The Rams charge in

Herald Sun - Motoring - - NEWS - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

THE first ship­ment of heavy­duty Dodge Ram pick-ups from the US has sold out be­fore the first ve­hi­cles ar­rived in Aus­tralian show­rooms — de­spite the $140,000-plus price.

Un­like other im­ports con­verted lo­cally from left to right-hand drive, th­ese have the back­ing of the US fac­tory. Shipped to Aus­tralia par­tially com­pleted, they have the con­ver­sion work done in a fac­tory near Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles in Mel­bourne.

The new dis­trib­u­tor, Amer­i­can Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles, has an­nounced pric­ing and de­tails ahead of the launch of two mod­els later this year.

The Ram 2500 starts at $139,500 plus on-road costs and the flag­ship 3500 starts at $146,500. In the US, prices start at about $35,000 ($A50,000) but the model be­ing im­ported ranges from roughly $61,000 to $65,000 ($A85,000 to $90,000).

All lo­cal ex­am­ples will meet Aus­tralian De­sign Rules and will be cov­ered by a three year/100,00km war­ranty and road­side as­sis­tance.

At first, there will be a na­tional net­work of 20 deal­ers, four of which are part of the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep group. An­other 10 deal­ers will be added next year.

The new busi­ness is a joint ven­ture be­tween HSV par­ent com­pany Walkin­shaw Au­to­mo­tive Group and Aus­tralia’s largest in­de­pen­dent dis­trib­u­tor, Ateco Au­to­mo­tive.

Many of the parts used in the con­ver­sion are made to the same stan­dard as the US mar­ket ve­hi­cle. For ex­am­ple, the right­hand-drive steer­ing setup — long the Achilles’ heel of con­verted ve­hi­cles — is made by the sup­plier of the orig­i­nal left-hand drive gear.

The lo­cal dash­board is fab­ri­cated by the com­pany that makes the Toy­ota Camry dash­board; other con­vert­ers use fi­bre­glass moulds.

The first batch of 40 has been sold and there are more al­ready on the wa­ter. This num­ber seems small but only about 350 con­verted pick-ups are sold in Aus­tralia each year.

Amer­i­can Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles aims to build the pick-up busi­ness in Aus­tralia by em­pha­sis­ing that the con­verted ve­hi­cles match fac­tory qual­ity.

“The re­sponse has been over­whelm­ing,” says joint CEO Peter McGe­own.

The engi­neer­ing changes were costly and ex­ten­sive but McGe­own reck­ons the US pickup mar­ket in Aus­tralia has “now ma­tured enough to de­mand a high-qual­ity prod­uct”.

The Mel­bourne out­fit will con­vert about 15 Rams a week once pro­duc­tion ramps up, point­ing to an an­nual out­put of more than 700.

The 2500 can tow a whop­ping 6989kg, twice as much as the lat­est utes such as the Ford Ranger, and carry a pay­load of 913kg.

The 3500's tow­ing ca­pac­ity is lower — 6170kg — due to rules gov­ern­ing the gross ve­hi­cle mass but it can carry a 1713kg pay­load, al­most dou­ble that of pop­u­lar lo­cal utes.

Driv­ers of the 3500 must hold a Light Rigid (small truck) li­cence but the Ram 2500 can be driven on a car li­cence.

Both are pow­ered by a Cum­mins 6.7-litre six-cylin­der turbo diesel pro­duc­ing 276kW and an as­ton­ish­ing 1084Nm, matched to a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes six airbags (in­clud­ing cur­tain airbags that cover the front and rear seats), rear park as­sist and rear view cam­era and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing. First Ram de­liv­er­ies are due in De­cem­ber.

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