Ram May Build A Midsize Pickup After All
FCA’s CEO: “I have a keen interest in getting it done.”by Mark McNabb, on
The 2016 Geneva Motor Show was a whirlwind of activity, but in the midst of bespoke hypercars and one-off concepts, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters that the automaker is currently investigating the addition of a midsize pickup truck to the Ram Trucks brand.
“We’re looking into it,” Marchionne said. “I have a keen interest in getting it done. The big question is whether it should be body on frame.”
This is big news in two ways: first and most obvious, FCA is exploring the midsize category; and second, that internal debates still rage on whether the pickup will ride on a traditional ladder frame or a more crossover-like unibody design. Besides being of interest to gearheads and engineering types, the frame choice has much to do with how the future truck is marketed and used.
The future midsize truck market will be fairly evenly split. The Chevy Colorado, its GMC twin, the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and upcoming Ford Ranger will represent the traditional truck with their body-on-frame designs. In the other corner, the Honda Ridgeline and upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz will ride on unibody structures borrowed from their respective crossover lineups.
While FCA may still be deliberating, it seems like the Ram brand would benefit more from a traditional truck. It could even borrow the ladder frame design from the upcoming Jeep Wrangler – a vehicle that’s also slotted to receive a midsize pickup version.
Despite the consumer demand and Marchionne’s wantings, the CEO still believes a midsize truck would be a risky business case. Marchionne said he suspects Chevrolet makes less profit on each Colorado because manufacturing costs are likely similar to the full-size Silverado, but the Colorado sells for less. Whether his assumption is true remains unknown. Nevertheless, he says, “I think it’s a good place to be. Ram needs to expand its lineup.”
Those are pretty affirmative words from someone known for expanding business. Our bets rest on Ram releasing a body-on-frame midsize pickup – perhaps wearing the historied Dakota nameplate – by the decade’s end. That would put Ram in a good spot to compete against a growing field of contenders.
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Why It Matters
The market for midsize trucks has exploded thanks to GM’s reintroduction of the Colorado and Canyon models. Since then, Toyota (and soon Nissan) has released an updated version of its midsize offering, Honda revivied the Ridgeline, Hyundai is getting into the action with its Santa Cruz, and Ford is rumored to be Americanizing the global Ranger pickup. If thing continue in this direction, there’ll be more midsize choices than full-size pickups. That’ll certainly be a change no one saw coming.
No matter what happens, Ram will have to be competitive. Its truck, though completely unconfirmed, will likely use a ladder frame design with a wide selection of engine choices. We’d venture to guess the 3.6-liter Pentastar will be the premiere gasoline engine, while the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel will offer best-in-class fuel economy and torque ratings. As with its full-size Ram 1500, Ram’s midsize truck will likely utilize a five-link rear axle and coil springs to give a smooth ride. This unconventional pickup truck suspension has paid off for the Ram 1500 and even its 2500 HD big brother.
Regardless of what happens, short of Ram abandoning the idea, we can look forward to a more competitive midsize truck segment that offers a pickup to suit anyone’s tastes.
Read our full review on the Ram 1500 here.
Source: Motor Trend