nissan.  All will have an automatic transmission.

2012 Nissan NV Cargo Van with the high roof option.

2012 Nissan NV cockpit. Looks very similar to the interior of the Nissan Titan pickup truck.

Our friends at have this great video giving details on the production NV shown at the 2010 Work Truck Show in St. Louis, MO.

My only problem with these new vans is their size. That snout, in addition to the cavernous cargo area, will make these things very hard to park and drive in the congested city.

Ford’s Transit Connect, which looks like a much smaller version of the NV,  is a much better urban fit for most contractors who don’t need the cargo and weight capacity of a gigantic pickup truck.  Further, the Transit Connect will be available in an electric version this year, making it a great fit for fleets that don’t need to drive long distances every day and can recharge each night.

2011 Ford Transit Connect Electric

I think the NV may nudge Ford and GM to update their commercial vans and the Mercedes Sprinter will get its first direct competition.

It was like an old Hollywood movie premiere. Flood lights swept the front of a gleaming brick, steel, concrete and glass structure on South Figueroa St in Downtown Los Angeles. The cool Tuesday night air probably even sent a shiver under nearby Tommy Trojan’s tunic. There was a phalanx of valets and even a red carpet.

But this was no movie premier. This was the preview opening of the Chrysler Group’s new flagship store featuring all five brands, including Fiat. This was also the debutant ball for the 2012 Fiat 500 minicar and a boondoggle for the Italian consulate in LA. (It seemed like they were all there having a very good time.)

Motor Village of Los Angeles, as this dealership is known, is the first of its kind. Chrysler says it’s a prototype for future stores and the first effort in a program called Marketing Investment. Chrysler plans on identifying areas where the company wants a presence. It will purchase land and finance the building of the dealership. A dealer may or may not take a minority interest in the project at inception; but eventually Chrysler plans on selling the store to a dealer.

Motor Village is located at 2025 South Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90007. Cool building!

The new facade of Motor Village beautifully integrates the signage for each brand.

This particular location was a Pierce Arrow dealership in early part of the 20th Century. However, the building has undergone significant structural and architectural changes to be the massive four story, 180,000 square foot glass and brick box it is today. The large, circular sign tower structure on the north west roof corner is so close to the Harbor Freeway that they are going to need a small maintenance army to keep it shiny clean.

Motor Village's rooftop sign tower. It's a tall structure, wish the picture was better.

The first floor housed the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles. I don't know what was on the 3rd Floor. Maybe offices or maybe it will be a Chrysler showroom.

Drinks, espresso bar and cocktail food were on the second floor Fiat Studio that overlooks Figueroa Street. The full bar was in the Ram Truck showroom in the back of the Fiat Studio, adjacent to the parking structure. The reception, platitudes and unbridled optimism was on the roof as were more cocktails, sublime desserts and one monstrous cake in the shape of the Fiat 500, but it was almost about the size of the original500.


Motor Village has a separate, flashy entrance for its Fiat Studio.

This is the separate-entry staircase to the 2nd Floor Fiat Studio.

You know deep pockets were stroking the check for this event. All the food (with the exception of the cake) was catered by Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. The catering staff was wonderful, forcing us to eat all those scrumptious Italian delights.

Some of the catering tables at the Fiat 500/Fiat Studio preview event.

The rooftop dessert tent and speaker area was worth braving the chilly night air.

Cake anyone? I don't know how they cut this thing up or even if they did it. I left before it was decimated.

This was the first time I’ve seen a Fiat Studio – as envisioned by corporate – and it’s the first time I’ve seen the Ram Truck brand separated from its longtime companion, Dodge. The Fiat Studio was high-tech red and white lacquer – kind of like a Pedini kitchen meets a W Hotel lounge.

The Fiat Studio area was beautifully-lit with live dj ambient music.

I think this was a play area for kids. Keep them busy and happy while mom or dad picks out a Fiat 500.

An artist applied a custom paint job to a new 500.

There was a clothing and accessories shop in case you needed to drop some coin on expensive Italian goods.

Anyone want a Fiat bicycle?

For all the optimism I couldn’t help but feel that this ultra costosostore was a real Hail Mary pass.  If the purpose of this dealership is to sell Jeep Wranglers and Fiat 500s to USC students and the poor suckers who bought into the decades-long hype of Downtown revitalization, then it succeeds.

If it is meant to reach a broad swath of desirable demographic buyers in the LA Metro corridor, from Santa Monica to Silver Lake, then I’m not so sure. Even the survival of Chrysler is still up in the air.  Chrysler says this store will be managed by “a couple” of experienced dealers, but has yet to name them.  And if those dealers were asked to pay back the significant investment in real property, I doubt they would be profitable anytime soon.

Concurrent with this event, Chrysler released a list of 130 Fiat dealers, with plans to add another 35 to cover 119 markets it identified as having “strong growth potential” for small car sales over the next five years.

Here are the LA Area dealers listed by Chrysler:

  • Fiat of Irvine
  • Fiat of Costa Mesa
  • Fiat of Ontario
  • Fiat of Thousand Oaks
  • Fiat of Downey
  • Fiat of Long Beach
  • Fiat of Palm Springs
  • Fiat of Puente Hills
  • Fiat of Torrance

Huh? Fiat of Downey? If you thought there was something missing on this list, you’re right. Nothing in Santa Monica, Culver City, West LA, Beverly Hills, Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood, Glendale, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys or Woodland Hills.

If I wanted to buy a Fiat 500, I’d have to go to the USC-adjacent Motor Village store for sales and service. Ugh. But to be fair, MINI, Fiat’s only competitor, doesn’t have many stores either. In addition to Nick Alexander in the industrial area south of Downtown, there is MINI of Universal City and Monrovia MINI.

If Fiat wants to compete better in the LA area, it will need at least one store between Downtown and Santa Monica beach. I hope that’s in the cards with the yet-to-be-named franchisees.

I didn’t get to drive the Fiat 500 at the event, but we had lots of open cars to examine, adjust, kick tires and slam doors. Like the MINI Cooper coupe, I just fit comfortably in the driver’s seat and no one can sit in the back seat behind me except my miniature dachshund, Augie. Unlike the MINI, I found the dash and center console ergonomics much more intuitive and user-friendly.

This potential customer seemed interested in the little "Rosso" 500.

This is me next to a silver, I mean "Argento" - Fiat 500.

This color is "Espresso." The interior is also a combination Espresso-Avorio. I don't see that interior color on the Fiat website, but it might be available for order when the cars, built in Mexio, start filling the pipeline early in 2011.

I think Fiat can work in major metropolitan areas where parking in precious and people can use it as the latest fashion accessory. I can already see it being used for delivering pizzas or shrink-wrapped to advertise computer repair or some designer vodka.

Bentornati negli Stati Uniti, Fiat. Buona fortuna!