CHICAGO — Trucks and vans took center stage this year at the Chicago Auto Show’s media preview, Feb. 7-8, at McCormick Place. The Chicago Auto Show is open to the public Feb. 9 -18, 2013.  

Ram introduced the new 2014 Ram ProMaster, the brand’s latest addition to its commercial vehicle lineup. Ram Truck is tapping into Fiat Professional, one of the largest producers of commercial vehicles, and the 2014 Ram ProMaster is the Company’s first shared truck collaboration with Fiat Professional. The new 2014 Ram ProMaster is based on the popular front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato, which is the most popular full-size van in Europe. The timing of Ram ProMaster launch aligns with the announcement of Ram Commercial, a new division of the Ram Truck brand to meet the unique requirements of commercial customers.

“Ram Truck brand has the opportunity to work directly with our successful colleagues at Fiat Professional on vehicles we feel will resonate with North American customers,” said Fred Diaz, President and CEO — Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico, Chrysler Group LLC. “Aligning with the recent launch of our new Ram Commercial division, the 2014 Ram ProMaster offers customers an entirely new full-size van with best-in-class features, quality, durability, capability and low total cost of ownership.”

The Ram ProMaster full-size van is engineered for the North American market and offered with best-in-class attributes, and additionally, the ProMaster is the first offering in its competitive set to provide both a chassis cab and cutaway from the factory. The 2014 Ram ProMaster offers 13 different configurations and offers the most fuel-efficient model in its class and includes best-in-class usability and more cargo capacity. Start of production for the 2014 Ram ProMaster is scheduled for third quarter of 2013.

“The new Ram ProMaster is answering to a demand for high efficiency and optimized capability with the lowest total cost of ownership in the segment,” said Diaz. “ProMaster rounds out our commercial offerings. From the powerful Ram 5500 Chassis Cab to the versatile Ram C/V, our Ram Commercial division is providing best-in-class capability and technology across a complete line of commercial trucks and vans.”

Also at the Chicago Auto Show, the all-new 2013 Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo Van, which adds a new dimension to the Nissan Commercial Vehicle lineup — compact. More than 4.5 feet shorter in length and 2.5 feet lower in height compared to the Nissan NV 2500/3500 High Roof Cargo Van, the new NV200 is designed to be the “right size” for small business owners and fleet operators wanting smaller, more efficient work vans.

“For many years businesses have bought large vans simply because that’s what was available,” said Joe Castelli, vice president, Nissan Commercial Vehicles and Fleet. “The 2013 Nissan NV200 offers a great new alternative, a commercial quality vehicle that optimizes cargo space while offering the best possible fuel economy and an affordable price. We’re now able to offer vehicles for nearly every business need, the compact NV200, the full-size NV 1500/2500/3500 Cargo Standard Roof, the 4-row/12-person NV 3500 Passenger and the extra-large NV 2500/3500 Cargo High Roof.”

Built on Nissan’s proven compact commercial platform, the NV200 offers high cargo volume capacity in a small exterior package.

Unique for North America, the NV200 body has been extended 7.9 inches.   

“As the next ‘innovation for business,’ the new NV200 is designed to be highly maneuverable in traffic or when negotiating city parking spaces, with a 36.7-foot curb-to-curb turning diameter,” said Castelli. “Yet it is every inch a business workhorse with its wide-opening doors and its ability to carry standard U.S. 40x48-inch pallets enhancing its exceptional utility.”

Ford showcased the all-new 2014 Ford Transit Connect cargo van, which is set to provide cost-conscious commercial fleets and small business owners with unmatched fuel economy and versatility. Also, a variety of Ford commercial vehicles were on display, plus, 2013 Ford Transit Connects and Ford F-150 pickups.  

Redesigned from the ground up, the 2014 Transit Connect cargo van maneuvers and parks as easy as driving a car, and capable of delivering 30+ mpg on the highway. To meet the needs of North American customers, the '14 Ford Transit Connect van is offered in two wheelbase lengths, in XL and XLT series levels, with up to a 1,600-pound payload and more than 130 cubic feet of cargo space. Plus, for the first time, this versatile compact van is approved to tow up to 2,000 pounds when properly equipped.

“We have completely reengineered Transit Connect with North American business owners top of mind,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of The Americas. “This all-new cargo hauler offers entrepreneurs and fleet owners a unique combination of leading fuel efficiency, cargo capacity and maneuverability.”

This contemporary cargo van is available with or without second-row seating, and offers useful options like rearview camera, 6.5-in. touch screen display with navigation, and SYNC with MyFord Touch voice-activated mobile communications and entertainment system. There is a choice between a standard 2.5-liter and an optional 1.6L EcoBoost four cylinder engines that are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, geared for around-town responsiveness and low-rpm highway cruising. The 2.5L engine can be specified with compressed natural gas/liquid propane gas preparation package.

The Transit Connect will be joined by the all-new 2014 Ford Transit full-size van, which will provide professional tradesmen and commercial fleet customers with a diverse array of bodystyles and configurations tailored to their work needs.

Trucks

Toyota showcased the 2013 Tacoma. Refreshed with a restyled exterior and upgraded interior last year, the 2013 Toyota Tacoma adds an available Entune multimedia system and a new Limited model package. All Tacoma models are offered in the 4x2, PreRunner and 4x4 models, in Regular, Access, Double and X-Runner cabs. Both the Regular and Access models feature a 73.5-inch long bed, while the Double Cab comes with a choice of 60.3-inch or the 73.5-in bed. Standard is a 2.7 liter Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) four-cylinder that produces 159 horsepower, and is matched to a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission.

An available 4.0L DOHC V-6 provides 236hp, and comes linked with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. In both engines, variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) provides strong low-end and mid-range torque. When equipped with a V-6 Tow Package, Access Cab models boast a maximum tow capacity of up to 6,500 pounds. Depending on configurations, the Tacoma's payload numbers range upwards from 910-1570 pounds.

During the media preview, Toyota unveiled its all-new 2014 Tundra. The Tundra, a full-sized pickup, is the third vehicle that Toyota has released in the last 10 months. Toyota has expanded the Tundra lineup to include two new premium trim levels, now offering buyers five options.

“We listened to what the customers were telling us while redesigning the Tundra," said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division. "Full-size pickups are a way of life."

At the Chevrolet exhibit, the all-new 2014 Silverado 1500 full-size pickup was on display. The new Silverado builds on Chevrolet’s truck heritage, and among the many updates for 2014 are a new trio of efficient EcoTec3 engines; a stronger, quieter, more comfortable cab; revised steering, suspension and brakes; ingenious solutions for managing cargo in the bed and true truck capability for towing and hauling.

“Our customers rely on their trucks to meet the day-to-day challenges of earning a living, running a business and taking care of their families,” said Mark Reuss, president, GM North America. “Chevrolet is committed to giving truck customers the most-refined, best-engineered pickups in the market.”

The 2014 Silverado will become part of Chevrolet’s three-truck portfolio, designed to let customers select the right truck for their needs. It joins the Silverado 2500 and 3500 HD pickups, which were new for the 2011 model year. Chevrolet is also developing an all-new Colorado midsize pickup, which will offer proven truck capability in a space- and fuel-efficient package.

Silverado’s new front end is engineered to improve sealing for more efficient cooling, while the roof and tailgate spoiler were shaped in the wind tunnel to smooth airflow over the truck for reduced drag. New inlaid doors, which fit into recesses in the bodyside, reduce wind noise for a quieter cab.

Under the hood, the 2014 Silverado 1500 features a family of three all-new EcoTec3 engines, a V-6 and two V-8s, engineered specifically for use in full-size trucks. All three engines incorporate direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing, a combination of advanced technologies not found in other competitors’ trucks. All three switch seamlessly to four-cylinder operation to improve efficiency during light load driving and all three are engineered to provide more power, more torque and better efficiency than the previous versions.

To view a gallery of images from the 2013 Auto Show, click here.