Photo courtesy of Meridian.

Photo courtesy of Meridian.

The first Ram ProMaster passenger van will be unveiled Feb. 16 by upfitter Meridian Specialty Vehicles Inc. at the International LCT Show held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The 15-passenger model, produced by Meridian, a Las Vegas-based mid-size bus and passenger van manufacturer, is built on the one-ton, 159-in.-extended wheelbase model van.

The Ram ProMaster van, an upgraded North American version of the popular European Fiat Ducato, recently arrived at U.S. and Canadian Ram dealer lots as a cargo-only van.

Meridian’s passenger conversion is the first of its kind, designed to provide an affordable, comfortable and spacious riding experience for a wide range of commercial passenger van applications.

Meridian will offer several models in different wheelbases, weight ratings, trim levels, and passenger seating configurations. The interior accommodates an additional 18 in. to 30 in. of passenger/cargo space compared to the longest Ford passenger van, three additional seats compared to the largest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van, a 49-inch by 70-inch side sliding entry door, standard aisle-row configured seating, and an unprecedented best-in-class 74-in. finished interior ceiling height, ensuring ample space that is accessible and comfortable. At 22-inches, the ProMaster passenger van has the lowest entry height floor of any competitor, allowing safe and easy passenger and luggage loading and unloading.

Standard upfit features include rear heat and air conditioning, a durable composite interior paneling system, shoulder-style seatbelts and commercial-grade laminated flooring. The display van also includes optional leatherette seating, backup camera, painted front bumpers and an automatic power entry step. Meridian offers a wide variety of other safety and comfort options to attract the interests of virtually any commercial van operator.

"The Ram ProMaster platform also has the availability of upfitter-friendly features such as front wheel drive, low floor height, tall ceiling, and highly efficient gasoline and diesel engine options," said David Ronsen, president and CEO of Meridian Specialty Vehicles, Inc., in a statement. "The ProMaster is the North American variant of one of the best-selling vans overseas, having sold millions of units worldwide over the last 30 years," he said.

Plans call for more than 20 variations of the ProMaster as passenger vans, mobility vans, shuttle buses and paratransit buses to service our limousine, senior care center, hotel shuttle, van rental, airport parking, NEMT, transit, tour bus, church van and even prisoner transport client requirements. "Chrysler's willingness to work with and support its upfitters has been very well received, and if recent months of collaboration and dealer product interest are any indication, our partnership with Chrysler and the ProMaster will be a huge success," Ronsen said.

Meridian will distribute the ProMaster passenger van and other ProMaster-based products exclusively through the Chrysler Ram dealer network and Meridian's commercial bus dealer network.

This article was updated at 7:38 a.m. (PST) on Feb. 14, 2014.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet