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Future models - Ram - 1500

Ram 1500 on the cards for Australia

Ram raid: Fiat Chrylser Automobile’s Ford 150 competitor, the Ram 1500, is a chance for the factory backed right-hand drive conversion by Australia’s American Special Vehicles.

ASV signals proposal for Ram model expansion with smaller pick-up and even an SUV

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Ram logo6 Jul 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

ONE way or another, a right-hand-drive version of Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Ford F-150 competitor, the Ram 1500 pick-up, is likely for Australia.

Right-hand-drive vehicle conversion specialist American Special Vehicles, which currently produces a RHD version of the bigger Ram 2500/3500 for Australia, New Zealand and - soon - export markets, says the Ram 1500 is "a possibility" for similar treatment at its Melbourne plant.

However, GoAuto understands that FCA Australia is well down the track on plans for its own RHD version of the light truck direct from the factory in North America.

Similarly, an American SUV from FCA’s line-up - most likely the Dodge Durango - is also a possibility for this market, again via the formal factory channel or through ASV, a Melbourne-based partnership between Walkinshaw Automotive Group, which handles the engineering and manufacturing side, and Ateco Automotive, the sales and marketing arm.

ASV's joint chief operating officer Peter McGeown said the business case would have to stack up before such a decision could be made on these vehicles.

He said the Ram 1500 “lends itself” to a V8 powertrain.

Asked if it was a contender for Australia, he said: “It’s a possibility.” The V8 in question is Chrysler’s 5.7-litre Hemi packing up to 295kW of power and 560Nm of torque.

In the United States, the Ram 1500 is also available with a choice of 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol V6 and – importantly for Australia – 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 180kW and 570Nm of torque.

The news that the Ram 1500 is likely on its way will cause angst at other, smaller pick-up importers and converters who currently distribute the Ram 1500 in small numbers.

This is because a factory backed RHD conversion operation with direct production access to plants in North American and backed by engineering and manufacturing input from the same specialists who produce HSV’s high-performance cars is an appealing choice for pick-up buyers in Australia.

Mr McGeown also hinted that ASV might add an SUV to the portfolio as well.

“There are model opportunities out of the States,” he said. “There might be an opportunity for an SUV from FCA.” Mr McGeown did not name the Durango but it seems the most obvious contender.

The big wagon comes in five specification levels, including a hi-po R/T version with the aforementioned 5.7-litre Hemi V8.

Durango currently has no diesel option, which might limit its appeal in Australia.

Mr McGeown would not be drawn on when the ASV list might be expanded, but he and his fellow chief operating officer, Walkinshaw’s John DiBerardino, made reference to future models in a presentation to Australian motoring journalists at a media inspection tour of the Clayton factory today.

The joint COOs are off to Detroit soon for further talks with FCA, including ways to streamline the RHD production process by making some changes in the base Ram vehicle design at the factory level.

Mr McGeown said FCA had been impressed with the standard of engineering and manufacturing exhibited by the Australian operation, so much so that it had granted permission to extend its export aspirations to RHD markets in Asia.

The Ram pick-up sold through a national network of 24 dealers is the only American full-sized pick-up with full Australian Design Rule (ADR) compliance and converted with components made to proper OEM (original equipment manufacturer) standards.

While ASV expects to produce up to 500 vehicles this year, it can expand its operation to 1000 should exports take off.

While Asia-Pacific RHD markets are definitely on the cards, the United Kingdom is not on the export list “at this point”, Mr McGeown said.

Almost $5 million was invested in engineering the RHD vehicle – including crash testing it – and tooling up for production.

At least some of this money came from federal government coffers under grants from the Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Program.

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