WITH THE INTRODUCTION of the 2007 Ram 3500 Chassis Cab — which started shipping in September — Dodge is back in the commercial segment in a big way.
The chassis cab joins the Sprinter, Ram pickup, Ram Box-off models, and Caravan and Grand Caravan cargo vans in the Dodge commercial vehicle lineup.
“We think as we embark on this next chapter we have the right formula to be successful,” said Joe Veltri, director of product planning. “We have been able to take the diverse needs of the pickup-truck customer and design specific products to meet those needs. We want to employ that same strategy as we embark in the chassis cab, because there is a whole diverse set of needs in that segment.
“We've grown from a 6% player to 19% in pickups in the last 12 years. Our vision is to become the market leader in Classes 2 through 5. We introduced the Class 3 chassis cab, so it's no stretch for us to get into Class 4 and 5. And we'll have two new from-the-ground-up vehicles in the next year.”
In developing the 3500 chassis cab, Dodge gathered considerable input from upfitters, second-stage manufacturers and end-users, so the chassis cab combines commercial capability, durability, and leading versatility for small business tradesmen, fleet customers, and traditional chassis cab users.
The chassis cab boasts a single-rear-wheel Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,200 lb, frame strength of 50-ksi steel, a 52-gallon standard fuel tank, standard V-8 power (HEMI with 330 hp), oil-change intervals of 15,000 miles, and interior passenger volume of 121.7 cubic feet for Quad Cab models.
Upfit-friendliness is a prevailing theme of the chassis cab — the first Ram chassis with a one-piece C-channel frame (50-ksi steel), industry-standard 34" frame-rail spacing and flat, “clean” frame rails. All chassis components are below the frame surface, assuring easy adaptability and versatility for virtually any upfit application. Offered in single-rear-wheel and dual-rear-wheel models, two cab-axle lengths (60" and 84") are available.
Two engine options
There are two engine choices: the new 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel with 305 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque, or the HEMI V-8 gasoline engine with 330 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque.
Since first introducing the 5.7L HEMI V-8 with the 2003 model year, Chrysler Group has sold more than 1.6 million vehicles with a HEMI (through January 2006) and the legendary engine has consecutively earned a place on Ward's 10 Best Engines list.
The 3500 chassis cab offers a six-speed automatic transmission (diesel only) with power take-off (PTO) capability or a six-speed manual transmission with PTO capability. An available electronic-shift transfer case is offered, and a factory-installed exhaust brake option contributes to both safety and superior brake pad life.
All 3500 chassis cab models are “job-rated” — designed, engineered, tested, and built to meet rigid standards of commercial truck buyers. The “job-rated” lineup consists of 4×2, 4×4, single-rear-wheel, dual-rear-wheel, regular, and Quad Cab models.
The chassis cab boasts Dodge Ram Heavy Duty's suspension system, beefed up even more for commercial applications.
The chassis cab is equipped with solid-beam front and rear axles, and a five-link, coil-spring front suspension with beam axle. A front and rear link-type sway bar and heavy-duty tubular shock absorbers are standard.
The rear suspension, common to both two-wheel and four-wheel-drive models, is equipped with leaf springs. The rear suspension on all Ram 3500 trucks includes standard two-stage springs with three leaves, and separate auxiliary leaves as part of the spring design for even greater load-carrying capability.
Other suspension enhancements over standard Dodge Ram 3500 models include new front shocks, a new track bar, and jounce bumpers, while rear suspension improvements include new springs, shocks, a narrower track, sway bar, and jounce bumper.
With two available cab-axle lengths of 60" and 84", the chassis cab delivers a best-in-class single-rear-wheel GVWR of 10,200 lb. Maximum GVWR for dual-rear-wheel models is 12,500 lb. When equipped with the 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel, the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) is 23,000 lb.
New brake components
An optional exhaust brake extends brake pad life. New brake components and standard four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS) enhance safety and crash-avoidance capability. Components include chassis brake lines (brake and fuel bundle), rear brake lines, rear park brake cables and extensions, and brake friction material for mproved wear.
New diesel engine mounts reduce vibrations through the steering wheel and floor and contribute to enhanced occupant comfort.
Bolt-on exhaust hanger brackets provide increased upfitter flexibility, and riveted cross-members behind the cab allow for easier modification. In addition, the one-piece C-channel frame, u-bolt access every 18" along the length of the frame and shear plate mounting locations identified along the frame all contribute to the upfitter friendliness.
The fuel filler is routed through the frame, and an optional mid-ship fuel tank frees up more space behind the rear axle for special upfit applications. Fuel and brake lines are routed together on the frame's left side to make better use of space along the frame, which also has clearance for rear-exhaust routing.
Electrical connections are user-friendly thanks to three-fused battery feeds routed into the cab and onto the rear of the chassis. A high-current 50-amp ground stud is located at the rear of the frame.
An auxiliary power distribution center (PDC) contains two battery circuits (25 amp) and one relay actuated ignition (20 amp) circuit. The two battery feed and ignition wiring circuits are routed to a 10-way connector located in the passenger compartment. The two battery feed circuits along with a pass-through circuit route from the interior of the vehicle to the rear of the chassis. The PDC is mounted to an auxiliary bracket, which was designed to hold additional relays and any other electrical devices. Up to six unterminated PTO wire circuits are located under the hood: six for the diesel package, one for the gas package.
“We've tried to make this an upfitter-friendly electrical package,” Dave Donnelly said. “From a lot of calls I've been receiving, this is an area where a lot of you struggle, especially with the fact that every year we change computers and the way we interface with exterior lighting.”
Built in Saltillo
Supported by a supplementary $48 million capital investment, the Ram 3500 chassis cab will be built at Chrysler Group's Saltillo Assembly Plant in Coahuila, Mexico. The plant is being expanded by 120,000 square feet for commercial vehicle production and will accommodate new frame configurations.
Already being built at Saltillo are the Ram Mega Cab, Ram Power Wagon, Ram SRT10, and Ram Heavy Duty 2500 and 3500 models.
The $48 million investment for the 3500 chassis cab follows a recent $210 million investment for production of the all-new 2006 Ram Mega Cab in 2005. As a result, the plant will be able to handle increased capacity and full production of the vehicle's all-new, commercial grade chassis and suspensions, including two cab-axle lengths, regular and Quad Cab versions, 4×2 and 4×4 variants, and single- and dual-rear-wheel models.
The Saltillo plant has 2,100 employees working on two shifts and is one of five Chrysler Group production facilities in Mexico.
With a U.S. market share of 7%, Dodge is Chrysler Group's best-selling brand and the fifth-largest nameplate in the United States automotive market. In 2005, Dodge sold more than 1.4 million vehicles in the global market. Dodge continues to lead the minivan market segment with a 19% market share in the United States. In the highly competitive truck market, Dodge has a 16% market share.