CHELSEA, MI – Building on the momentum of its refreshed 1500 light-duty pickup, Ram unveils spruced-up 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty models.

Chrysler set four goals in redesigning the trucks, all aimed at winning over commercial customers: Better fuel economy, an improved electrical architecture, more features and more aggressive styling borrowed from the 1500, refreshed last year.

“The things that we’re doing are working,” Bob Hegbloom, director of the Ram brand, tells reporters here.

For fuel economy, the pickups add Aisin’s AS68RC 6-speed automatic transmission to its lineup, mated with either a 395-hp 5.7L V-8 gasoline engine or a 6.7L Cummins inline-6 diesel, with an upgraded exhaust aftertreatment system to reduce emissions.

Chrysler also has improved the heavy-duty models’ aerodynamics to help boost fuel economy, with changes to the front fascia and wheels. Both trucks can haul upward of 30,000 lbs. (13,607 kg).

Projector headlamps, four separate grille designs, light-emitting-diode turn signals, power-folding mirrors and a full-length sidestep also have been added.

Inside, 2500 and 3500 pickups now offer Chrysler’s UConnect telematics system as an option. The technology includes an optional 8.4-in. (21.3-cm) touchscreen with navigation, satellite radio and other functions and a new backup camera specific to the heavy-duty line.

Pricing and specific fuel-economy numbers for the pickups have not been announced.

Hegbloom tells WardsAuto Ram is expecting a trickle-down of heavy-duty customers into other Chrysler products, hence the increased focus on quality on the cargo haulers.

“When he goes to buy his product, that’s going to be top of mind,” he says.

As for the 1500 pickup, with its head-turning Laramie Longhorn edition that won a Ward’s 10 Best Interiors award this year, there has been an uptick in premium-minded customers in the medium-duty sector, prompting Chrysler to upgrade that trim in the 2500 and 3500, as well.

“There’s demand out there for those premium trucks,” Hegbloom says. “I don’t know if we’ve hit the upper end yet.”

The Laramie Longhorn trucks were the fastest-turning heavy-duty pickups at Ram dealers last year, he says.

The Tradesman series, a base-end trim on all Ram models, caters to the more utilitarian buyer, who believes, “‘I don’t need the crew being comfortable because they’re working,’” Hegbloom says.

But some customers sometimes treat their heavy-duty trucks as family vehicles, he adds.

Service intervals have been raised from 10,000 miles (16,100 km) to 15,000 miles (24,150 km) on the diesel engine. About 55% of 2500 models sold are equipped with diesels, and 85% of 3500 models carry the Cummins mill.

Gasoline engines always will have a place in the Ram lineup, however.

“A diesel engine in today’s market is pushing $10,000,” Hegbloom says. Small businesses want to know, “‘what will do the job for me and…what’s the overall cost of ownership?’” Hegbloom says.

The revised Ram 2500 and 3500 go on sale in the U.S. in June.

Meanwhile, the Ram ProMaster large van, based on the Fiat Ducato in Europe, launches this summer. Hegbloom says as the market for new vans opens up this year, he expects owners of the Daimler-built Dodge Sprinter to come back to Chrysler, rather than switch to Mercedes and Freightliner, which continue to offer Sprinter vans.

“(Customers) establish a relationship with that network of dealers,” he says.

A key to marketing the ProMaster is Ram’s relationship with tool-maker Bosch, a leading upfitter for the brand that has a partnership with storage-maker Sortimo, which can install toolboxes and other cabinet solutions in the vans.

Hegbloom also says marketing will focus on the ProMaster’s front-wheel-drive application, which he says tested well with clients using pre-production versions of the vans.

“It’s not like we’ve got an all-new product that we’re starting from scratch,” Hegbloom says, noting the Ducato has sold 4.5 million units in Europe.

The small-van market, led by the Ford Transit Connect, also is on Ram’s radar, but Hegbloom gives no hint about the future of the Ram Cargo Van, based on the Chrysler minivans.

One Chrysler minivan will be discontinued, leaving the future of the Cargo Van in question. Hegbloom does allude to the possibility of marketing a version of the Fiat Doblo, a small van sold in Europe.

“If you do look at the (Fiat Professional) portfolio, they do have a Class 1 van in the Doblo similar to the Ducato that plays in the Class 2 market,” Hegbloom says.

“I’m like a kid in the candy store ,because we have this portfolio and it’s open to us. The relationship has been fantastic.”

afoley@wardsauto.com