Ram Trucks is a division of FCA US LLC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Rumors of a mid-sized Ram pick-up truck began in March 2013 when Fred Diaz, then president and CEO of Ram Trucks, spoke about this possibility at the New York Auto Show. He stated that Ram was currently exploring the possibility of introducing a mid-sized truck to the North American market in the near future. However, Diaz added that Ram executives still had many concerns they needed to address before they would consider it a viable option.
Ford and GMC had already left the mid-sized truck market in 2013, leaving Nissan and Toyota as the only remaining players in that market. Diaz stated that the North American market for mid-sized trucks was small, so Ram needed to determine if it would be profitable to simply join the other two competitors in that market or if it would be necessary to dominate the mid-sized truck market.
Reid Bigland replaced Fred Diaz as CEO of Ram Trucks in April 2013. Bigland provided a few details on his plans for Ram in May 2014 during a series of briefings from Fiat-Chrysler, in which he indicated his intent to introduce a light pickup truck for the 2017 model year. He then received many questions from reporters that primarily centered on the issue of whether the new truck would be a mid-sized Ram truck. Bigland denied the suggestions, although this was to be expected. After all, it wouldn’t benefit Ram to alert its competitors to the possibility of a new vehicle that could take away their market share.
Furthermore, new information subsequently emerged to support the rumors about a mid-sized Ram truck. For example, photographs of a Chrysler prototype vehicle resembling a mid-sized entry-level truck were leaked to the press in July 2014. This prototype greatly intensified the rumors surrounding Ram because the entire body was heavily camouflaged, including the headlights. The purpose of this camouflage was apparently to disguise the vehicle’s overall size. Nevertheless, the prototype appeared to be based on a small Fiat Strada pickup.
Robert Hegbloom, current CEO of Ram, appeared to dispel the rumors of a mid-sized Ram pickup in March 2015 at the New York Auto Show. He outlined four criteria that a new mid-sized pickup would require to be successful, especially in North America. Compared to a full-size truck, Hegbloom said that a mid-sized truck would be less capable, but smaller, less expensive, and with better fuel economy. He added that he could deliver a mid-sized truck with three of these criteria, although he didn’t know anyone who could provide all four. In particular, Hegbloom indicated that developing a smaller, less capable truck was easy, but reducing price and fuel consumption at the same time was much more difficult.
A Ram truck would require significantly better fuel economy than its competitors to break into the midsized market, which currently includes the GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. Chrysler’s last mid-size offering in North America was the Dakota, which it discontinued in 2011. Similarly, Ford discontinued the Ranger in 2012.
A Ram 1500 with rear-wheel drive and a diesel engine currently gets 29 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway. This is already better than the 2015 GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado pickups, which gets 27 mpg. By comparison, the Tacoma gets 25 mpg and the Frontier gets just 23 mpg. Truck buyers in North America would probably require a mid-sized Ram truck to get at least 35 mpg on the highway. This fuel economy is possible, but it would require advanced technology that would increase the price beyond a competitive level.
The camouflaged mid-sized prototype pickup that Chrysler has been testing since 2014 may be sold overseas as a Fiat, but it’s unlikely to become a Ram pickup in North America. This scenario would place the prototype against models such as the Misubishi Triton, Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok in the European and South American markets.