Food trucks are here to stay, no matter what some bloggers have written.  And after visiting the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last week, it’s clear that the automakers want in on the food truck industry.  I had the pleasure of speaking to two different automakers that are definitely familiar with and looking to promote their commercial offerings to the mobile food industry.

Food trucks aren’t really new in this industry because automakers have been serving food to the media at the Los Angeles Auto Show for a couple of years.  The difference is that more manufacturers are taking a more serious look at this industry with its commercial truck and van segment.

The NAIAS is typically home to major product announcements and launches with global automotive media in strong attendance.  The products on display are primarily consumer automotive while other large shows around the country have a higher concentration of commercial vehicles on display.  Having said that, I was excited to see the Ram ProMaster proudly displayed on the main aisle in the Chrysler family of brands booth.  I was happy to sit down with Robert Hegbloom, the Director of Ram Brand Marketing, to discuss their plans with the Ram ProMaster as it relates to the food truck industry.

Hegbloom believes this product is a smart choice for food truck industry professionals.  Its best-in-class features set it apart from the competition.

I’ve seen all sorts of food trucks around the country and on television.  I’ve spoken to several owners about how they’ve retrofitted their trucks to fit their needs and the problems they’ve had because the truck wasn’t built with their specific needs in mind.

I could rattle off the best-in-class of features directly from the Ram ProMaster media kit, but I’d prefer to elaborate and bring some of it to life for practical food truck purposes.

The fuel economy, cargo capacity and payload are great features.  Fuel economy is key when having to move around several times or make several trips to and from your commercial kitchen to restock or travel long distances to see your customers.  The payload can hold up to 5,145 pounds of equipment and supplies.  The towing capacity can haul up to 5,100 pounds of additional supplies, or your portable smoker and more.

This is the only vehicle in its class with front-wheel drive.  Because of this, the Ram ProMaster is able to offer the lowest step-in height and highest standard ceiling height.  As a food truck owner/operator, you’ll have headspace to work while the lowest step-in height means comfort and reduced fatigue and risk of injuries while getting in and out of the truck.

The front-wheel drive also offers some ease of driving and handling because most of us are used to that in our everyday driving.

The Ram ProMaster is a great utilitarian commercial vehicle whose corporate offices are taking notice of the food truck industry.  It was developed from the successful, long-standing Fiat Ducato.  It has 30+ years of reliable service and more than 4.5 million units sold.

Ram Truck is well known for being the most upfitter-friendly brand in the truck market.  That’s good news for kitchen builders and food truck owner/operators that can work closely with their preferred dealers to customize their kitchens.  Let’s keep in mind that while a full kitchen will fit, the equipment will most likely need to be smaller in scale to fit in this space.  If your kitchen equipment needs and operational staffing are minimal, this can be the right vehicle for you.  Watch for the Ram ProMaster at your local Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Association and various food/restaurant related shows in the future.

Other vehicles in this segment are the Nissan EV, the Ford Transit Connect, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.  All of them bring different features to the party and all are solid commercial vans for food truck use.  They will all be discussed over the next few months.