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Market Insight: Beasts of burden

Big rigs: Right-hand-drive conversions of North American pick-ups such as the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 are in high demand Down Under.

Ram and Chevrolet performing well as Aussies opt for V8 petrol and shun diesels


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22 Mar 2021

INFILTRATING neighbouring lanes on nearly every freeway and road in Australia is a pair of US heavy pick-up truck brands that are making serious inroads into the sales of traditional big-ute models.


Both Chevrolet and Ram – through their respective GMSV and Ateco distribution arms – have received jolts in sales based on growing interest in the heavy-duty commercial ute (truck) sector that has been based initially on demand for high towing rates and payloads.


The US iron has also drawn interest from tradies wanting a bigger beast for their gear that just happens to have a lot of visual appeal.


A big-bore petrol V8 engine and its associated exhaust song is also a lure.


Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500 has sold well in the past year as it came under the fold of General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV) and sent to retailers, many former Holden outlets.


The single Silverado 1500 model sold 141 units this year to the end of February, and 77 for the month of February, which is substantially up on its 36 sales for 2020.


Ram is distributed by Ateco Automotive’s Ram Trucks Australia which has 56 dealers who, in 2020, delivered 3320 trucks around Australia.


In the 2021 year-to-date data, its most popular model is the 1500 Express with 239 sales, followed by the 1500 Laramie. In the month of February, these sold 196 and 100 units respectively.


Ram also marketed the Warlock variant (45 sold this year; 490 in 2020), and the run-out series of the 2500 and 3500 models which are aimed at the high end of heavy-duty work, including the construction and resources industries and commercial towing operations.


In 2020, 21 units of the 2500/3500 were sold before Ram ended that series. New models based on the DT series will arrive in Australia later this year.


Ram currently has its DS series for sale but will increase buyer choice with the DT series of the 1500 next month. These are higher-spec versions of the ongoing DS and offer more technology and features, along with a premium price over the DS.


The DT is expected to attract a broader audience and will boost sales of the brand. The DS will be sold in parallel with the DT, offering a large truck at a cheaper price.


Ram will also add another variant in 2021 with the TRX, and produce the right-hand drive versions of the DT-series 2500 and 3500, and may have an option on other variants.


Sales over the past year of the DS are directly related to the orders placed by buyers, so individual variant sales are less to do with interest in the vehicle and more to do with owners requiring a specific specification.


This has led to the unusual situation where almost all orders are placed for the V8 Hemi petrol drivetrain, despite the optional V6 turbo-diesel having superior fuel economy and range.


Again, this is attributed to many buyers wanting the V8 aura which is associated more with the American truck genre than a diesel engine.


Buyers for Ram trucks come from a broad spectrum, mainly in the trade industries but increasingly from more well-heeled motorists wanting a heavy-duty vehicle to tow horse floats or boats or large caravans.


A spokesman for Ateco said Ram was not exposed to supply shortages and was in a fortunate position of demand outpacing supply – a result of the factory not being able to build enough to meet customer orders and one that is now being rectified by the Australian remanufacturing facility moving to 24-hour production.


In Australia, depending on the model ordered, it can take the owner up to six months to receive the vehicle.


Both the Ram and Silverado are converted to right-hand drive in Melbourne by the Walkinshaw Group. The two brands are treated separately by Walkinshaw and don’t share equipment or workers.


In the Ram’s case, the majority of the equipment was funded by Ateco. There are about 600 locally-produced components in the right-hand-drive conversion of the Ram trucks and about 200 people employed in the process.


The Ateco conversion is the world’s only full-volume manufacturer authorised by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (parent of Ram) to convert the trucks to right-hand drive. The trucks are sold in Australia and New Zealand.


GMSV could not supply details about the outlook for the Silverado.

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