RAM had a banner year in 2017 in Canada with nearly 103,000 units sold, of which 98,500 were pickups. FCA’s truck brand has never been more popular and relevant. Their trucks are capable, attractive, loaded with character, kit and are fuel efficient but there is one thing there are not: Number one in sales.
At this past Canadian International Auto Show, I sat shotgun in a new 2019 RAM 1500 Rebel with Jim Morrison in the passenger seat. We chatted about RAM, its present and the future.
Mr. Morrison, born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, has spent the last 23 years of his professional career, essentially all of it, working for FCA. In that time, he’s held various positions and today, he’s Head of Ram Brand for FCA North America. To say that Jim knows his product is an understatement.
I began the conversation by congratulating him on his, and his team’s, hard work but immediately went to the obvious question. Regardless how good the RAM 1500 and related Heavy Duty versions are, and however great-looking and technology-packed the new 2019 truck is, what can they possibly do to dethrone the Ford F-Series (155k sales in 2017) as the best seller in the segment?
Jim did not need to pause or think about the answer. What they’re going is quite simple: They will continue to work at building the best truck they can and attract new buyers to the brand. One of the things he’s most proud of is that RAM has the highest loyalty rating in the half-ton truck segment. Once customers join RAM, they tend to stick around. The new 2019 RAM raises the bar further and should have a positive effect on keeping existing customers and bringing in new ones.
During FCA’s press conference at the 2018 CIAS, Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales and Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FCA Canada Inc., essentially said that although electrified products like their Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid are important, they still account for a fraction of a fraction of total sales. Even though this is the company that brings us 700+ and 800+ horsepower SRT vehicles, they’re working hard on improving on fuel economy and emissions.
I asked Jim about their clever eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system and what it means for the brand and their customers. eTorque technology answers owners’ and drivers’ desire for more power (90 lb.-ft. of torque to the 3.6-liter V6 and up to 130 lb.-ft. to the 5.7-liter HEMI V8) with the added benefit of fuel efficiency. RAM was among the first to apply multiple displacement (cylinder deactivation) and offer a diesel engine in the light-duty full-size truck segment. eTorque is the next step and Mr. Morrison thinks that RAM could eventually become the biggest provider of fuel-efficient trucks in the market thanks to its mild hybrids.
The final question related to expanding the RAM brand with the possible return of the Dakota. He responded by saying that Canadians are more interested by the notion of a smaller RAM than the Americans. The short of the answer is that their eyes are wide open, and they are well aware of what Ford and GM are up to. A return of the Dakota has to make financial sense. No one will opt for an expensive smaller truck when a 1500 might retail for only a few grand more.