Dodge Ram: big US ute set for Australia

The big Dodge Ram could finally come to Australia.
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Fiat Chrysler Group Australia CEO Clyde Campbell has told CarAdvice he expects the full-size ute will make it here.

“I’m confident that, in the next generation, we will get it,” he said.

A new-model Ram is due in 2015 and Fiat Chrysler’s top executives are currently considering the business case for producing it in right-hand drive as well as left-hand drive.

Fiat Chrysler Australia already sells the left-hand-drive Ram to Australian mining companies, which are happy to order the big utes even though they can’t be registered and driven on public roads.

“We are inhibited because they can’t take them off private property, but it is still a high demand vehicle,” Campbell said. “The mines love it. They love its hauling capacity. There is nothing on offer that does what this does."

While Fiat Chrysler is currently looking at the Ram business case, Campbell said he thinks the numbers stack up.

“I think we have got a business case that works there,” he said. “They clearly see that there is a pent-up demand for this product in this market.”

Campbell points out that no full-size utes have been available in Australia since the Brazilian-sourced Ford F-Series withdrew in 2006 after a five-year stint.

“These guys have a need,” he said.

Campbell pointed to the value of old Australian-delivered right-hand-drive F-Series trucks as an example of customer demand.

“An F-Series with 100,000km on it will get more (money) than what you paid for it when they sold it new,” he said.

Fiat Chrysler Australia pushed hard for a right-hand-drive Ram previously, in its former guise as Chrysler Australia. The problem has been that the current Ram was never designed to be built as a right-hand-drive vehicle. Making the design and tooling changes to start producing it in right-hand drive part way along the production cycle would be too costly.

“If you take an existing product halfway through the life cycle, the tool-up costs are actually more than to tool up to make it right- hand drive from the start. If you do it from the start you can amortise it over the whole life cycle,” Campbell said.

Previously, the Ram has been sold as a Dodge, but Fiat Chrysler has now established Ram Trucks as a separate brand.
If the Ram does come to Australia, it is likely to be sold as a Ram Trucks product.

The Dodge Ram is available in the US in several guises from the big 1500 through to the gigantic 3500, with engines such as the 5.7-litre petrol Hemi V8 and a monstrous six-cylinder 6.7-litre Cummins diesel that generates a whopping 881Nm of torque.

The Ram range runs from bare bones Tradesman single cab models all the way through to the heavy towing models with quad tyre rear ends as well as Larame crew cabs that come loaded with leather and woodgrain and plenty of chrome.

Campbell is clearly a fan. “It’s the king of the road,” he said.

Eventually, Fiat Chrysler Australia could have another ute to lobby for, with reports out of the US suggesting the company is considering building a ‘small pick-up’ truck that would be comparable size to the Ford Ranger.

Detroit Free Press quotes Chrysler’s product planning vice president, Joe Veltri, as stating there is still a market for utes like the Ram Dakota, which has just gone out of production in the US.

He said a lot of young American males still wanted a pick-up, but couldn’t afford to buy or run a full-sized version.

“The trucks today, they are big, they are fuel-inefficient,” Veltri said. “The formula, in my opinion, doesn’t meet the needs of the market.”

Fiat Chrysler engineers are reportedly studying what it would take to develop a new compact ute, but Veltri says no decision has been made on whether it would be put into production.

One factor that could help give the project the green light is that Ford has decided not sell the new-generation Ranger in the US, while General Motors will also vacate the segment when it stops making the (US-built) Colorado and GMC Canyon.

Campbell said Fiat Chrysler Australia is not aware of any plans to build a Ranger-sized product, but said the company would look at any new model being developed by Fiat Chrysler globally and then decide whether to lobby for it to be made in right-hand drive.