Twelve months ago, Fiat and Mitsubishi announced a deal that would see the Japanese manufacturer supply its Italian partner with a ute based on the new-generation Triton. Fiat’s ute – captured by our spy photographers earlier this year – is expected to be offered in markets where that brand is strong and where Mitsubishi is not.
No surprise, then, that Fiat Chrysler Australia (FCA) director of marketing Zac Loo has confirmed with CarAdvice that although the local division had considered the Toyota HiLux-rivalling pick-up, it ultimately declined the option.
“We’re not on the program for it,” Loo said. “Mitsubishi does a reasonable job with Triton here. Their product is a good one for what it does.
“Obviously Mitsubishi isn’t strong in all parts of the world so it’s quite a good tie-up on both sides, but for us Mitsubishi is reasonably well represented in our market.”
The new Triton, above, will form the basis of Fiat's new ute.
Far from turning its back on utes, however, Loo admitted its decision was motivated by FCA’s determination to bring the Ram brand to Australia, which would give the company something very unique in the market.
“We’d prefer to focus on bringing a truck like a Ram. We think that’s where there’s real opportunity. Ram is exciting," he said.
FCA CEO Pat Dougherty confirmed in July he was particularly keen to bring the Ram 1500 to our market. The 1500 is the ‘baby’ of the Ram range, though measuring more than 5.8 metres long, it's still almost half a metre longer than the new HiLux.
The 1500 is available in dozens of configurations including different body styles, rear- and four-wheel-drive layouts, and with a number of six- and eight-cylinder engines, though at the moment is only built in left-hand drive.
Converted right-hand-drive versions of the Ram 2500 and 3500 pick-ups are set to launch imminently in Australia, though that deal is independent of FCA, struck between Fiat Chrysler's global operation and the brand's independent importer in New Zealand.
Above: Fiat Chrysler's Australian arm has its heart set on the big Ram 1500.
Loo confirmed that FCA is actively pursuing Ram with its parent company, working hard to make a business case to encourage head office executives to turn on right-hand-drive production at its assembly lines.
“We’ve got an open case, but we’re just working out as a business how we could work something like that in,” he said.
“We’d love to have Ram in the market, it’s just a case of whether we can make something stack up.”
While a local program for converting the 1500 to right-hand drive is a possibility, the company is expected to wait until the launch of the next-generation model, which is due around 2017.