RAM trucks will make their way to Australia from the United States in unlimited numbers from September this year.
In a deal announced today, the joint venture importer for Fiat Chrysler (FCA) in New Zealand plans to import and convert the vehicles to Full Volume standards, with the active blessing and participation of FCA’s global head office.
RAM is a subsidiary brand of FCA. Fiat Chrysler New Zealand is a joint venture between former Fiat Chrysler Australia CEO Clyde Campbell and Ateco Automotive chief Neville Crichton.
“Clearly there is a demand for this type of vehicle in Australia and New Zealand in both the private and commercial markets with only availability restricting sales,” Campbell said.
“Until now the only way to own one in Australia was through a low-volume aftermarket conversion. Our vehicles are being developed with the full blessing of FCA’s RAM division.
“They have worked closely with our engineers to produce a vehicle that is as close to an official factory right-hand-drive vehicle as it can be without it having actually run down the factory production line.”
To attain Full Volume standards, a converted car must meet tough Australian Design Rules (ADRs). If met, there is no volume restriction, unlike Low Volume converters that can only sell 200 vehicles per annum.
The company is not commenting on which third party it has hired to convert the vehicles from left-hand drive to right-hand drive.
However, it is understood that Melbourne-based Walkinshaw — Holden Special Vehicles’ parent company and importer for Indian company Tata — has taken on the job. We know the RAMs will be converted locally.
First cabs off the rank will be the heavy duty 2500 and 3500 trucks — the latter of which has a payload of about 3.3 tonnes and a hitch-receiver towing capacity of up to 8 tonnes (more than double a Ford Ranger) thanks to its 1200Nm 6.7-litre Cummins V8 I6 diesel engine.
This means the only rivals for the RAM range will be other converted American trucks, such as the Ford F-250 sold here in RHD guise by Performax International. Some may remember that Ford itself sold the F-250 here about a decade ago, with some success.
Expect pricing to kick off somewhere between $100,000 and $120,000 (similar to the converted F-250), with the range going northward from there.
A company spokesman says that beyond that, the “full gamut” was being looked at, though it could run into some stumbling blocks if it wants the ‘baby’ 1500 series, given Fiat Chrysler’s Australian factory importer is eyeing that version off.
It’s no secret that Fiat Chrysler Australia chief Pat Dougherty is interested in exploring the business case for the RAM 1500 here.
Speaking today with CarAdvice, FCA Australia corporate communications director Lucy McLellan said the company’s local importer was okay with the fact that RAM vehicles would be sold here through an importer independent to itself.
“Our position is pretty plain and simple. It was an FCA international project together with FCA New Zealand and there’s obviously an appetite for RAM in this country, so it’ll be an interesting test with the 2500 and 3500 and they have our support,” she said.