The legendary Ducato was born on October 23, 1981
Thirty-five years of successes and records for the emblematic Fiat Professional model that is still today one of the most popular in Europe due to its versatility, engine power and low running costs. Retracing the history of Ducato means leafing through some of the most interesting episodes of the industry.
The first Ducato, an extraordinary model that revolutionised the high-capacity van market with its front-wheel drive, engine power and spacious loading area, rolled off the lines at Sevel (Società Europea Veicoli Leggeri), in Val di Sangro (Italy), on October 23, 1981. Production continues today in the largest factory for medium-to-large size vans in the EMEA Region (the five million vehicle mark was reached in 2015).
Fiat Professional is celebrating the key moments of these 35 years of history with a dedicated ADV campaign, social media activities on the official Facebook page and an emotional video that will available for viewing from the morning of October 23 on the fiatprofessional.com website. The claim of the campaign that will be broadcast across all the involved channels is “We never dreamed of success. We built it” and represents the undisputed leadership of Ducato in the commercial vehicle category. Not by chance, over the years, Ducato has been progressively developed to become the benchmark and a trendsetter produced in over 10,000 variants and sold in more than 80 countries worldwide. Furthermore, the many body variants, the efficient chassis and the car-like driving has made it the go-to choice for outfitters of special purpose vehicles and camper vans.
From the beginning, the first series of Ducato (1981-1990) implemented an array of innovative solutions, like the front transverse engine with traction and tank combined in a single module with the cab. These features made a variety of hitherto unprecedented models possible. The body variants included two roof heights and Van, Combi, Bus and Truck variants. The two wheelbases (2923 and 3653 millimetres) meant the van could total a load volume of 9.8 cubic metres and achieve a permissible gross weight up to 2800 kilograms. In 1984, the use of inclined shock absorbers produced a completely flat load area, and in 1985 the Maxi version increased maximum load to 3500 kilograms. Finally, in 1989, the Fiat Ducato with Steyr-Puch all-wheel drive made an appearance.
Ten years after its launch on the market (1990-1994), Ducato achieved its first milestone with the second series, with the four-wheel drive making its grand début: on 1 October 1991, the 500,000th vehicle rolled off the production line. The power of the 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine was upped to 70 kW (95 HP) and an innovative propulsion system, the all-electric Fiat Ducato Elettra, was introduced for the first time. The range was complemented by the introduction of a third wheelbase (3200 millimetres).
The third generation (1994-2002) was launched in 1994. CX was improved (dropping to 0.35) and a new vehicle cab design inspired by practical professional requirements was introduced: for the first time in the sector, the gear lever was incorporated into the central console rendering the central part of the floor usable and facilitating access to the cab from both doors and from the cab to the loading compartment: this improved both ergonomics and productivity. Specialist press recognised the innovation and customer focus of the Ducato by awarding it the title of “International Van of the Year 1994”.
Further improvements aimed at comfort characterised the noughties. For instance, height-adjustable seats and three-spoke steering wheels were introduced on the fourth series (2002-2006) in 2002. The engine line-up of Ducato was also developed. A direct injection Common Rail engine – a major step forward in terms of performance, quiet operation and high efficiency – was adopted for the first time in 2002. Furthermore, Ducato opened the alternative fuel era with its petrol/methane engine, which laid the foundations for the success of brand as European market leader in the methane-powered van sector.
The fifth generation of the Ducato joined the scene in 2006, extending the range and further increasing flexibility: it was the first front-wheel van to offer a volume of 17 cubic metres. Most of all, it set the bar in terms of efficient running and low maintenance costs, in addition to fuel efficiency and low emission levels, by offering a wide range of diesel engines implementing second-generation MultiJet technology.
The sixth generation launched in 2014 boasted the greatest front axle load (up to 2100 kilograms) and greatest rear axle load (up to 2500 kilograms) for single rear axle vehicles, as well as the highest maximum load. The van version of Ducato could carry a maximum payload of 2100 kilograms. Furthermore, air suspensions on the rear axle were made available for the first time.
Over the years, Ducato crossed the borders of Europe to reach Russia, South America, the Middle East and Australia. Today, it is sold in over 80 countries worldwide, including North America since 2013 by RAM under the name of “PROMASTER”. Produced in three countries (Mexico, Brazil and Italy) and sold all over the world, Ducato is truly a global vehicle and with its sixth generation it will spur the growth of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the light commercial vehicles sector.