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Ram keen to expand line-up

American beauty: The new fourth-gen Ram 1500 was revealed at the Detroit motor show in January this year but is unlikely to be offered outside North America.

New-gen 1500 ruled out, but Ram open to more models for Australian line-up

13 Jun 2018

RAM Trucks Australia could expand its line-up beyond the 1500 light-duty and 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty trucks it offers now, but the recently-revealed fifth-generation 1500 pick-up is an unlikely starter for now.


Converted to right-hand drive by Ateco Automotive Group’s American Special Vehicles (ASV) arm in Melbourne, Ram Trucks Australia now offers three model lines, including the just-launched V8 petrol-powered 1500 that starts from $79,950 driveaway.


Ram Trucks Australia has launched the converted version of the third-generation 1500, but the all-new fourth-gen version – revealed at this year’s Detroit motor show in January and rolling into US dealers now – is not on the cards for Australia.


As previously reported, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has been pushing for right-hand-drive production out of the factory for the new-gen 1500, with the global head of the Ram brand, Mike Manley, telling GoAuto at Detroit that the company was “very, very seriously” evaluating RHD production.


Speaking with GoAuto at the 1500 media launch in Sydney this week, Ateco Automotive Group managing director Roger Zagorski said the new fourth-gen version was not yet being offered for export outside North America but added that if it was available, they would be keen to evaluate it for Australia.


“So this (third-gen 1500) is a current model, this is still in production in the US as well,” he said.


“And right now that model is not available for any export markets. If it came available, sure we would want to have a look at it. But for now we have just launched this one, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But if there are other products that are interesting for our market, then certainly we would be putting up our hand.”


Ram Trucks Australia general manager Alex Stewart further explained that the new-gen DT-series 1500 was not a direct replacement for the current DS-series model.


“The DT doesn’t replace the DS, it is a model in addition to the DS,” he said. “In the US, these models are still sold through the dealerships alongside the DT, because there is a price premium that goes with the DT.


“They continue to build these (DS) at the Warren plant. The new DT is coming out of the Sterling Heights plant. It is continuing. These are MY18s. We have got MY19s on order. It is an ongoing continuing model.”


Mr Zagorski said Ram Trucks Australia was keen on expanding beyond the existing model line-up, but it would have to be models or variants that made business sense.


“It’s early days for us so, this product (1500) we know that we are producing for at least another three years. Beyond that, who knows? I feel that if we do a good job, there is probably a longer future that includes other models as well,” he said.


“Although there are some overlaps. For example in the US, they sell the Fiat Ducato under the Ram badge as well. That probably wouldn’t make sense for us because it is already here locally. You never know. We would certainly like to see a future beyond the three years as well.”


Mr Zagorski said it would be hard to make a business case for right-hand-drive conversion of the planned Ram mid-size pick-up that FCA boss Sergio Marchionne confirmed in early June, which would compete against the Ford Ranger and Holden/Chevrolet Colorado.


“If it was available we would consider anything and everything if it made sense for a local market,” he said. “Pricing is important because starting up with a base truck, we have to do a lot of engineering work to it as well, so we have to be sensitive to tolerance of price in the segment.


“We think the segment, particularly in this size, has a lot of stretching to do. We see that there is growth in that top end. So perhaps a smaller ute beneath the 1500 may not make sense if the pricing isn’t right. We would certainly evaluate a business case if it went ahead.”


While ASV’s right-hand drive Ram conversions are for the Australian and New Zealand markets for now, Mr Zagorski said the company could look at exporting to other RHD markets in the future.


“Further down the track there is possibility of, you know, if we are successful with this truck, overseas RHD markets could open up,” he said. “So right now we are focusing on the local market. We have got to earn our stripes with sales as well as far as factory is concerned.


“The quality of the work is second to none. The factory has inspected the remanufacturing facility, they have been with us for every step of the redesign and the engineering process. So the factory endorsing our conversions a big step towards perhaps international markets opening up down the track.”


Mr Zagorski praised Ram parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for their faith in ASV and work in ensuring the conversion operation got off the ground.


“It is a great relationship with the factory. They have been very supportive,” he said. “Bringing something like this together is a mammoth task. You can imaging that the factory were very interested in terms of what we were doing with their trucks, how it is being remanufactured, what components go in there etc. They have worked every bit as hard as we have I think.”


He added that ASV had a strong relationship with FCA Australia, despite the two companies competing for some business, including the 1500.


“We also distribute Fiat Chrysler products in New Zealand, so we have a very good relationship with the local guys,” he said. “(FCA Australia president and CEO) Steve Zanlunghi is also the regional brand head for Jeep, so we obviously have a very close relationship with him.


“We do tend to compete a little bit on this stuff. I think he would have had appetite for (1500) if there was right-hand drive from the factory, he would have certainly embraced this product, but at this stage that is not on the cards.”

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