The Rams charge in
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.