Stand by for more US-style pick-ups on our roads: our appetite for “full size” utes has exceeded all expectations, prompting the local factory to triple output to fill back orders.
The Melbourne production line that remanufactures Ram pick-ups to right-hand-drive is about to switch to three shifts – running 24 hours a day, five days a week – following an investment by the distributors of more than $10 million.
The increase from two to three shifts will also create new jobs in Australia’s automotive sector, bringing the total number of employees from 110 to 160 at the facility in Clayton, south-east of Melbourne – the same site where Holden Special Vehicles converts Chevrolets to right-hand-drive on an adjacent production line.
The new employees have already joined the company and are in training to prepare for the start of the third shift from June.
The Australian distributor of Ram is holding more than 460 orders for Ram pick-ups, despite prices ranging from $80,000 to $150,000 – well in excess of the top-selling Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton utes that typically cost between $40,000 and $60,000.
To reduce the current three-month delay, the Ram production line will begin working around the clock from 1 June, 2019.
The extra shifts coincide with a reduction in production time for each right-hand-drive conversion, slashed from three-and-a-half days down to less than 24 hours to install 350 to 400 locally engineered parts.
“This is not just great news for Ram, it is also a fantastic achievement for the Australian automotive industry and shows the world our automotive and engineering industry is open for business,” said Alex Stewart, General Manager of Ram Trucks Australia.
“Since we started production (in May 2017) we have cut by more than two-thirds the time it takes to remanufacture a Ram Truck for our market,” said Mr Stewart.
The new production line is 130 metres long and 21 vehicles can be worked on simultaneously. The facility uses parts suppliers that were previously working with Australia’s three manufacturers – Holden, Ford and Toyota – before their factory shutdowns.
For example, the same company that makes the dashboards for the right-hand-drive Ram pick-ups previously made dashboards for Melbourne-made Toyota Camrys.
“The entire Ram Trucks project was set up, engineered, designed and developed in Australia by Australian experts, it shows what this country is capable of and how we can produce a world class product,” said Mr Stewart.
“In short, it is clearly something of which everyone involved should be extremely proud and which … has provided Australians with a new and unique choice when it comes to vehicle buying.”
The unprecedented demand for full-size US-style pick-ups is the clearest sign yet that Australians can’t get enough of large, versatile vehicles that can be used for work and play.
Ram sales got a boost with the recent arrival of the $80,000 1500 Express model (read our review here), which puts US pick-ups within reach for buyers of Australia’s top-selling utes that cost close to or in excess of $70,000.
“The 1500 is now having the same dramatic effect on Ram sales in Australia as it has done in the USA, where the Ram brand has enjoyed eight years of consecutive growth,” said Mr Stewart. “There can be little doubt that the 1500 is making Ram a significant player in the top end of the Australian Ute market.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling