Dodge upgrades its electrical systemDodge has made a series of upgrades to its electrical system in order to make it easier to install bodies and equipment.

RAM Trucks electrical engineer Dave Donnelly said many upfitters have called him and asked, “Hey, can I do this?” Or they've said, “I used to be able to this — and now I can't.”

So what's going on?

“The real issue is technology,” he said. “As technology in the industry continues to increase, there's more and more proprietary BUS communication between the subsystems in the vehicle. We have different circuitry now.”

Ram has come up with a solution — an upfitter-friendly electronics interface box, developed with and sold through DGE Electronics.

“It allows you guys to decide the electrical system via this box so you cannot end up shorting out the BUS communication,” he said. “There are 20 different BUS outputs. It's receive only. You can't transmit on it.”

He said Ram also:

  • Has increased the top vehicle speed — 102 mph for the 3500 and 87 mph for the 4500/5500.

  • Is offering an optional programmable maximum speed feature — four speeds, ranging from 55 to 70 mph in 5-mph increments.

  • Has expanded the idle shutdown timer to retail customers for the 2012 MY.

    “Chassis cabs come from the factory with this timer disabled,” he said. “The default timer setting is five minutes. Allowable settings are 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes via the dealer service tool. It will be done at the dealership. The five-minute enable/disable timer is currently available for fleet orders. The active PTO overrides shutdown.”

  • Has enhanced the trailer brake control and added electric-over-hydraulic (EOH) trailer brake functionality.

    “There were a lot of issues where it wasn't aggressive enough for the heavy loads some folks were pulling,” he said. “Now you have the opportunity to go in and select how you want the vehicle set up. There are four choices: light electric, heavy electric, light EOH and heavy EOH. I've been out there driving up and down grades, trying settings out. On the heavy, aggressive setting, if you're pulling a heavy load, you will very much appreciate how this operates. All choices are customer selectable.”

  • Made lighting enhancements so it's now easier to support rear LED and separated rear lighting.

“There is the ability to go back to factory presets by removing circuits from the ground,” he said. “No dealer tool is required. The vehicle, on each startup, goes through diagnostics and checks to see if the circuit is still grounded. If it is, the functionality remains as you decide it. If for whatever reason that circuit comes free, on the next startup it will revert back to the previous functionality. So it also gives you the opportunity to go back and choose.”

Please, no soccer moms

Ram has launched a new minivan tailored to the Class 1 commercial van market.

The Ram Cargo Van — or Ram C/V — features a sliding door, rear quarter window and backlight privacy panels in place of clear glass windows, but buyers have the option of equipping it with several combinations of solid and glass panels, including a choice of solid or glass backlight.

There is a structural aluminum rear load floor, with two flooring options, including one with a flat, uninterrupted, high-capacity surface. An optional floor provides through-the-floor access to three exclusive storage bins and load floor tie-downs.

Ram C/V provides a Class 1 commercial vehicle-leading 1,800-pound cargo payload and towing capability of up to 3600 pounds.

At the heart of the 2012 Ram Cargo Van is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transaxle. It delivers 283 horsepower and 260 ft-lb of torque.

The Ram C/V also features a new driver-selectable fuel economizer mode. Drivers can change the transaxle shift schedule with a flip of a switch to maximize their fuel economy.

Standard features include covered 16-inch steel wheels, a 160-amp alternator, 20-gallon fuel tank, all-season extra-load capacity tires, 730-amp maintenance-free battery, commercial-duty suspension, engine oil cooler, quad halogen headlamps, load leveling and height control, power rack-and-pinion steering and fold-away power exterior mirrors with heating element.

The 2012 Ram Cargo Van is being built at the Chrysler Group Windsor (Ontario) Assembly Plant and went on sale in the third quarter. The Ram Cargo Van will replace the Dodge Grand Caravan C/V in the Chrysler Group's product lineup.

New heavy-duty pickup

The Ram 1500 Tradesman Heavy Duty is the newest member of the Tradesman family of trucks, which were launched in February 2011.

It has a 17,500-pound gross combined weight rating (GCWR). The truck is available exclusively as a 4x2 regular cab truck with an eight-foot bed.

The Tradesman is aimed at one of the pickup truck category's largest traditional customer bases: small-business owners, construction jobsites, and commercial fleets.

Ram also has announced that 2012 Ram 4500 and 5500 medium-duty (Class 4 and 5) chassis cab commercial trucks will be available with an optional 30,000-pound gross combined weight rating (GCWR), an increase from 26,000 pounds.

The new upgrade is part of an optional “Max Tow” package, and is available on both regular and crew cab models and in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. The package includes a new transfer case gear set and chain and sprocket upgrades, recalibrated transmission software, and an enhanced collection of thermal management devices.

Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs come equipped with the 305 horsepower, 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel engine.

Max Tow is available on Ram chassis cab trucks equipped with the optional, commercial-grade Aisin six-speed automatic transmission and 4.88 rear-axle ratio. A 4.44 axle is standard on 4500 models and not available with the Max Tow package. A class-exclusive six-speed manual transmission is standard on Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cab models.

The 30,000-pound GCWR gives the chassis cab a 4,000-pound increase in trailer-towing capabilities, up to a maximum of 22,300 pounds on a chassis cab equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission.

For more 2011 Truck Product Conference coverage click here