Poland. The central European nation continues to make headlines for hosting refugees from its war-torn neighbor Ukraine.
The NATO member could also be in the automotive news before too long as Ram scrambles to find additional utility van production capacity to meet high demand.
“I can’t build them fast enough,” Ram CEO Mike Koval said. Commercial carrier log at the Work Truck Show last week in Indianapolis, where Ram unveiled its refreshed 2023 ProMaster.
“Honestly, I’m looking all over the planet for an extra ounce of capacity,” Koval continued. “We have a factory in Poland that I’m considering, but it’s the demand from both retail consumer and especially large fleets that is hot.”
How hot? While Ram truck sales in 2021 were only up 1% from 2020, minivan sales for ProMaster and the smaller ProMaster City were up 25% and 40% respectively.
Huge demand for last-mile delivery vans, bolstered initially by the dramatic increase in online shopping during COVID, still looks promising for Koval today.
“I don’t think it was a flash in the pan,” Koval explained. “I think the outlook is strong and stable. It’s a healthy segment. And it’s true, it may have been spurred or triggered or accelerated by the pandemic, but you know, how many times does Amazon show up at your house every day? »
JD Power has also recognized strong interest in the e-commerce supported utility van market that has grown beyond the COVID lockdowns.
“Customers in dire need of cargo vans will get them any way they can,” said Chris Visser, principal analyst and product manager for utility vehicles at JD Power. “Online shopping is popular as efficiency and trust have improved in recent years.”
GM, which showcased its new all-electric BrightDrop pickups at the Work Truck Show, also sees demand for pickup trucks rising in 2022.
“Demand in the full-size minivan segment has been at an all-time high over the past 2 years, and demand is expected to continue to grow,” a GM Fleet representative said.
One of GM’s minivan models, the GMC Savanna, saw a 17% increase in sales last year compared to 2020. However, their sister brand Chevy saw Express demand drop 19% during the same period.
Ford was hardest hit last year with Transit and Transit Connect sales down 24% from 2020.
Meeting commercial vehicle demands has been challenging for OEMs given the continued supply chain constraints. Ram, however, managed to pivot and grow its minivan sales last year as other brands saw their numbers plummet.
“By taking advantage of strong demand and a robust market, we are able to reorient one line and invest in supplier capacity to scale to three shifts,” a company spokesperson said.
Overall, commercial van sales in 2021 were lower than the previous six years according to the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA), which also expects sales to pick up this year.
“Commercial pickup trucks are struggling a bit,” NTEA director of data and market research Steve Latin-Kasper said during a commercial vehicle preview and forecast presentation last week. at the Work Truck Show.
“They [van sales] reaches about 200,000 [units sold] maybe a little more than that in 2021 and we expect that to continue to grow in 22,” Latin-Kasper continued.
For Koval, who was visibly excited to talk about the growth of Ram ProMaster, finding additional capacity at FCA’s plant in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, will mean placing running orders the plant received in December 2020 from parent company Stellantis, according to Reuters, to produce the electric Jeep, Fiat and Alpha Romeo. Either way, Koval seems very determined to get an even bigger share of the market this year, especially as orders pile up for their refreshed 2023 Ram ProMaster.
“Truly, over the past couple of years, we’ve seen last-mile delivery service grow exponentially,” Koval explained. “And we believe the appeal of our new roof and with the refreshed interior and best-in-class cargo capacity and roof height will further broaden Ram’s appeal to not only commercial fleet customers, but also for retail customers.”
Editor’s note: CCJ also reached out to Ford for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.