AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — Fiat Chrysler's Ram truck brand will unveil a refreshed 2016 Ram pickup truck at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show in January, Ram President and CEO Bob Hegbloom said at a media meeting here today.
The 2016 Ram is a fairly mild update, but even for the Ram's major model update scheduled for 2017, don't expect the brand to switch to a weight-saving aluminum body. Ford made headline news for switching to an aluminum body for its 2015 F-150, which is now just weeks away from its showroom debut.
"I've never heard anyone ask for an aluminum truck," Hegbloom, a 28-year Chrysler veteran, said flatly when asked if the brand has definitive plans to engineer an aluminum-bodied Ram to achieve the same kind of fuel-economy gains Ford expects its coming lighter-weight F-150 to deliver. Ford said the aluminum bodywork will cut as much as 700 pounds from the 2015 F-150.
"Do we have to lightweight the truck? Absolutely," he said of future demands to improve fuel economy. But Hegbloom said he doesn't see Ram switching to all-aluminum pickup bodies in the foreseeable future. He added that Ram already uses aluminum for pickups in components where it's appropriate and at reasonable cost.
Currently, about one out of every five vehicles Fiat Chrysler sells in the U.S. is a Ram pickup.
Hegbloom said Chrysler is taking several paths to the goal of improving pickup fuel economy that, under aggressive federal fuel-economy regulations adopted in 2012, must broadly average about 25 mpg by 2016 and 30.2 mpg by 2025.
One example is the addition of a diesel engine for the Ram 1500 pickup line, launched in February this year. Ram pickups with the new diesel engine are EPA rated up to a combined 23 mpg, with a 28-mpg highway rating.
Ram is doubling production capacity of the diesel-powered Ram pickup, Hegbloom said during the interview. Currently, about 10 percent of the Ram 1500 pickup line is being sold with the diesel and he said the brand believes there are enough customers clamoring for the fuel-efficient diesel to double that amount. Diesel-powered Rams currently are leaving dealer lots about three times faster than gasoline-engine models, he claims.
Other statements from the Ram boss about the state of the truck market:
- Hegbloom threw cold water on speculation that the stunning new 707-horsepower supercharged V8 — a new engine that powers Dodge's Challenger SRT Hellcat and Charger SRT Hellcat models — would make a fine basis for a future high-performance version of the Ram. "At this time, I would say no" (to a Ram Hellcat), he conceded.
- In 2009 when Ram became a stand-alone brand, about 1 percent of sales of all Ram pickups exceeded $50,000 in price. Now, about half of all Rams sold (which includes often high-priced heavy-duty models) are priced above $50,000.
- Ram convinces more buyers to switch to it than its competitors steal from Ram. In 2009, for every Ram buyer who switched to Ford, Ram "conquested" just 0.5 buyers in return. In the first half of 2014, Ram conquested 1.4 buyers for every buyer it lost to Ford. The ratio currently is about the same for Ram buyers who switch from Chevrolet.
- With a recently diminishing emphasis on single-seat, regular-cab body styles for full-size and midsize pickups, there's speculation the regular cab may be headed for extinction. Hegbloom doesn't think so: "You'll always have it. Someone needs it for a work-type configuration."
- For the foreseeable future, Ram won't be returning to the midsize pickup market, which GM is doing this year with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. He says that to succeed in the midsize segment, the formula relies on four factors in comparison to full-size pickups: the right dimensions, the right degree of capability, a marked improvement in fuel economy and a conspicuous difference in price. So far, he said, studies for a new-age Ram midsize pickup haven't been able to hit all four targets.
Edmunds says: Ram seems confident it can deliver better fuel economy and other attributes pickup buyers want without matching Ford's radical switch to aluminum.