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Doblò: Little van; major player

by Bill Cawthon on

Fiat-Doblo-LWB-Web

The Ram ProMaster City commercial van is taking its first public bows today. Though it’s new to the North American market, it has quite a history in the rest of the world, especially in the European market where it’s known as the Fiat Doblò.

The Doblò is one of five commercial vans sold by Fiat Professional. Based on size they are the Punto, Fiorino, Doblo, Scudo and Ducato. In addition, there are commercial versions of the Panda, Bravo and 500L with open load floors instead of rear seats.

Fiat-Doblo-2005-Web

The Doblò was introduced at the 2000 Paris Auto and went on sale as a 2001 model. The original Doblò shared a platform with the Fiat Palio and Punto and was built in Turkey, Brazil, Russia and Vietnam. Four different engines were offered with the base being a 64-horsepower, 1.2-liter four-banger. Options included a 91-hp, 1.6-liter four that ran on natural gas; a 68-hp diesel and a 104-hp turbodiesel.

For the 2006 model year, the Doblò got a facelift that included an upgraded 1.4-liter base engine that produced 76 hp and three new Multijet diesels with up to 120 hp.

Fiat-Doblo-Coke-WebThe current generation of the Doblò went into production in 2009 and appeared in early 2010. Unlike the previous version, the newest Doblò is built only in Fiat’s joint-venture Tofaş plant in Bursa, Turkey and the Fiat plant in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The 2010 Doblò was a complete makeover built on the Small Wide Platform jointly developed by Fiat and Opel. The same factory that builds the Doblò also produces the Opel/Vauxhall Combo van.

A variation of the Doblò platform also underpins the upcoming Jeep Renegade.

On July 26, 2010, the one-millionth Doblò rolled off the assembly line at the Tofaş plant. That averages out to about 100,000 per year since its introduction, equal to 32% of the total U.S. sales of all commercial and passenger vans in 2013.

The newest member of the family, the Doblò XL, was introduced at the 2012 Commercial Vehicle IAA in Hannover, Germany. The largest member of the family, it retains the Doblò’s unique, bi-link rear suspension, which improves load handling.

Fiat-Doblo-Workup-Web

Although we probably won’t see them all over here, the Doblò is offered in a variety of configurations including a drop-side pickup called the “Workup” and a chassis-cab. Fiat says there are about 500 possible Doblò configurations.

Fiat-Doblo-IVOY-WebThe Fiat Doblò Cargo Maxi and Fiat Ducato just took top honors in their categories in the KEP* commercial vehicle of the year competition in Germany. This is just the latest of the awards won by Fiat vans, which have won the International Van of the Year honors five times, tying it with Ford. The Doblò has won twice, with the 2006 facelift and the 2011 Doblò Cargo. That ties the Doblò with the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Vito and Volkswagen Transporter. Only the larger Ford Transit, with three trophies, has won more often.

All of the Ram ProMaster City vans will be built at the Tofaş factory. Ram borrowed a page from the Ford playbook and all of them will be built and shipped as passenger versions in order to dodge the 25% “chicken tax” tariff created back when Lyndon Johnson and Charles DeGaulle were having a trade tiff. The vans will be converted to panel-side trucks here in the U.S. and the seats and windows will be sent back to Turkey for reuse.

Fiat-DobloXL-Web

*KEP stands for “Kurier, Express und Postdienstbranche,” which is German for “Courier, Express and Postal service industry.”

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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