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Chrysler Bringing Fiat Van to America

Fiat's Doblo small van will come to the United States as a Ram.

By Sam Smith Sep 12, 2011 6:24AM
Fiat Doblo. Image courtesy Chrysler.Chrysler plans to bring the Fiat Doblo, a small commercial van in the vein of Ford's Transit Connect, to the United States in 2013, according to Car and Driver. It will be badged as a Ram and likely look something like the vehicle you see at left. 

We know what you're thinking: a sarcastic "woo-hoo," right? The Transit Connect is practical and looks great, and because it's based on the bones of the excellent Ford Focus, it drives well. This vehicle -- well, this is a Fiat, and we don't yet know if Fiat has made a successful return to America. The 500 is here, sure, and it seems to be selling decently. But this is different. For one thing, the Doblo isn't a style accessory like the 500, and thus cannot get by solely on charm. For another, it's a small commercial van, and small commercial vans aren't an easy sell in a country where Big Commercial Everything is pretty much the name of the game. 

But no matter. In two short years, we'll know more about Fiat, more about Chrysler, and whether or not the merger of the two brands was a good idea. We will also have ourselves a strange-looking small Ram cargo vehicle. Here's what we know for sure. 
Fiat Doblo. Image courtesy Fiat.
On Friday, Fiat signed a letter of intent with Tofas, its Turkish joint-venture partner responsible for assembling the Doblo. The letter mentions a future supply of 190,000 export units -- that is, export variants of the Doblo, destined for America. Chrysler says that U.S. Doblo sales will start in 2013 and that Tofas will invest $160 million to ensure that the vehicle meets both American safety regulations and customer expectations. Suitably modified, the Doblo will be sold in Ram showrooms, which currently offer just Ram pickups and a cargo version of the Dodge Caravan minivan. 
Fiat Doblo. Image courtesy Fiat.
(Fiat's 2011 Doblo. Look at that punam. Let's hope it's been softened by the time the model hits our shores.)


Maybe I'm nuts, but something tells me this will be a hard sell. The Doblo's main competition, the Transit Connect, has sold only moderately since being introduced here two years ago. The Transit Connect is a great little van, but ultimately it's a bit too small for commercial work, where most of the country's van market lies. Plumbers, electricians, florists and the like -- in other words, small businesspeople with simple cargo-carrying needs -- seem to be ending up either in a larger, full-size van or a cheaper, and usually used, minivan. The market just seems better suited to slightly larger vehicles. And to machines that, let's face it, don't look like goofy European transplants. (Realistically, Chrysler and Tofas may very well face-lift the Doblo into something a bit less obnoxious. But until it happens ...)


Not that we shouldn't applaud the try. Fiat wants to test the American commercial-vehicle waters, and that's a smart move. The company needs to expand its product lineup on our shores, and it already has a product for the small commercial-van category; it's not a huge market here, but then again it's not a huge investment for Fiat -- and who knows? If it works, perhaps it will really work. But what do you think? Is bringing the Doblo here a good idea? 


[Source: Car and Driver]


19Comments
Sep 13, 2011 6:04AM
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I've seen lots of Ford Transit vans tip over on the highway because they are not very stable when the wind comes up.

Hey, Gump #1, got any proof of  "lots of Ford Transit vans" tipping over?  Or is this just more of the anti-American, hate-filled BS you and frostyross/carpuff (Gump #2) spew here almost daily?

How do you define "lots"?  Give us a number. 

And while you're at it, why don't you give us the links to an article or two that details all these tipping occurrences.  With pictures if possible. 

Prove your statement or retract it, Gump #1.  I doubt you can prove it because there just aren't "lots" of Ford Transits on the road to begin with, and I sincerely doubt you've EVER seen one tip over because of crosswinds.  Maybe a tornado, but not crosswinds.

By the way, the Ford Transit Connect has the same 3-star rollover rating from NHTSA as the Honda Element and Toyota 4Runner.  Have you seen them tip over too?


Sep 13, 2011 7:33AM
Sep 12, 2011 7:49AM
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Give it a "face" lift and offer it with a 35 mpg diesel engine and they'd have something.  If they bring it with a gasoline engine, forget it.
Sep 12, 2011 9:16AM
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Realistically, Chrysler and Tofas may very well face-lift the Doblo into something a bit less obnoxious. But until it happens ...
Not that this vehicle looks great, but this is the most provocative statement I have read to date from you. Because of people like yourself, we have bland, boring and ugly econoboxes. Enough with the conservatism in cars already. Have we not had enough ugly, boring and disgusting? We do not need even more "castrated design" vomit.

Would you care to explain, point by point, what is wrong with the way this vehicle looks?
Sep 13, 2011 3:25AM
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I own two Ford Transit-Connects and my employee's love them. They're easy to park, and almost drive like a car. One of my drivers has a prosthetic leg, and its much easier for him to get in and out compared to the full-size Econolines. The TC's haul a lot of cargo, and get great mileage.
The problem is with perception. Here everything has to be big, because size is somehow connected with success in people's minds.

If people just gave these vehicles a chance like you did, things would change, and they would change for better. These vehicles were designed to be practical and economical delivery vehicles, easy to navigate and easy to operate.
Sep 12, 2011 8:43AM
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Why?  Ford seems to be selling the Transit Connect here without a diesel option.
I agree.  I have seen a surprising number of Transit Connects around here.  They seem to be really taking off as a commercial alternate to the soon to be dead Ford Ranger.

A diesel engine in this van would be a plus, but a diesel is not strictly necessary for success in the United States.

As a final note, is it just me or is this thing a world of improvement visually over the Sprinter?

Sep 13, 2011 10:20AM
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The writer of this advertisement is lacking that very skill and I believe has the incorrect opinion of the Fiat Doblo.  This van will be an attractive buy for consumers shopping for a smaller cargo van for several reasons. 1.)  It will get much better fuel economy than even the Transit Connects with its weak 22/26 rating let alone that of an E-series.  2.) it is smaller and therefore handles better and is more maneuverable than a full sized van.  This van furthers the point that people do not need ridiculous V8 engines and body on frame construction to haul around flowers or small packages. Lastly, it is much more unique looking and offers much more character than the drab Transit Connect which if I may point out is not based on the  new Ford Focus platform, but the previous generation Focus platform which was not "excellent" like the writer stated.  

Sep 12, 2011 9:20AM
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It looks kind of homely to me.  If the Transit Connect isn't ugly enough for potential buyers this should fit the bill...

Sep 13, 2011 7:51AM
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Thanks to Honda for bailing on the Element, this might be what finally replaces my 2005 Element.  Honda can kiss my a**.  I've got 105,000 very happy and stress-free miles on my Element,and I had hoped that Honda would eventually come up with a real facelift for the Element, but instead they pulled the plug.  This from the company that started the whole boxxy- looking vehicle craze.  Makes no sense to me.  Buh-bye Honda.

 

I'm kinda liking the Transit Connect, but the Nissan NV looks too industrial for my tastes.

 

Yep, call the dealership, I'm interested in this one.

Sep 12, 2011 8:42AM
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sure a neat looking little guy.

it caught my eye at first glance as a "transit", then sort of a "soul".

i rarely ever see a "transit" and i see a few "souls" around. mostly as a small family vehicle that every time i ask, they love them over the small station wagons!?

i am not sure what the market even is for this class of vehicle.

chrysler does have a fairly decent mini-van.

it would depend on price. if fiat/chrysler want to try and see if they will sell they may as well try it. the article claims it may be a "hard sell" and they may be correct.

if they are not going to lose a lot they may as well give it a chance, but who knows what will happen in two years!?

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