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Detroit show: Ram 1500 business case heats up

Right time: The new-generation Ram 1500 could end up in Australia if the business case stacks up, according to Ram head Mike Manley (pictured).

Ram boss confirms right-hand-drive 1500 under consideration

Ram logo17 Jan 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in DETROIT

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) global head of Jeep and Ram brands Mike Manley has revealed that the auto giant is “very, very seriously” evaluating right-hand-drive production of its new-generation Ram 1500 pick-up truck that made its world debut at the Detroit motor show last week.

Mr Manley confirmed GoAuto’s report from earlier last week that there is a live business case for a factory right-hook version of the all-new Ram 1500, which, if it received the green light, would be imported through its Australian subsidiary and remove the complication of a local conversion from left-hand drive through an independent operation.

Mr Manley said the case was still being considered by FCA in Detroit, and acknowledged the enthusiasm for the model in Australia led by FCA Australia president and CEO Steve Zanlunghi and the dealer group.

“I can’t say it is definitely going ahead with right-hand drive because we haven’t finished the business case,” he told GoAuto in Detroit.

“It is something that, in particular, Steve Zanlunghi that runs our Australian market, our dealers there, our dealer council want us to bring, so we are looking at it very, very seriously.”

The current-generation Ram 2500 and 3500 pick-up trucks are converted to right-hand drive for the Australian market by American Special Vehicles (ASV) – a joint venture between Ateco Automotive and Walkinshaw Automotive Group – with a higher degree of backing from FCA in Detroit than normally afforded to independent operators.

However, as GoAuto has reported previously, FCA Australia is working on bringing the smaller, more affordable and higher-volume Ram 1500 in new-generation guise Down Under through its own official channels.

Mr Manley said conversion operations have stymied the growth potential for full-size pick-ups in Australia, but confirmed that the company was seriously considering adding right-hand-drive production capacity.

“We know that the market there is not huge, but I think part of the reason the market is not huge is because it has basically been fuelled by right-hand-drive conversions. It makes it difficult I think to grow a market,” he said.

“So we are really trying to ‘future’ (forecast) what we think the volumes can be. We know in Australia that American brands are well sought after so it is something we are looking at really seriously.”

Ram introduced the all-new fifth-generation 1500 last week, just a couple of days after Chevrolet revealed its all-new Silverado 1500 rival.

Mr Manley said he was also looking at the viability of a Ram mid-size pick-up that, if it gets the go-ahead, would compete with the likes of the Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado and Toyota HiLux.

“We are looking at mid-size truck as well, but remember next year we are going to launch our Jeep mid-size truck which is a fantastic vehicle. The mid-size truck market around the world is obviously developed,” he said.

“It is different outside the US to in the US. It is more ‘metric tonne’ outside, more work-related. Here (US) it’s a little bit more lifestyle. So we are trying to make sure that if we do something in that area we can cover all of the markets.”

FCA previously sold the mid-size Dodge Dakota – which became the Ram Dakota in its final years of sale – in the US until it was killed off in 2011.

Ram’s sister brand Fiat offers a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi Triton, dubbed Fullback, in some markets.

A future Ram mid-size pick-up would sit in its line-up under the 1500 and potentially compete with sister brand Jeep’s upcoming Wrangler-based pick-up.

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