Vehicle features tend to trickle down. In-car air conditioning was first introduced by Packard, the maker of automobiles for royalty and Roosevelts. Today, the lowest end compact comes with a/c. The latest version of the ProMaster work van from Ram, the truck division of Stellantis, offers many features previously only available on consumer vehicles.
The 2022 ProMaster improves its efficiency, safety, and connectivity. Dave Sowers, head of Ram Commercial, said it provides a return on investment for HVAC contractors by helping ease one of their biggest challenges these days — higher operating costs.
“We know that controlling costs is paramount for these businesses,” Sowers said. “Their customers don’t take into consideration the costs of moving materials back and forth, of moving their workers back and forth. They just want to pay for the equipment that is being installed or serviced.”
Lower Fuel Consumption
One way the ProMaster saves money is by lowering fuel consumption without sacrificing power. Ram paired the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission, up from six in the previous version. This combination generates 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. What’s more, the transmission is sized similar to — and in many cases, smaller than — its traditional six-speed counterparts.
“The nine-speed is really a gift that keeps on giving,” Sowers said. “The main reason we put it in there is to improve fuel economy. But it also improves drivability, and it improves acceleration, both loaded and unloaded.”
The new ProMaster has electrically-assisted power steering. This eliminates the need for steering fluid, as well as the pump for that fluid. The rear brake is also electric, which means a wire runs the length of the vehicle rather than a heavy cable.
“We’re not wasting cargo pounds with the weight of these components,” Sowers said.
All these modifications add up to a 9% improvement in fuel economy, Sowers said. He said the ProMaster actually performs better in city driving than highway, Sowers said. There is no official MPG rating from the government because this is a full-size van.
Keeping the Vans on the Road
The move to electric components also reduces maintenance costs. There are no more fluid leaks or stretched cables. Vans remain in operation, producing income.
Another way the ProMaster helps keep an HVAC contractor’s fleet on the road is by adding more safety features. Many of these are the kinds of features people have come to expect on consumer vehicles, such as a back-up camera with dynamic gridlines that show the van’s path.
Others are more sophisticated, semi-autonomous features, such as front-end collision detection. This system first warns the driver of a potential accident and then starts braking if the driver fails to do so. Front-end collisions are usually the worst type of accident, Sowers said. The can take a van and a technician out of service, as well as harming other drivers and an HVAC contractor’s reputation.
“Any accident that causes downtime is probably a $10,000 bill to the company when you look at lost driver time, when you look at potential injury claims, and when you look at lost productivity from the van,” Sowers said.
High Demand Meets Supply Challenges
The new ProMaster shows a considerable investment by parent company Stellantis, but it’s one with considerable upside potential. Sowers said demand for full-size vans grew dramatically during the pandemic, as people spent more on home services and increased their online shopping. So far, Ram has kept up with that demand for the most part in the face of the semiconductor shortage challenging the entire auto industry.
“It’s a fluid situation that’s changing every day,” he said. “We think the shortage is going to be around well into ’22, but for now we’ve been able to maintain our shipments.”
The release for the ProMaster said an electric version is possible for the 2023 model year. Sowers was unable to comment on any electrification plans at this time.
This updated van is only one way the Ram brand is showing its commitment to the trades. Ram also teamed up with Wolverine Footwear and Apparel to produce a special collection of boots that celebrate the skilled trades. A portion of the sales are going to SkillsUSA.