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After Dodge-Ram split, Chrysler trucks have surged

The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the first

The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the first diesel engine offered in the light-duty pickup segment. Credit: Chrysler

At a luncheon meeting of the Motor Press Guild in Los Angeles, Bob Hegbloom, Ram brand director, mapped how far it has come in five years. In fact, it was in 2009 when Chrysler announced it would separate the Ram Truck lineup from the Dodge name to better focus Ram to real truck customers and Dodge to performance enthusiasts. Many thought the separation was a huge risk, and even to this day, there are some that still call their new trucks Dodge Ram. But you can't argue with results.

The Ram brand has had 40 months of consecutive sales growth that is far outpacing the auto industry and even outpacing the truck segment. In fact, in 2010, Ram's market share was 11.5 percent. Now it is 19.1 percent in a truck segment that is experiencing more than 15 percent growth when compared to last year.

Among the current product highlights, Hegbloom identified the coming EcoDiesel Ram 1500, the first diesel offered in the light-duty pickup segment; the ProMaster commercial van that's ready to debut next month; an entirely new Ram Commercial lineup that is looking to expand into a complete lineup to serve its 830 dealers; and the coming 2014 Ram heavy-duty lineup that will offer the first HD air suspension to the segment, as well as other segment-first technologies.

When asked about where all the customers were coming from and whether they were returning "fashion buyers" or if these were new conquests, Hegbloom said buyers that had to leave when the recession hit and truck sales took a huge turn south are back now and seem to be smarter and more focused on what they want from their pickups.

"Our fuel-economy-leading V-6s with the eight-speed [transmission] are doing incredibly well because fuel pricing and mpgs are on the minds of buyers, but we're also seeing our Ram Express and Black Express models [another entry-level-priced pickup with a sportier theme and 5.7-liter Hemi and eight-speed transmission] with some of the lowest days-on-lots measurements we've ever seen," Hegbloom said.

Additionally, when asked about the recent Nissan announcement regarding the use of a 5.0-liter V-8 Cummins turbo-diesel (coincidentally made by his former boss), Hegbloom responded that Ram had looked at that engine, but it didn't seem to do what its buyers were looking for: "From all our indications, buyers wanted an engine that performed like a V-8 but gave fuel-economy numbers like a V-6 … our EcoDiesel 3.0-liter V-6 does that." As you might imagine, Cummins has had this engine for a while had not been able to get any of the truck makers interested.

Of the three vehicles Hegbloom brought to the presentation--the ProMaster van, EcoDiesel Ram 1500, and Ram 2500 HD Laramie Longhorn--it was the latter that caught our eye. The 2500 was equipped with the new 6.4L Hemi V-8 and rear airbag suspension. Both the engine and airbags look well packaged and likely to be a more popular option with personal-use buyers than Hegbloom suggests. The original impetus for both the new additions to the 2014 model lineup were supposedly motivated by the commercial market fleet buyers.

Hegbloom ended his meeting by telling the automotive-industry crowd to stay tuned because the Ram brand, especially the commercial side, is acutely aware that more technology, capability and options are what Ram customers are looking for, so the Ram brand will continue to push itself. We'll have more on several of its products later this month when we get our first chance to drive the ProMaster, EcoDiesel and new 2014 Ram HDs.

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