Fiat Chrysler Considering New Models for Ram Brand

At least two new models are under consideration.

Dodge Ramcharger Prospector
Dodge Ramcharger Prospector by Greg Gjerdingen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Take a quick look at the Ram brand and you’ll see four models based on its full-size pickup trucks —1500, 2500, 3500, and Chassis, plus a pair of imports from Fiat, the ProMaster and ProMaster City. Compared to what GMC and Chevrolet are offering, Ram is coming up short in model offerings.

This may seem like a strange thing from a manufacturer heavily skewed toward all things trucks and SUVs. But with Jeep in the equation, the tilt toward the SUV brand has been apparent and will continue as a new Wrangler and a Wrangler-based truck are soon released.

Ever since Ram separated from Dodge, it has lacked the models some believe it should include, such as the now-retired Dakota midsize pickup truck, and the Durango SUV. The Durango stayed on with Dodge, leaving Ram without a single SUV to offer. That deficiency may soon be eliminated if Mike Manley, head of FCA’s Jeep and Ram brands, has his way.

Large SUV, But Not For Ram?

In an interview conducted by the Detroit Free Press, FCA is considering a large SUV based on the platform underpinning the Ram pickup trucks. That model would compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL, and represent a strong profit center for the brand. Indeed, large SUVs typically command profits of at least $10,000 and with GM building more than 200,000 of them in 2015 spread across four model lines, that’s $2 billion in profits realized by GM.

The next-generation Ram 1500 is due out in early 2018 and that presents an ideal time to consider an SUV variant. FCA is also moving Ram production to Sterling Heights, Michigan, and will gain build capacity. At the same time, Manley indicated that Ram would not get the big SUV. Instead, it would be built for either Jeep, Dodge or Chrysler.

Return of the Dakota?

Another model lacking from the Ram line is a midsize pickup truck. Ever since the Dakota was canceled in 2011, talk of a replacement has surfaced. With GM bringing back the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon in 2015, the segment has rebounded. Also benefitting are the class-leading Toyota Tacoma and the aged, but still popular Nissan Frontier. Combined, the segment has reversed its steady decline as consumers consider smaller, but still capable pickup trucks.

FCA could develop an all-new platform to support a midsize pickup truck, but it might also turn to Jeep to use the Wrangler’s platform, soon to yield a pickup truck variant. Sharing platforms is economically sensible, but it might also diminish the Jeep brand. Either way, a body-on-frame pickup along the lines of the Colorado and Tacoma, and not like the unibody Honda Ridgeline seems possible.

Possible Midsize SUV

Looking beyond a midsize pickup truck, yet another Ram model is possible, this one a midsize SUV based on the new truck. In a segment where only the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler are left (all other models are crossovers), manufacturers are reconsidering whether to build truck-based SUVs smaller than the big models still available today.

Just this past week, rumors of such a model for GMC have resurfaced, a model that would compete directly with the Jeep Wrangler. Although FCA wouldn’t necessarily want to diminish Jeep sales by building such a model under the Ram flag, such a vehicle would allow the company to enjoy greater economies of scale.

Rising Ram and Jeep Sales

Through June 2016, Ram sales are up 11.3 percent on 256,972 vehicles sold. That’s well ahead of the 1.4 percent gain for all models and follows Jeeps’ 16.5 percent rise.

As for new models, Manley didn’t offer definitive plans. Instead, he supplied possible scenarios, what only will whet the appetite of Ram aficionados further.

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Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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