HAUL THE WAY WITH USA
Jeep and Ram pick-ups head for your boat ramp
Look out HiLux and Ranger, the Americans are coming! Ram, the pick-up truck specialist brand owned by Fiat Chrysler, plans to launch an all-new one-tonne ute. It will be a direct competitor for the hugely popular Toyota and Ford utes.
“It will be for every global market,” says Fiat Chrysler cars boss Sergio Marchionne.
Presenting the company’s new five-year plan to investors and the media in Italy, he reckoned “the majority of that volume is going to be non-US”. It will be produced in right-hand drive, another source confirmed.
Boss of Ram and Jeep Michael Manley says Jeep also plans to launch a rival for the HiLux and Ranger. “We will re-enter the mid-size pick-up segment next year,” he says.
Being a Jeep, expect it to be built only as a 4WD. In Australia 4WD versions of popular utes vastly outsell the 2WD versions.
A spokeswoman for the brand in Australia says the local operation would definitely add the ute to its line-up.
It’s unlikely that cost-conscious FCA would develop two entirely different utes. Sharing the same basic chassis and drivetrains for similarsize pick-ups makes powerful economic sense.
Booming demand around the world, including Australia, makes developing a onetonne global ute something FCA simply can’t afford to ignore.
Manley regards it as the company’s smartest chance to increase sales and profits. “Clearly this remains the largest opportunity for all of the commercial divisions within FCA,” he says.
The Ram ute will be ready for market within four years. It may reach Australia wearing a different badge.
“Where appropriate, we can actually share products across the brands we use,” Manley says. “This new truck will be used for both our Fiat and our Ram brands.” A spokeswoman says a Fiat-badged version is unlikely here.
Importer Ateco currently sells big, US-style Ram pick-ups in Australia and New Zealand, after converting them from left-hand to righthand drive. They’re expensive — $140,000 to
$150,000 — and sell in low numbers. Ateco next week launches the full-size Ram
1500, with a 5.7-litre V8. Big and tough, the 1500 looks far from environmentally friendly but it has an optional 48V mild-hybrid set-up.
Regardless of the badge it ends up wearing in Australia, the one-tonner will need to be competitively priced to succeed. A production site hasn’t yet been chosen but Marchionne says low-cost Mexico is under consideration.
Marchionne has promised FCA will phase out diesels in passenger vehicles from all its brands by 2021 — while they’ll disappear from cars and SUVs, they will continue to be used in utes and vans.
Preparing for a diesel-free future for its light commercial vehicles, including utes, FCA also is developing a range of petrol-electric hybrid technologies for its workhorses.