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Ateco locks in 2018 RAM 1500 for Australia

Polar Express: The 2018 1500 will be available in two grades, entry-level Express (left) and flagship Laramie (below), with news of the former’s trademark broken by GoAuto in January.

FCA and Ateco clash over 2019 Ram 1500 import rights as 2018 model is confirmed


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16 Mar 2018

ATECO Automotive has beaten Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia to the punch, announcing that it will carry out right-hand-drive conversions of the 2018 Ram 1500 from mid-year, and while the recently revealed 2019 model is also likely to arrive next year, its importer is yet to be determined.

GoAuto understands that the 2019 1500, revealed at the Detroit motor show in January, could become available to Ateco Automotive in left-hand-drive guise from next year but would need to be fully re-engineered due to the changeover to its all-new platform.

Conversely, GoAuto also believes that Ateco Automotive’s import agreement does not explicitly include the 2019 1500, meaning FCA Australia’s ongoing business case for right-hand-drive production direct from the Ram factory remains on track despite reports to the contrary.

Given Ateco Automotive’s ongoing relationship with the Ram factory as an official distributor, it has the support and flexibility to produce small volumes of vehicles for right-hand-drive markets such as Australia and New Zealand, but this may not be enough to deny FCA Australia.

As for why the 2018 1500 is coming Down Under at all, it remains available indefinitely in overseas markets, slotting beneath the 2019 model that is about to hit North American dealerships. This same situation will likely play out in Australia, regardless of who the latter’s importer is.

The 2018 1500, a full-size utility, will be positioned against the flagship variants from the mid-size segment – namely the incoming Ford Ranger Raptor, Mercedes-Benz X-Class X350d Power and Toyota HiLux Rugged X as well as the Volkswagen Amarok V6 Ultimate and HSV Colorado SportsCat.

This means it will likely sit somewhere in the middle of the $65,000-to-$85,000 price bracket, before on-road costs, opening the Ram brand up to a much larger market considering that the 2500 and 3500 ranges, first released in 2015, currently start from $139,500.

Compared to its rivals, the 2018 1500 delivers “best-in-class towing, power, cab size and cargo space”, according to Ateco Automotive, providing more than 3500 kilograms of braked towing capacity, and a tub that measures nearly 2000mm long and features optional RamBox storage.

Significantly, it will be motivated by a 5.7-litre Hemi naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine that produces around 295kW of power and 560Nm of torque – a unique offering following the demise of the bent-eight Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes.

However, GoAuto understands that a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel engine will join the 2018 1500 line-up at a later date, with this unit developing around 180kW and 570Nm.

Set to be offered in double-cab and crew-cab body styles, the 2018 1500 will be available in five- or six-seat configurations with the choice of two grades – either entry-level Express or flagship Laramie.

As GoAuto previously reported, a Ram 1500 Express trademark application was successfully lodged in Australia by FCA in January and will be finalised in July.

The limited-edition 2018 1500 Rebel, which was displayed at the at the National 4x4 Outdoors Show, Fishing and Boating Expo in August last year, will not be part of the range as it is no longer in production.

However, special-edition versions of the 2018 1500 are expected to be exclusively offered in Australia, with each using parts imported from the United States, making them similar to the 2500 Code Black and Redback that lobbed in 2017.

Like the 2500 and 3500, the 2018 1500 will be built in LHD by Ram in North America before being imported to Australia where it will be re-manufactured to RHD by American Special Vehicles (ASV) – a joint venture between Ateco Automotive and Walkinshaw Automotive Group – in Clayton, Victoria.

The 2018 1500 is mechanically identical to its larger siblings – save for its electric steering system that differs from the hydraulic set-up in its forebears – making the RHD re-manufacturing process easier.

Specifically, RHD-specific steering, and heating and cooling systems are required, while a new dashboard is designed, developed and produced in Australia.

Ram Trucks Australia chief operating officer Alex Stewart stressed that the involvement of Australians in the re-manufacturing process was key to the brand's local success.

“The Ram 2500, 3500 and, from the middle of this year, the 2018 Ram 1500, are re-manufactured in Australia, by Australians to meet Australian market demands,” he said.

“We are not just providing vehicles designed to tow big loads across our big country – up to 6.9 tonnes in fact – but we’re also employing top engineers, designers and automotive technicians, as well as local component companies to work with us.

“This is something of which we are extremely proud, almost as proud as we are of the expanded range of Ram trucks that we’ll be selling across Australia and New Zealand.”

As per the other Ram models, the 2018 1500 will come with a three-year/100,000km factory-backed warranty and be offered through Ateco Automotive’s national dealer network.

Full pricing and specifications for the 2018 1500 line-up will be released by Ateco Automotive closer to its local launch in the middle of this year.

Ram sales improved significantly last year, with 398 examples sold to the end of 2017, representing a 36.3 per cent increase over the 292 deliveries made in 2016.

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