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Walkinshaw to convert local Ram pick-ups

American dream: Walkinshaw Group's Ryan Walkinshaw (left) and Ateco Automotive's Neville Crichton have signed an agreement to convert Ram pick-up trucks to right-hand drive for the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Ateco and Walkinshaw join forces for right-hook Ram pick-up trucks on sale soon

Ram logo20 Oct 2015

By TERRY MARTIN

ATECO Automotive and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group have, as expected, joined forces to convert Ram pick-up trucks to right-hand drive for the Australian and New Zealand markets, announcing the new venture – dubbed ‘American Special Vehicles’ – this week ahead of sales commencing later this year.

As GoAuto has reported, the Melbourne-based Walkinshaw Group – which includes in its stable Holden Special Vehicles and Tata Motors (Fusion Automotive) – was believed to have secured the conversion deal when the venture was announced in April by former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia chief executive Clyde Campbell, who had left FCA to set up Fiat Chrysler New Zealand (FCNZ) with Ateco Automotive owner Neville Crichton.

Mr Campbell is no longer involved in the venture, having stepped down earlier this year when FCA Australia took legal action against him for allegedly misusing more than $30 million in company funds when he was the head of the Australian operations between 2010 and 2013.

The confirmation this week has Ateco Automotive rather than FCNZ as the joint-venture partner with Walkinshaw Automotive, with Ryan Walkinshaw revealing that his company – which has been preparing for a future without the Australian-built Holden performance cars that underpin the HSV range – had invested “millions” into the Ram project, which is run independently of FCA Australia.

The pick-up trucks will be imported directly to Melbourne from the factory – in both Warren, Michigan, and Saltillo in Mexico – and converted from left- to right-hand drive on a “purpose-built production line” at Walkinshaw’s Clayton facility.

“Our engineers and manufacturing teams have relished the challenge of designing hundreds of OE quality parts, and implementing a completely unique build process,” Mr Walkinshaw said.

“The objective was very clear – produce a right-hand-drive Ram pick-up that meets the engineering standards, quality, and refinement of the left-hand-drive product.

“We have invested millions of dollars and tens of thousands of man-hours to ensure we met our objective – the Ram pick-ups engineered by American Special Vehicles set a new benchmark and I couldn’t be more excited. They are absolutely spot-on.”

Ateco Automotive will lend its “import, distribution, network, sales and marketing expertise” to the program.

“It’s great to be associated with the Walkinshaw family again,” Mr Crichton said. “I used to race touring cars with Ryan’s father, Tom Walkinshaw, who was legendary for his determination, success and attention to detail.

“This venture with Ryan and his Walkinshaw Automotive Group is going to produce some fantastic vehicles their engineering is second to none.”

According to Ateco and Walkinshaw, the right-hook Ram trucks will be produced with full volume import approval, “meaning they will be fully compliant with Australian Design Rules and that American Special Vehicles will be the sole importer of Ram models covered by that approval”.

The vehicles will be covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty “along with full parts and service support”.

A revised on-sale date – originally scheduled for September this year – is still to be provided, although the companies say the first models will be available before the end of this year.

Further details on the model range, specification, pricing and dealer network are expected soon.

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