This year is turning out to be the year of the truck. Between the return of the Ford Ranger, following a facelift on the F-150 for the 2018 model year, and the unveilings of the all-new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, without forgetting the entirely rejigged RAM 1500, truck lovers and the North American automotive media have lots to get excited about.
The Canadian International Auto Show, held every year in Toronto, is the biggest of its kind in the country. It was here that I sat down with Jim Morrison, Head of Ram Brand for FCA North America, to talk about the RAM brand, what it’s up to and where it’s going.
Jim is a fellow Canadian, wears FCA and RAM on his heart and loves his job. In fact, he’s spent the last 23 years of his professional career, essentially all of it, working for the company and he likes the direction it’s going in.
Jim and I started off briefly discussing the success they had in 2017. All said, RAM had an incredible year in Canada with nearly 103,000 units sold, of which 98,500 were pickups. But despite these phenomenal numbers, they’re still way behind Ford and their 155k F-150 sales. I asked Mr. Morrison what he thought they could do to dethrone the segment leader.
The answer came quickly: They’re going to continue building the best truck they possibly can. He added that one of the things he’s most proud of is that RAM has the highest loyalty rating in the half-ton truck segment. It seems clear that once a customer joins RAM family, they tend to stick around. The new 2019 RAM 1500 will take the truck experience to the next level and is expected to have a positive effect on keeping existing customers and bringing in new ones.
The next question related to the introduction of FCA’s eTorque technology. This 48-volt mild-hybrid system is slowly making its way across the company’s lineup. Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales and Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FCA Canada Inc., said during a press conference that electrified vehicles only account for a fraction of a fraction of total sales. Even so, FCA is working on improving on fuel economy and emissions but will not, at least in the near future, stop making 700+ and 800+ horsepower SRT vehicles.
I asked Jim what the strategy behind offering eTorque in its full-size trucks was. He stated that truck owners always want more power so they’re going to get it. The boost in 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) will come with the added benefit of fuel efficiency, unlike some of its competitors. Jim added that RAM was among the first to apply multiple displacement (cylinder deactivation) and offer a diesel engine in the light-duty full-size truck segment.
Finally, I had to enquire about a potential future product, the return of the Dakota. He said that a smaller pickup needs to sport a lower priced and provide a solid business case to be built. Essentially, basic 1500s are still very affordable. Their eyes are wide open, and they are well aware of what Ford and GM are up to. Apparently, Canadians are more interested by the notion of a smaller RAM than the Americans. That’s because we’re more r