AUBURN HILLS, MI – Chrysler is launching a subdivision of its Ram pickup division next year to meet demand for vans and other heavy-duty trucks.

The Ram Commercial subdivision will have a dedicated group of employees to develop, market and sell the trucks. Ram Commercial will be based at Chrysler headquarters here and will concentrate on the North American market, Ram President & CEO Fred Diaz tells WardsAuto.

Ram and Ram Commercial’s structure will be similar to that of Fiat and Fiat Industrial in Europe. Fiat Industrial produces agricultural, construction and other heavy equipment for the Italian auto maker but is not considered a brand such as Dodge or Lancia.

Diaz previously has expressed a desire to expand Chrysler’s presence in the truck market.

“The focus that this corporation has in trucks is unbelievable,” he says, noting the decision to spin off Ram Commercial was made during this year’s second-quarter.

“We’re getting really, really serious about the commercial side of business. This is to challenge the rest of the industry,” Diaz says of the subdivision’s creation.

Chrysler is holding back on what type of vehicles Ram Commercial will develop, for example whether vans will be included. Ram’s current lineup includes the 1500 light-duty pickup and the 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 pickups and chassis cabs.

In North America, neither Chrysler nor Fiat currently markets a commercial van or a midsize truck. Chrysler sold rebadged Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans while controlled by Daimler. The U.S. auto maker ended production of the midsize Dodge Dakota pickup in 2011.

Chrysler’s long-term business plan includes bringing Fiat-sourced vans to North America and a midsize truck replacement, but Diaz declines to reveal if Ram Commercial’s strategy is in sync with those announcements.

“There are a lot of things that we’re benefiting from with our partners at Fiat,” he says, noting that a compressed-natural-gas powertrain available in the ’12 Ram 2500 is used in several Fiat vehicles in Europe.

afoley@wardsauto.com