Meridian Specialty Vehicles Inc. has produced the first RAM ProMaster passenger van. Unveiled by Chrysler Group at February’s 2014 International Limousine, Charter and Tour (LCT) show in Las Vegas, the 15-passenger model was built on the 1-ton, 159-inch extended wheelbase model van.
The RAM ProMaster van, the U.S. version of the European Fiat Ducato, recently arrived at North American RAM dealer lots as a cargo-only van.
“We are very excited about building our front-line passenger van on the RAM ProMaster platform, primarily because of the availability of upfitter-friendly and user desirable features, such as front-wheel drive, low floor height, tall ceiling and highly efficient gasoline, CNG and diesel engine options to name a few,” says David Ronsen, president and CEO of Meridian Specialty Vehicles, a Las Vegas-based mid-size bus and passenger van manufacturer.
Founded in 1995 as a fire truck manufacturer, Meridian introduced specialty vehicles such as mobile command centers and mobile health clinics to its offerings in 2007. Then in 2013, its product offerings expanded to include shuttle buses and passenger vans.
When it comes to choosing vans for conversion, Ronsen says Meridian’s niche is sub-20 passenger and eco-friendly European van platforms, including the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the RAM ProMaster and the Ford Transit. “Our commitment was to build on all of the European van platforms. When we started, the Sprinter was the only one available. Now the ProMaster is available and soon the Ford Transit will be available.”
Although Meridian manufactures on a production line, it still provides over 100 options and even produces custom solutions for clients. ProMaster passenger vans will be offered in different wheelbases, weight ratings, trim levels and passenger seating configurations, says Meridian.
At 22 inches, the ProMaster passenger van has the lowest entry height floor of any competitor, according to Meridian. The ProMaster’s interior accommodates an additional 18 inches to 30 inches of passenger/cargo space over the longest Ford passenger van and three additional seats over the largest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van.
Other features include a side sliding entry door and standard aisle-row configured seating, says Meridian.
The passenger van’s upfit features include rear heat and air conditioning, an interior paneling system, shoulder-style seat belts and laminated flooring. The display van also features optional leatherette seating, a backup camera, painted front bumpers and an automatic power entry step.
“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,” says Ronsen. “Plans call for over 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, transit, tour bus, church van and even prisoner transport client requirements.”
The ProMaster project is still evolving, but Ronsen says that the passenger van is expected to be available by third quarter 2014. Once the van is in full production, Meridian anticipates a six- to eight-week lead time on delivery.
Although the distribution models are still being evaluated, Meridian plans to distribute the new passenger vans through its commercial bus dealer network as well as through the Chrysler RAM dealer network.
Pricing for the ProMaster passenger van has not yet been determined.