By on February 12, 2016

Plymouth_TrailDusterY_YearUnknown

In October, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne addressed a group of automotive analysts, where he was quoted as follows.

“We have a unique opportunity with renewal of the [Ram] pickup line, with the powertrains we selected, to significantly increase output. We will also be exploring, as a result of that investment, some other segments.”

Speculation related to a full-size Ram 1500-based SUV has been swirling ever since. And there is no denying the allure of $10,000 per unit margins. But what is the business case?

In short, it looks promising.

Dodge_Ramcharger_1976

The analysis begins with the 1500 truck, which is scheduled for a major update in two years. Production will move from Warren Truck Assembly to Sterling Heights with the 2017 to 2018 model year changeover. The larger, more modern facility will enable FCA to meet demand for Ram trucks, which increased 2.6 percent last year to 542,000 units in North America. And excess capacity will also become available when they move from 3.3 million square foot Warren to 5.0 million square foot Sterling Heights.

Platform sharing is an economic necessity. The most effective platform shares are typically those that mask shared origins and enable designers to provide related products with characteristics tailored to their respective segments. For example, few Cadillac CTS drivers would want obvious visual cues that his or her ride shares its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Camaro. Not so in the full-size SUV category, where cross-pollination is more welcome. Consumers who want a full-size SUV are looking for a rugged body-on-frame rear-wheel/four-wheel drive rig. They are less likely than compact and mid-size SUV buyers to avoid a vehicle with a clear truck-based lineage. And FCA is earning a living selling utilities with a strong visual presence. Their design language generally embraces ruggedness and dismisses en vogue apologetic CUV styling. Ram is the ideal candidate to design a full-size SUV.

Dodge_Ramcharger_1982

A full-size Ram SUV will appeal to the same audience regardless of its differentiation with the donor truck. And a 1500 doppelganger would be all the better for Ram; it would save the company hundreds of millions in development cost. A major mid-cycle refresh typically costs a domestic automaker about $500 million, while an all-new product will cost around $1 billion. The development of a long-wheelbase (LWB) and a short-wheelbase (SWB) full-Size Ram SUV would be equivalent to doing a B pillar back refresh, with a price tag between $300 and $400 million.

The wheelbase from the regular cab 1500 with a six-foot-four-inch bed makes an excellent donor for the SWB SUV. Its 120.5 inch span is four inches longer than Chevy Tahoe and 1.5 inches shorter than Toyota Sequoia. The two remaining wheelbases in the current 1500 range exceed the needs of a LWB SUV, but the foundational engineering work has largely been done. It may be instructive to take note of the configurations with which Ram makes the 2018 1500 available.

GMC_Yukon_2016

The most successful full-size SUVs are sold in both short and long-wheelbase versions. Over the last five years, GM’s SWB Tahoe/Yukon siblings have averaged a steady 60 percent of GM’s full-size SUV build. Neither the Toyota Sequoia nor the Nissan Armada are offered in a LWB, and they also trail GM and Ford by a wide margin in sales. GM sold 213,000 full-sizers in the U.S. last year. Ford moved 41,000, good for 15 percent of the market. Toyota and Nissan split the remaining 25,000 units, for a 4.5 percent market share each. Another disadvantage both Japanese manufacturers have saddled themselves with is a lack of powertrain options. Both Sequoia and Armada are available only with large displacement V8s. The Ram would likely arrive with at least three engine options from the 1500: the modern Pentastar V-6, capable Hemi V-8, and pricey-but-gutsy VM Motori 3.0-liter diesel. If Ram elects to offer only a SWB it will have a leg up on Toyota and Nissan, but it will be swimming in the shallow end of the pool. FCA needs to follow its domestic rivals and offer both wheelbases in order to realize its full sales potential.

Ford_Expedition_2016

A full-size Ram SUV would be no friend to the environment. However, FCA has already announced its strategic pivot toward trucks and SUVs at the expense of cars. And though we do not know how CAFE credits are priced, we can be confident that the company would prefer to develop products it can sell at a $10,000 margin versus vehicles it cannot sell at a $2,000 margin. Ram also has something unique to offer the segment. Its 20 percent take-rate on relatively fuel efficient diesel powered 1500s is a potential advantage. In an SUV, this engine would increase aggregate fuel economy as well as address demand for a corner of the market no other manufacturer is satisfying. Additionally, the industry-first Pacifica hybrid may lead the way in deployments of similar drivetrains in the 1500, as well as in the contemplated SUV. Ramcharger could be the Prius of full-size SUVs.

Nissan_Armada_2017

The welcome collapse in fuel prices is sure to end, and it will likely do so before a revived Ramcharger reaches the market. But full-size SUV buyers do not care. The best year in recent history for full-size sales was 2014, which did not see average fuel prices dip below $3.30 until September. What’s more, even in 2011 when fuel prices were flirting with all-time highs and auto sales were only beginning to rebound, full-size sales were just seven-percent shy of last year’s total. Yes, continued average fuel prices below $2.00 per gallon will help, but demand for full-size SUVs is not strongly correlated with fuel prices — it is relatively inelastic.

One of the most significant questions related to FCA’s decision to revive Ramcharger will be how it complements a corporate lineup including two other three row SUVs, in the Durango and Grand Wagoneer. Automakers are slicing markets ever thinner, and these three products would certainly overlap, particularly considering that across FCA’s dealer network Dodge, Ram, and Jeep products share space. These utilities must be differentiated if they are each to prosper.

Toyota_Sequoia_2016_2

Without significant marketing, Durango has been riding the Grand Cherokee’s coattails for five years. It has done so in part because consumers who need three rows of seating are visiting Jeep stores to shop Grand Cherokee, then walked across the lot to Durango. The Dodge offers a well differentiated and similarly masculine exterior. And it may be a unibody design, but it is a rear-drive biased, truck-like SUV, both in appearance and drivability. The current Durango is three to five inches narrower than the current crop of full-size SUVs, and three to six inches shorter. Even the Explorer offers a slightly larger footprint. And Durangos sell. When the Grand Cherokee and Durango are lumped together, as Expedition and Expedition EL are, Durango has accounted for 25 percent of North American sales in each of the last three years.

The confirmed Grand Wagoneer will, like Durango, be based on a shared architecture with the next generation Grand Cherokee. This likely means a shared wheelbase and proportions with Durango. Sergio has been telling anybody who will listen that the Grand Wagoneer will be aimed at Range Rover. As difficult as it may be to imagine a Jeep starting at $85,000, his point has been made. Grand Wagoneer will likely be positioned above much of the Grand Cherokee range, and will offer a third row. It will be thematically aimed at Range Rover, yet priced on par with BMW X5, Volvo XC90, and Mercedes GLS. Moreover, Jeep has demonstrated with the Grand Cherokee that it can sell the $30,000 Laredo alongside the $60,000 Summit. It can just as effectively sell the up-scale three row Grand Wagoneer at a $20,000 premium versus Durango.

There is space, based on size and price, for a full-size Ram SUV. The differentiation challenge is similar at Ford, where the Explorer and Expedition have coexisted for two decades. And perhaps offering a more complete range of SUVs will provide positive network effects across FCA’s mid and full-size utility range. One can imagine an SUV tug-of-war at the most senior levels inside FCA — how can Ram compete in a utility crazed market without a single SUV? Cleaving Ram from Dodge in 2010 may or may not have been a good idea, but if FCA plans to stand by that decision it needs to set the Ram brand up for success and a full-size SUV is essentially prerequisite.

How many Ramchargers can FCA sell? Assuming they offer two wheelbases, sales will exceed those of Sequoia and Armada, but will probably be less than the well entrenched Expedition. Some Ramcharger sales will be conquested and others will be new to the segment. First year sales may total somewhat less than half of Expedition sales, or 20,000 units. Second year sales will benefit from greater consumer awareness and dealer inventory, resulting in growth to perhaps 25,000 units.

What financial hurdles does FCA require to green light a new vehicle program? This is proprietary, but two rules of thumb are a 20-percent-per-unit profit margin and a maximum 18 month payback on development. If Ram moves 20,000 Ramchargers at an average transaction price of $50,000, with a $10,000 margin, the 20-percent profitability hurdle would be met. It would take a little less than 18 months to earn back $300 million, and about 22 months to earn back $400 million.

We don’t need a focus group to know the Ramcharger nameplate lacks recognition. We would, however. require a focus group to know what other names Ram may be contemplating and how they would be received. Nonetheless, given the lack of cache in the Ramcharger name, the chances of its resurrection are lower than the chances of FCA green lighting a full-size Ram SUV.

Will FCA enter the full-size SUV segment? We can only speculate. But we do know there will be a hard-fought internal debate. Ultimately, the decision will depend on how the Ramcharger opportunity stacks up against other projects competing for limited capital, design, and engineering resources. It appears to fit well with FCA’s corporate strategy. Only time will tell.

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237 Comments on “Ramcharger Rebirth...”


  • avatar
    JimInRadfordVA

    I don’t think that trotting out the Ramcharger name will generate enough sales based on nostalgia. In order to be successful in this segment, FCA better bring something special to the table in terms of power and styling.

    Not gonna happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      People were saying the same thing about the Cherokee, the Renegade and now the coming Wrangler-based pickup truck.

      Never say Never.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Vulpine,
        Ramcharger is not as marketable as the Cherokee.

        Google the value of product names. I bet you will not find Ramcharger.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Irrelevant argument in this case, Big Al, as the Blazer and Bronco are equally as old and are centered around an essentially-identical vehicle, just from a different manufacturer. People who remember a Bronco will remember a Ramcharger, though the fondness of the memory somewhat depends on their personal brand choice. I remember the early ’80s Ramcharger as a surprisingly capable rig, though I liked it more because it was a completely open pickup truck more than a people hauler. Ramcharger was never known for wearing four doors, and neither were the Bronco and Blazer. So comparing the Ramcharger to the Suburban and Expedition is like comparing oranges and tangelos; same flavor but different size. Kind of like the Jeep JK and JKU Wranglers.

          There are many old Dodge Ram diehards. They’re going to look rather fondly on a resurgence of the “Full Sized Jeep”.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Nobody suggested the name Ramcharger would be the reason for success, in fact the author specificly made a point that the name itself isnt really likely, but the vehicle is.

      Besides, the Ram 1500 truck is quite capable, full of macho looks and plenty popular (even when in Ford and GM’s shadow). There is little to suggest an SUV based on a well-engineered truck would somehow drop the ball and suck 6 ways from Sunday.

      Itd almost certainly kick the Sequoia’s @§§, not sure about the Patrol-based Armada. Ford’s aluminum Expedition may steal it’s thunder a bit, but I believe it would still carve FCA a decent slice of pie. Perhaps a Chrysler version to compete with Navigator and Escalade, with 300-like styling and a decent job of distancing itself from the Ram version while sharing basic components.

      With big profits from trucks and utilities, maybe FCA could do what Ford has done and develop decent cars. Perhaps Alfa could get the cash it needs to properly relaunch the brand, including the Giulia.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Wait, I thought that the Durango was going to die off once the Grand Wagoneer was ready to go? I’ve heard that here at TTAC several times.

    I’m still more eagerly anticipating see what the new Bronco looks like and is priced like then the idea of Fiat/Chrysler trying to go gangbusters into SUVs.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This will only work if the sheetmetal is style to spell out “RAM” in the most obnoxious way.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    I would like to see them do this. They have given up so many sales in the US to GM and Ford for the past 25 years. All the while perfectly good new Ramchargers rolled off the assembly line to be sold in Mexico.

    https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4141/4791646835_4c1aeb79fe.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      This was my first thought. Those classic 2 door SUV style Ramchargers are awesome IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They only sold them in Mexico because Mexico doesn’t have salt or water – two conditions which ruin gen 1 Ram 1500 models.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah, Mexico is the place where automotive time stands still. Seeing an ancient, battered Datsun pickup hauling a load of mangoes to market is priceless. The most rust prone old Japanese stuff seems to thrive down there, along with every flavor of old domestic truck.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I was selling Ramchargers in Denver back in ’84.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @bball40dtw
            “You’d be happier with a factory fresh 3rd gen 4Runner. Too bad they don’t make them still.”

            No, I wouldn’t. Yes, I know you’re responding to gtemnykh but if he wants a Tsuru he’s not going to settle for a 4Runner. When I bought my ’08 Wrangler, I looked at all the 4×4 (and equivalent) rigs available and to be quite honest, I didn’t like what any of the Japanese brands offered, nor did I like any of what GM and Ford offered.

            My next vehicle choice list is relatively small right now with the Hyundai Santa Cruz, the Jeep Renegade and the Jeep “Gladiator” the only ones occupying it. The Ramcharger might join that list if it’s anything like the original, but I doubt it will be that retro. I’m still a fan of 2-door models over 4-doors.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            bball my own 4Runner is now close enough to factory fresh as it is (a mere 124k miles on it) so I think I’m all set there :) These things age rather slowly if you protect them from salt like I do. With refreshed shocks and various rubber bushings (steering rack bushings, lower control arm bushings), it drives way better than any 20 year old SUV has any right to. A bit jiggly and stiff over expansion joints compared to a sedan, but that’s just how these things are engineered to ride. Not a squeak or rattle from the interior and it all looks like new.

            No I think a Tsuru is just what the doctor ordered. I’d hate to lose it to rust though.

            vulpine 3rd gens are wholly different driving cars compared to the much softer, wider, lower, longer 4th gens. 4th gens really do feel like a civilized station wagon with good ground clearance going down the road. In contrast mine feels like a 1st gen Tacoma from the driver’s seat. A lot narrower, higher up, and less civilized. Feels not too much different than a new JKU, in fact the Jeep might have an edge in on-road refinement.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I have a pristine 1990 Camry I have to sell soon if old $hitty cars are your thing.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            ’90 Camry? Yummy. Rust free?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            V6 LE?
            Red interiorz!?

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Just buy a beater 1994 Sentra out west/down south, drive it across the border and, um, “trade” it for a Tsuru.

            Tell them you got the 94 restored in Mexico at a shop… that looked suspiciously like a chop-shop (feel free to leave that last part out). No, seriously, sir, check the numbers! Its really a 94, I promise! Lol.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Gray on gray LE V6. Under 50K miles. No body rust. I haven’t gotten under it, but my grandmother never really drove much in the winter and would wash her car twice a week.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      That version of the Ramcharger was built until 2002, then cancelled when the Lago Alberto plant was closed. Rumor has it that the vehicle was the pet project of the president of Chrysler de Mexico, but the moderate sales ensured that there wouldn’t be a replacement for 2003 based on the then new DR Ram bodystyle.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      What baffles me most is not that the third-gen Ramcharger used the Caravan’s hatch, but that it was only available in 2WD.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Why do this when you can funnel all the Jeep/RAM profits into the black hole that is Alfa Romeo?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Very interesting. While I’m not a fan of full sized models including both pickup trucks and SUVs, I do fondly remember the old concept of 2-door SUVs like the original Ramcharger shown above, the full-sized original Bronco and the full-sized original Blazer, all 2-door models on a short wheelbase. I’m betting a return to these models along with a set of 4-door compatriots using a different model name (Suburban, Expedition, etc.) would probably garner a surprising number of buyers AND give the Jeep Wrangler itself some real competition compared to Ford and GM’s current non-off-road capable SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’d prefer a full sized, F150 based, short wheelbase, SuperCab Bronco to the “midsized” version that is coming out. However, I am in the minority.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The price of admission for a new Ranger is a ranger-base Bronco. Remember dis!

        It should really be called the Bronco II, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        bball and Corey,
        I have some video footage of my 4×4 adventure this weekend through the Rainforests of norther NSW.

        If I knew how to I would download it somewhere in the cloud so you guys can actually compare what a BT50/Ranger can do against a F-150.

        I have yet to see the footage, but my friend will bring in the camera at work today so I can down load it.

        You guys are missing out a lot without the Ranger/Everest in the 4×4 department.

        The ground was steep mountains in really wet and slippery clay. I had great fun. Some of the grades you could barely walk up. Plenty of little creeks to cross as well.

        So, if anyone knows how to download video and make a link I will post some of my 4x4ing.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          If it’s a camera from the last 10-15 years, it probably has the Youtube app built-in. Or plug it into a computer with the supplied cord. The computer will then hold your hand thru the process. Then go to you Youtube, click the “UPLOAD” icon, it’ll access your computer’s files and hold you hand thru that process.

          Darn Bogans. What do you guys have, a VHS tape recorder? Or is it Beta??

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Learn how to use YouTube and upload it there. Then all you have to do is link to it here.

        • 0 avatar

          Betamax: verb – When a superior technology is overwhelmed by a better marketed but inferior product. Apple’s share of the personal computer market got Betamaxed by the introduction of the IBM PC. It worked out for Apple but at the time it seemed like Steve Jobs should have licensed the operating system.

          • 0 avatar
            derekson

            The irony is that Microsoft is now making their own first party PCs.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            VHS won because tapes could hold an entire movie before Betamax tapes could, and JVC would license the format to anyone who asked. Sony, in their infinite arrogance, felt that they could keep Betamax to themselves and dictate how the industry would move. Sony would repeat this arrogant stupidity again and again with ATRAC, and Memory Stick, and so on. I worked for Sony up until a few years ago, and their corporate culture still is ingrained with this attitude. It’ll be their undoing.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The porn industry is what made VHS take off. Not because of the length of video that could be recorded (the average movie at the time was a mere 90 minutes) but rather because it was less expensive than Betamax, whose recording and playback devices were notably more expensive because of the higher quality recordings.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            VHS was developed by JVC, which licensed it to everyone.

            Betamax was developed by Sony, which tried to maintain a monopoly on the format and own the VCR business for itself.

            JVC realized that the way to make money was to maximize adoption of the format, no matter which companies made the VCRs. In contrast, Sony foolishly tried to own a market that it could not own and failed miserably.

            If Sony had not seen other VCR producers as rivals to be defeated, then Sony could have prevailed. Sony’s frequent efforts to secure monopolies with proprietary technology have almost always failed.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Now, I may be wrong here PCH, but not all that long ago I read a history that stated Sony created the VHS format and decided it wasn’t “good enough”, therefore selling it to JVC. Interestingly, the Beta format did come out before the VHS if only by a few months… maybe a year or so which gave it an early lead. But when the porn industry discovered VHS during one of the CES events in Las Vegas, they liked the price and for them, the quality was certainly “good enough”. Their movies could never make the claim of “high quality” back then so they didn’t care; cost was most important.

            Yes, I have read the three different Wiki articles, but all three of them clearly note that much of the data needs to be verified.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            JimZ’s got a point about Sony. I don’t think it was ever an issue for Betamax to hold any sized pre-recorded media, but Sony ruined the format’s chances by insisting that everyone that wanted to use it needed their license. JVC made VHS open source, essentially. They understood that VHS being free to content creators and competing VCR makers would create a market large enough for them to thrive in.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Sony is a textbook example of the axiom “the more you tighten your grip, more will slip through your fingers.” They’ve lost practically everything they used to be the leader in.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “Now, I may be wrong here PCH, but not all that long ago I read a history that stated Sony created the VHS format and decided it wasn’t “good enough”, therefore selling it to JVC. ”

            Beta technically had higher resolution capability, but Sony initially capped recording time at one hour. it wasn’t until the L-750 cassettes came out where they could hold 90 minutes (SP.) VHS could hold 2 hours from its inception.

            Besides, NTSC was such a s**t standard that I don’t think the difference in quality really amounted to much more than a hill of beans.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The L-750 size could carry roughly 4.5 hours of video in the extended-play mode; three hours in LP and 90 minutes in standard play. The L-500 was 3/2/1 hours while the L-250 was 1.5/1.0/0.5 hours. Granted, the XLP or Extended Play recording speed came along a little later, but at its worst it was still a better quality image than the original VHS at its best.

            That said, I eventually (and still) operated both formats side by side because of the number of recordings I made for my own entertainment using the Beta while letting the VHS serve more often as a playback machine for pre-recorded tapes. Strangely, I still have a few Beta L-500s and L-750s in factory shrink wrap as well as a few dozen tapes I recorded over the years. I should go ahead and recycle those and the recorders because honestly I don’t need them any more. Everything I had on tape is now in digital format with only a very few exceptions where they can’t be found in ANY format.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Betamax vs. VHS is standard business school stuff. It’s well understand that Sony’s attempt to control the format is what killed it off.

            In the technology world, this sort of product is impacted by what are referred to as network effects — some things become more useful when more people use them. Proliferation is more important than absolute quality for these kinds of devices.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The porn industry’s VHS preference dealt the final ‘blow’. Sure beta was already hurting, but the porn industry was much larger than experts, historians and scholars tend to admit.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “The porn industry’s VHS preference dealt the final ‘blow’. Sure beta was already hurting, but the porn industry was much larger than experts, historians and scholars tend to admit.”

            And still is as evidenced by Playboy Magazine’s new format.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Betamax vs. VHS is standard business school stuff…”

            Aye, Pch, you are right and I acknowledge it. But at the same time nearly every brand today tries to cater to the 20% who prefer that quality over price which is why even after VHS died the long death, the Betamax tape was still manufactured and sold until just last year.

            This is why the US auto market offers full-sized pickup trucks in the $50K-$70K range while you can buy a basic model that is only little different overall for $30K. They’re marketing to the 20% for high profits while selling to the 80% with little to no profits. You can’t say that each automaker isn’t trying to bind their customers into their own brands, one way or another. There is not one automaker that doesn’t want to lock their customers into their ‘ecosystem’ through bribes, advertising and sometimes even bullying. Granted, some of that is the dealers, but many of the bribes and adverts are factory generated.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            VCRs are impacted by network effects. It’s worth learning about them if you want to understand technology.

            Network effects: Some things become more useful as more people use them, and are fairly useless if few people use them.

            Basic example: Let’s suppose that you had a telephone with amazing clarity, range, reliability, etc., but it was a proprietary technology that could connect with only a few other people in the world who had the same kind of phone.

            In spite of its superiority, such a device would basically be a paperweight because the most important feature of a phone is the ability to reach so many people with it. Phones are much more helpful today than they were when they were first invented for that reason. A phone that can put you in touch with much of the world doesn’t have to be the best, it just has to be good enough.

            Software mostly works because of network effects, and a VCR is essentially a hardware device for software. It was far more efficient and cheaper for your video stores and film distributors to have one format than 100 formats. Even two formats would eventually be too many. The format that wins doesn’t have to be the best, it just has to be ubiquitous. (Microsoft benefits greatly from this.)

            This mostly doesn’t apply to cars. It makes no difference if the alternator for your Toyota doesn’t fit in a Volkswagen. It does apply to certain aspects of the car, such as fuel, tires and batteries, which do benefit from some standardization, but it’s mostly unnecessary for a vehicle.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I get why FCA is taking this approach (chasing down a rabbit hole perhaps?), they are thin on financials and see this move with Ram and Jeep as a way to bolster their bottom line.

    Nevertheless, it seems shortsighted (again!); the worm that is fuel pricing will turn, not if but when, and then FCA will be once more stuck saying, “What do we do for our next trick?”

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      People who buy full-sized, truck-based SUVs do it because it’s the only vehicle that will meet their needs. People who need a minivan will buy a full-sized crossover for vanity, but almost no one buys a Suburban or Expedition just because they like them anymore. These are people who need tougher drivelines for unimproved roads, towing capacity, or cargo weight. The way I use my elderly Excursion would destroy a Traverse, which cannot tow 8-9k pounds, carry 20 100-lb bags of sand, or take 6 people and 3 dogs to the end of a fire road for a hike. These people would like their gas bills to be low, but if they’re not, they still need what these vehicles offer, and they’ll pay the gas bill while they complain about it.

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        Smartascii:

        Your point makes sense and I get it but I question how large that (shrinking?) market really is and is it not now well enough served by GM & Ford?

        One can figure FCA will pick up some market share but will it be enough to justify the capitalization necessary and then what happens when fuel prices rise significantly, which I guarantee they will, either by economic force or governmental regulation. A bit of a gamble on FCA’s part I suppose.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I can’t see it as much of a gamble – the hard and expensive parts are done. These are just full-size pickup frames with a stationwagony body slapped on them. How much can it possibly cost to add a permanent cap to the rear 1/3 of a 4dr pickup? Given the MSRP of these things, they have to be pure profit.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Semipermanent cap, krhodes. At least some of them had fully removable caps including uncovering the cab itself.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Sure, the Bronco, Blazer and Ramcharger. Nobody has made those in a long time. I thought we were talking about TahoeSuburban equivalents here. But why not? Make a RAM Avalanche while you are at it. I’ll take mine with the diesel. Just because.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “At least some of them had fully removable caps including uncovering the cab itself.”

            I had a few buddies with full sized Bronco’s. They leaked like a sieve after the cap had been removed. It wasn’t the easiest process in the world either.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I never owned one, Lou, so I don’t know anything about leakage on any of them. I would question if they ever lubricated the seals before putting the tops back on, however. A liquid silicone or silicone gel might have prevented the leak by keeping the seals soft. I use it around the door seals of all my cars on an annual basis.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Vulpine – that was part of the problem. Since they were a PIA to remove most did not and when someone did the seals were usually shot.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            I feel like after the CHMSL mandate, Ford and GM made their respective SUVs’ tops harder to remove. Dodge knew nobody took off the Ramcharger top anyway, so they went to the fixed rear windows first.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        smartascii, I’ll be honest, I see more Carmel/Z-ville soccermoms driving new Suburbans/Tahoes than anywhere else, and it really is just a fashionable and comfortable vehicle to them.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Same here – these are soccermom mobiles. I very rarely EVER see one towing anything, and I live in serious weekend boater country. People tow with pickups.

          • 0 avatar

            Soccer moms drive carpool.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Which is a task FAR better left to a minivan or the bigger CUVs like the Enclave than a body-on-frame SUV. Which makes the gigantic on the outside but kinda small on the inside SUV an ego trip. I grew up with Suburbans because my folks were into travel trailers, the 3rd seat sucked back then, and it sucks just about as much now. There is an axle where your feet would like to be.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “Soccer moms drive carpool.”

            Maybe where you live but not in my neck of the woods or any time I’ve been to the big city.
            I get a kick out of HOV lanes that are empty because most vehicles don’t have enough passengers on board to use them.

            I’d rather have a minivan than any big SUV but minivans are now uncool. 4 door Wrangler Unlimited’s are the minivan of choice for all of the young families in my neighbourhood.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “People who buy full-sized, truck-based SUVs do it because it’s the only vehicle that will meet their needs.”

        Not entirely – I see plenty of full sized BOF SUV’s fulfilling ego needs and not much else.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      The entire bet is predicated upon improving the financials and demonstrating that FCA can excel in its own niches to make it more attractive for a merger with a company that already has the tech and platforms and engines for small cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        You mean like Fiat?
        /sarc

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          You mean like Fiat?
          /sarc

          Understand your sarcasm, Truckducken, but I would note that the Fiat series is a better car than you think; especially if you’re basing your viewpoint on an obsolete 40-year-old reputation.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            No I think we’re basing them off of the current Fiat lineup’s miserable reliability ratings and anvil-like depreciation.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “No I think we’re basing them off of the current Fiat lineup’s miserable reliability ratings and anvil-like depreciation.”

            I suggest looking at those “reliability ratings” (still centered more around the infotainment stack than any real issues) and the Fiat 500 itself seems to be holding up pretty fair on the depreciation, too.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I keep reading article after article that says oil prices are unlikely to exceed $50 a barrel for the foreseeable future. If you are looking at a 10 year plan, it may not be as bad as the b&b like to spout.

      On the other side, hybrid sales are pretty much crashing.

    • 0 avatar

      Jim Z- Yea sony format stupidity. I had a Sony HDD 250, the unicorn of US consumer electronics. It was a no monthly fee cable box with DVR and OTA recording. It was broken by Sony and Rovi when they eliminated a listing service and Sony didn’t give us a clock set program or workaround. The DVR permanently would not come up with an accurate clock, so was rendered useless.

      Screw Sony. Rovi (Macrovision) has always been the enemy, but when Sony bricked thousands of units with no clockset workaround, they lost me for good.

  • avatar
    UberKafer

    I’m all over this if they come up with a Lone Wolf McQuade Edition with a Hellcat under the hood equipped with a switchable blower.

  • avatar

    Excellent analysis. “RAM Ramcharger, complete with complementary condoms in the console!”

    That’s the buyer. After that, meh not so much. If FCA were brilliant marketers as they claim to be — with truly rugged product to match — maybe this could be a winner. But history and the Gods are not with them.

    I see this as more vaporware from an Alfa-obsessed company that will sell off Jeep in Ch. 7 by 2019

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I don’t know, Ram is doing pretty well. Jeep is doing phenomenally well. And the products in both those lines are pretty rugged and durable. Not sure why you’d say history isn’t with them when it comes to this type of product (body on frame truck).

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t doubt that RAM engineers and product planners can execute this very well. They are great and have done wonders with less to work with than GM or Ford or Toyota.

        Here’s the thing: I admit to being prejudiced against the fact that it’s Sergio in charge. Based on his behavior and the overall picture, my gut feeling that the FCA financial house is ready to come crashing down.

        I also see a Ramcharger as a 2019 model at earliest, premiering during a global recession and a spike in oil prices that brings us to $5/gallon. I can’t be the only one who imagines this.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      While you’re free to your opinion, BklynPete, I am free to disagree with your assessment.

      I do agree that any kind of full-sized truck ‘toy’ is simply a status symbol, but FCA has so far come out with some very successful vehicles in both the Ram and Jeep departments as evidenced by their significant growth in sales over the last 8 years and nearly tripling thier Wrangler sales during that time. The other two Jeep models they’ve introduced have both proven strong sellers, with the Cherokee outselling the Wrangler almost from the beginning and the Renegade also performing better than expected both in sales and in off-road prowess. The Renegade has, with no modifications, successfully traversed the Black Bear Road, which is a challenge even for more dedicated 4×4 vehicles.

      No, Fiat is highly unlikely to sell off the Jeep brand, considering how well the brand is doing for FCA as a whole.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not that I don’t think they should try it. As tonycd said, they have nothing really to lose.

        My doubts come from devoting resources to something that may be a huge drag on the market in a few years time. I also wonder whether they can market it in such an environment. Ford can. GM can. Toyota can. MAYBE FCA can if it’s packaged as a Jeep, and if Sergio goes outside of his core team. But RAM? Don’t think so.

        As for Jeep, FCA would absolutely sell it with a gun pressed to their head. That’s the most valuable part of the financial house of cards. When it collapses, Fiat goes belly-up. No doubt Jeep would find a nice new home. RAM too. Not sure about the rest.

        This is like the elections. We can watch each chess move and say “that’s so wrong” but there may be more than meets the eye.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          One of the big problems is your assumption that in 2019, just three years down the road, gas prices will spike and there will be a recession. There might be a recession in the very near future, but in the rest of the world first, with milder effects here.

          Gas prices don’t spike during recessions. The oil glut will take many years to work off, and Texas oilmen are still drilling, but not fracking, the massive shale deposits there, ready to turn up the production as soon as prices creep up.

          FCA is NOT looking for a long lead time for development, but a very short one, using existing platforms, drive trains, and as many common parts as possible. That’s a specialty of old Chrysler engineering/production, still lurking in the truck and Jeep divisions.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      “Complimentary” means that they are included for free (thanks, that was thoughtful of you, guys!).
      “Complementary” means they match the paint job or the interior… and maybe have RAM printed in huge letters on one end.

  • avatar
    jjklongisland

    My 1984 Ramcharger 4 Speed was one the most fun vehicles I ever owned. It was rotten on the sides, took forever to warm up with constant carb issues, and was a cross between Gold and Poop colored. Even for a 318 it was a beast. The 4WD Low with granny gear could literally pull a house down. On the beach it was as fun as a Jeep and never left me stranded. I also had a 7.5 Meyer plow on it and made tons of money with her. One day I will own another one. I dont think Dodge could ever produce a vehicle to replicate the simple all around fun of the original.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @jjklongisland: You didn’t, by chance, buy that Ramcharger on the north side of Denver, did you?

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      My favorite conversion I ever did was an 88 Ram Charger with an early VE powered 6bt Cummins/NV4500. I had 35’s on it, and even with the extra weight it was a real hill climber. I ran alot of abandoned fire roads with that ol girl.

      One of many that I regret letting go of.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        One of my dream vehicles is a Cummins powered IH Scout on 38s. I’d like to go twin turbo 4BT but 4BTs are getting expensive…

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          They sure are if you pay face value for them. The trick is to find an old van or tractor/ construction equipment, buy it up, part it out as best you can, and scrap the rest of it. The 6bt I had came out of a telehandler that was involved in an accident while in transport. I sold the pump and cooling system and wheels/rims off and scrapped it out and was able to come out money ahead. The beautiful thing about projects is you don’t HAVE to have her back on the road the next day.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Would this weigh more or less than the truck it would be based off of. I only ask because of the inclusion of the eco-diesel in the discussion. I drove one when I was truck shopping and the performance was adequate, but not much more IMHO. Add some weight and it would be a real dog.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Were they planning on switching to aluminum bodies for the next gen? If so there’s your weight loss.

      • 0 avatar
        Seth Parks

        Depends on which truck you are comparing it to. A Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4×4 tops out at around 5,600lbs, which is a very close approximation of what a full-size Ram SUV would weigh. A LWB version will add about 300lbs. A 3.0L diesel powered SUV won’t win many races, but would match up favorably with a common 5.3L Tahoe.

        As for aluminum, preliminary reports out of FCA indicate they will be using a variety of solutions to improve fuel economy. My interpretation is that they will employ more weight-saving materials, but will not make extensive use of aluminum like Ford has.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I don’t know how much of a ‘dog’ that ecodiesel is, but today’s ‘nannies’, especially in 4x4s and pickup trucks, have seriously hurt their off-road capabilities.

      • 0 avatar
        Pinzgauer

        Could you elaborate on that statement Vulpine? Every modern 4×4 I have driven (2014 Jeep JKU and 2013 Ram 1500) disable all the nannies automatically in 4Low. In 4 High you cant turn off stability control but big deal it never caused an issue on the trail.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          My particular state is Maryland, where a 16″+ snowfall is not uncommon during the winter and we’ve had multiple such storms within days of each other on occasion.

          However, as I drive a JKU myself (an ’08 model) even I’ve been bitten by ESC in 4-high after a storm due to the nannies killing engine power when one wheel spun a bit even though both front and rear axles have limited-slip diffs. As long as you stay below 35mph the ESC plays nice and doesn’t turn back on. but as soon as you touch 36mph, it reactivates whether you want it to or not.

          My JKU was my daily driver in ALL weather conditions prior to my acquiring a ’97 Ranger.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Vulpine – my F150 does the same thing. Chevy is the same. That 36 mph threshold must be a federally mandated thing.
            The only time I find it to be an issue is driving off-road or on an unplowed road.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Yeah. I wasn’t complaining about Jeep, I was complaining about the fact that we’re stuck with an ESC that’s simply too intrusive.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Pinzgauer,
          You are almost correct regarding the electronics. I think in my pickup only the stability control is off below 50-60kph. My pickup in low range 6th gear can only muster 60kph revving it’s tits off at around 3 600rpm (diesel).

          Hill decent, which I’ve never used, traction control, etc remain on.

          I do have one feature that is only on manual gearbox regarding engine management.

          That is the engines senses the torque required so the engine never stalls. It’s a fantastic feature for climbing over obstacles. Even when releasing the clutch the engine senses more torque is required and supplies the torque. This is a bonus when using the hill start.

          The brakes hold and just let the clutch out.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      “Add some weight and it would be a real dog.”

      That’s the beauty of a diesel, unlike gasoline engines diesels don’t fall on their face under load. People get so hung up on comparing diesels to gas engines line for line and its next to impossible to do so. If your test driving a compression ignition engine from stop light to stop light and expect it to be comparable to a gasser your bound to be disappointed. Likewise, if you hitch up a 10,000 lb load to a spark ignition engine and expect it to perform like a diesel you will be extremely disappointed. It takes horsepower (and RPM) to get a load moving, but it takes torque to keep it moving.

      So long as you buy a vehicle based on your honest needs, you won’t be disappointed.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        you have that pretty much exactly backwards. it takes torque (at the wheels) to get a load moving. horsepower tells you how much work an engine can do. a 400 hp diesel and a 400 hp gas engine can do the same job, provided the transmission and final drive are tailored to them.

        and no, diesels don’t “have more torque.” it’s *turbocharging* which gives engines greater torque output. Diesels are immune to detonation so they’ve been able to use high-pressure turbocharging for a long time. so people comparing turbodiesels to normally-aspirated gas engines are only looking at half of the picture. The boost delivered by a turbo is based on engine *load* and not engine *speed* (like a supercharger) so you can lug a turbo engine just above idle yet the turbo can be screaming.

        ever since gas engines adopted direct injection (and the charge/chamber cooling effects it brings) GTDI engines are out-torquing and WAY out hp-ing diesels.

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          Your obviously quite confused. Gas out torques diesel now? Where are the gas powered tractors hauling 100k lbs down the highway? Take a 300 HP gas engine and a 300 HP diesl engine, which one wins the race in a quarter mile? I alluded to the reasoning to the answer in my above post.

          Now take your 300 HP direct injected gas engine, throw a Turbo charger on it, hook 15k to it and tell me how it does vs a diesel. (I’ll see you at the top of the hill.) Gas engines will never compare to a diesel in terms of torque. Your talking about a platform with half the compression ratio with a fuel source with 10-15% less energy. Never gonna happen.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Mason – those transport trucks are running up to 16 litre engines i.e. 16,000 cc.

            Horsepower by definition is a unit of power equal to moving 550 foot-pounds per second. It is work over time.

            Torque is a twisting force that tends to cause rotation.

            I agree with JimZ on this one.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Always an interesting argument, gas vs. diesel. I think a better way is comparing engines of comparable torque output. Say a 500lb-ft gas engine to a 500lb-ft diesel. The gas engine will almost certainly have much higher hp, because it can rev higher. Physics dictates that the effective max rpm for a diesel is somewhere below 5000rpm (and they are not efficient at those crank speeds, not enough time for the fuel to burn). Big truck diesels are usual limited to <2500rpm, pickup diesels <3500 or so. Car diesels ~4500. The engine with more HP, all other things equal (and appropriate gearing), will be faster accelerating the vehicle. But what about just lugging a load uphill? That is where the efficiency of the diesel comes into play. As noted, higher static compression, knock resistance, and higher energy content of the fuel allow the diesel to make that torque more efficiently. And up to the useful rev limit of the diesel, the horsepower will be roughly equal (assuming modern flat torque curves), since horsepower is a calculated number and a function of torque and rpm. torque x rpm / 5252 for back of the envelope calculations. So in other words, if you put an artificial rev limiter on the gas engine, it would perform pretty much identically to the diesel.

            Now it used to be that diesels excelled because we could not make gasoline engines that could make torque down low like a turbo-diesel can. Gasoline direct injection and turbocharging has massively narrowed that advantage by greatly increasing the knock resistance and the need for fuel enrichment under boost. But you still have the issue of the lower static compression and lower energy content in the fuel. And ultimately, the higher the revs, the more fuel you need to run through the engine. That extra hp is not free.

            So ultimately, I think if we hypothetically had two engines of the same torque output, the gasoline engine could certainly get to the top of the hill faster towing a load (or empty) – it can rev higher and make more hp. But the diesel would get there using less fuel. Both will have no trouble getting there – if the diesel can make it, so can the gas engine, as the gas engine will have the same amount of power at the diesels max rpm. As long as the engine can tow up the hill at the speed limit, I would just as soon have the one that uses less fuel, all else being equal (yeah, never is, is it?). But I think the Ford EcoBoost in the F-150 and the small diesel in the RAMS make an interesting comparison for this (IIRC they are similar in torque). They probably tow about as well steady state, but the Ford will accelerate faster than the RAM, while using more fuel.

            Technically, you can make up for torque with gearing. You could have a tiny little torqueless wonder of an engine (bike motor in a semi), and just gear it such that it is crawling up the hill at 15K rpm at .5mph. Not very efficient though, going to use a LOT of fuel to do that… And take a long time.

            I think on the car diesel side, BMW had an interesting pairing in the same car, the 335i vs. the 335d. 3.0L turbo direct injection gas vs. 3.0L turbo direct injection diesel. 300hp/300lb-ft vs. 265hp/425lb-ft. The gas car IS faster – 0-60 in ~5.2 seconds with the automatic. The diesel did it in ~5.7. BUT, the diesel is more efficient, by nearly 30% city and highway. Another interesting comparison is the 335i to the 4 cyl 2L 228d. That engine makes 280lb-ft (so very close to the gas engine) but only 185hp (it can't rev). It needs ~8 seconds to get to 60, but gets more than 50% better fuel economy. How fast do you need to get to the top of the hill vs. how much do you want to pay to get there in fuel?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “Where are the gas powered tractors hauling 100k lbs down the highway”

            Right here, jackwagon:

            http://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/chrysler/2015/12/04/fca-invests-40-million-convert-truck-fleet-cng/76773604/

            funny how those Cummins Westport spark ignition natural gas engines make roughly the same horsepower and torque as they do in diesel trim.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            Your not making a very good case for yourself. First off, those Cummins CNG engines share over 80% of their hard parts with the Diesel version. The block and rotating assembly are identical, the only difference is in the dish of the pistons and design of the head. Mainly 2 less valves per cylinder than the Diesel, with a spark plug on top.

            Clearly your article states only one reason why they are switching to CNG: price of the fuel. That is where the advantage stops for CNG. Take a look at Cummins web page, every single CNG engine makes less HP and torque than its diesel counterpart. Again, 20% less energy content and lower compression ratio compared to diesel. Throttle is very laggy on CNG with its fuel mixture happening way back in the intake plenum compared to in the cylinder with DI diesel.The lag is much worse with standard transmissions, so to help alleviate the symptoms they mate them to automatic transmissions with tailor made torque converters that multiply torque at startup with constant power flow during upshifts so the operator doesn’t have to let off the throttle. Then there is the range, 625 miles? That is OK for local routes but no good for the long Hauler. Even if the infrastructure was better, your still burning more fuel. Economically it makes sense so long as the fuel is cheaper, but in no other way can CNG compete with diesel.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “I think a better way is comparing engines of comparable torque output. Say a 500lb-ft gas engine to a 500lb-ft diesel. ”

            everyone wants to “cook the books” to make their argument sound better. On a *per displacement* basis, a GTDI engine has broadly equivalent torque output and a lot more HP than a turbodiesel. For example, every single 2.0 GTDI engine on the market makes more torque and a hell of a lot more horsepower than the VW/Audi 2.0 TDI.

            Every.
            Single.
            One.

            “Diesel=torque” is one of those pieces of “conventional wisdom” which isn’t really all that wise, but it has enough truthiness where people parrot it because “everyone knows” it’s true.

            it’s true that it’s easier to crank up the output of a turbodiesel since you don’t have to worry about detonation; just feed it more fuel and cram more air down its throat. But you can do the same with a GTDI so long as you don’t let it go lean under boost.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The GTDI has more hp because it can rev higher. If you don’t need that to get the job done, the diesel will get the job done more efficiently.

            High revving gas engines are all sorts of fun, but they aren’t very efficient. If you are going to be efficient, you need to be slogging around at low RPM, and diesel is still better at that, even if the gap is not what it once was. Different horses for different courses. I wouldn’t want a diesel in my M235i, but I would actually prefer one in my station wagon.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            I enjoy reading some of the entertaining comments and myths regarding engines and how an ICE operates.

            1. Diesel do put down more torque at lower rpms. This equates to MORE horsepower at those rpms.

            2. I do know my 3.2 Duratorq Ford diesel has more torque off idle and up to around 1250 rpm than any EcoBoost. Large diesels (truck engines of 10 litres and more) max out below 1800rpm.

            3. To produce the same levels of torque/power gasoline engines consume more fuel than a diesel.

            All of these graphs illustrating hp/torque curves are fascinating. What also needed is fuel usage as well within the graphs.

            4. Light diesel are better because they can produce good horsepower with lower fuel usage than a gasoline engine at what now is normal highway engine speeds from 1600rpm and up.

            5. Future gasoline engines are looking at supercharging engines to provide enough boost to gain torque at/from off idle situations.

            6. Diesel like their gasoline ccousins can and are tuned to suit different applications.

            For example; the V6 VM Ram diesel is actually a car engine designed for a Caddy initially.

            Ford’s Lion V6 diesel is also a car biased diesel. These do have more horspower and toruqe than many of the commercial vehicle diesels.

            But in a working situation the commercially biased diesels are better because of FE and the engine tune.

            Ford make a 3.2, 5 cylinder Duratorq and the 3 litre V6 Lion. The Lion is actually a very nice engine. But I would rather have the Duratorque any day of the week in my pickup because it characteristics suit the work I expect from it.

            And, I’d bet the Duratorq will still be running after a Lion is in need for an overhaul.

            In the end a diesel biggest advantage is it can offer big engine torque/hp at low to middling rpms, with little engine FE.

            Whilst these new breed of engines like the EcoThirst are small engine attempting to be big engines. They might be torque and horsepower monsters, but to attain those attributes the engine is also a fuel monster.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @BAFO – Yes turbo engines aren’t the answer so much and diesels with full emission are no fun either. So what’s left? Yep, regular old gas engines, appropriately sized for their application, say 5.0 V8s for above 4,000 lbs, 3.5 V6s for above 3,000, etc, for best fuel-economy results, the engine turning less rpm per given mile, plus less stress and less labouring engine. A win-win all around and their simplicity pays off in untold ways.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Electric is going to be the next big thing in automotive drives, DM. They may be gasoline/electric, diesel/electric, HFCEV or straight BEV, but they are coming. Electric drive has the advantage of high torque at low RPMs at which point how the electricity gets to the motors becomes the major factor.

            For personal vehicles I would see the BEV and maybe the diesel/electric hybrid as the most likely routes; railroads have been using diesel-electric for nearly a century to very good effect for hauling heavy loads. BEV has the advantage of never needing refueling as such so the requirement for massive numbers of recharging stations is nearly eliminated, with recharging locations easily accommodated at highway truck stops, welcome stations, rest areas and even tourist parks.

            With 300-400 miles of range the driver can cover 4-8 hours of driving non-stop (within legal speed limits) and enjoy a relaxing meal without having to stand at the side of their vehicle in inclement weather pouring smelly fuel into a tank through an ice-cold metal nozzle for minutes at a time with the potential of getting some of it onto themselves and carrying that stench with them until they can bathe and change clothes. A one-hour stop could give you another 200-300 miles range to complete your journey or find an overnight place to stay where they would have lower-rate chargers to take you back to full charge while you sleep. For everyday purposes, you’d be able to start with a full charge every day at a fraction of the cost and effort of refueling an ICE even today. For one brand, much of that infrastructure is already in place. For others, it’s under development and available in a few locations right now while both groups are expanding their coverage.

            Gas-electric hybrids for daily drivers, even the so-called plug-in hybrids offer some of the advantages but fall short in that they still require fairly regular refuelings and are more complex to maintain that either type individually.

            But however they go, the full-time ICE will eventually go away except for very limited and very specific vehicles. Maybe not right away, but the shift was started by the Toyota Prius and more brands are bringing in their next-gen drivelines over the next few years. Even FCA is committing to a hybrid technology at least to start within the next 5 years or so.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @DenverMike

            Given you live at altitude I would think you would be a fan of turbos. I’ll take a 2.0L Turbo over any V6 any day of the week, and 10X up in the mountains.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Vulpine – You and I probably won’t be around when all ICE vehicles go away. Hybrids and pure electrics are still decades away from the mainstream, if at all. Sure their day may come, but probably not in my lifetime (now 47), and even less likely for the types of Hot Rods and trucks you and I are into, old and new.

            The diesel/electrics makes sense for trains, since they build momentum very gradually and not subject to constant stop-n-go traffic.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Personally, DM, I think you’re wrong here. While ICE will hang on for a long time in many ways, hybrids are already making inroads into the overall market as well as battery-electrics. Granted their share is small for now, but many people are already realizing the benefits of lower fuel use through both money savings and the mere fact that they don’t have to refuel as often, so reduce the times that they have to stand outside to refuel their vehicles in bad weather. Complete changeover? Yes, it will be a while. But I could easily see more hybrids on the roads within the next ten years and potentially a similar number of battery-electrics at least as city cars.

            The diesel electric makes great sense for 18-wheelers, believe it or not. The electric drivetrain offers an incredible advantage for climbing grades that a geared diesel drivetrain does not; increasing torque as the vehicle slows down to the point where the load best matches the generator speed which itself would be 1:1 input torque to output current. With such a system, the diesel engine would be running near idle speeds on flat cruising and only loaded down, forcing higher revs when taking on grades. Conversely, a descending grade would have dynamic braking control overall speed better than mechanical brakes with less heating and a far lower risk of runaway. If necessary, any excess current could be fed to an air-cooled resistive grid in much the same way it already works for railroad locomotives.

            By the way, you’d be surprised just how quickly those locomotives can accelerate when they’re not pulling tens of thousands of tons of cargo behind them. Trains are still subject to stop-and-go traffic, though admittedly not as frequently as cars and trucks on the highway. I would recommend a little reading on the history of electrification in railroading and the ultimate adoption of the diesel electric over steam on most cross-country runs. Specifically, I would recommend reading the story of a tug-of-war between a prototype electric locomotive vs a very popular steam locomotive type. There are a few rather humorous incidents as well as some amazing discoveries. It will help explain why in both Japan and Europe the catenary electric rules the railroads while even in China the fastest trains are electric.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @krhodes1 – It’s a 15% loss at a mile high, but I’m fine with that and not out to drag race against turbos, they can have it, especially in snow. I spend 1/2 my time at around 2000 ft, so. CA, but turbos and superchargers lose 7.5 % of their power at a mile high.

          • 0 avatar

            I prefer a v6 to 2T for a daily driver and all around car. I like high strung turbos in a light car. And the new low down power turbos are pretty good drivers. But in the end I haven’t driven one as nice as a good V6.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      LOL. what a bunch of spoiled brats we’ve become where we think a “half-ton” truck with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft is a “dog.” s**t, in the ’90s you could still get a frickin’ *F-350* with the 300 straight six with all of 150 hp and 260 lb-ft.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Slow and steady. Sucked a lot of gas too. But you’d get to the top of the hill eventually.

        I agree, we are unbelievably spoiled for vehicle performance in the US. I find it hilarious when people whine that a car that does 0-60 in 8 is OMG slow. That was Ferrari performance when I was a kid.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        170 hp, not that it made much difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        JimZ,
        I have around 200hp and 350ftlb of torque in my midsize 4×4 pickup. This adequate. Off road I am not ever be wanting for power. On road the pickup does 114mph and this is with 3″ of lift, bull bar, driving lights and off road tyres, etc. This is more than adequate.

        I think the problem is many people are caught up in this “Best in Class” marketing hype by the manufacturers.

        There is one guy who mainly speaks of load and tow. Can you believe that, when most pickups (75%) are sold to people who’d be lucky to tow several thousand pounds and buy 50 four inch nails at Lowes.

        People over buy capability when buying a pickup, because bigger is better whether it’s hp/ftlb or tow/load. You can tell the marketeers on sites when they constantly push this “Best in Class” sh!t down your throats.

        The reality is if you are buying a vehicle to tow say 10 000lbs constantly you will never buy a 1/2 ton or large SUV. You will buy a “real truck”.

        I do think many comments are made by those who never towed over 5 tons behind a light vehicle like a 1/2 ton. They would a) kill themselves or b) kill others.

        I even hear guys talking off roading. One guy in particular was telling me that he was bogged in mud and decided to use a high lift jack??? WTF kind of fool would do this?? This person lost all his credibility with me with that one comment. This illustrated to me he has NEVER driven off road with any serious intent, in other words he’s full of sh!t, a moron.

        Another point I would like to high light is the misnomer that a 400hp gas engine is as capable as a 400hp diesel. Never.

        The diesel would be getting more torque at highway speeds than any gas V8. Has anyone ever looked at a truck transmission, they are huge for a reason. That is the amount of torque they are required to manage.

        Many of these pickup/car/SUV/CUV people who comment really can’t pass judgement on something they have never experienced.

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          Hi lo jacks work in a pinch to free a vehicle if you have no other options. Poor man’s winch or a good back up when the primary winch fails (busted cable, burned up relay, etc). I’ve used one a few times over the years, they can be pretty sketchy under tension so one must use common sense or you’ll wind up on the hospital side real quick.

          Real off roaders are pretty resourceful Al. When your in BFE and buried in the bog, you use what you’ve got on hand to get your arse back home. Sometimes that means using a Hi Lo jack. I wouldn’t call the guy a moron based on that.

          BTW, I am eagerly awaiting the off road video you promised.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            mason,
            First, I’m onto the YouTube thing. I’ve never visited the site, as I’m a relatively newcomer to using the net like I do now. It’s a learning experience.

            I’ll try and upload the video footage on the weekend.

            As for my comment regarding fools and morons. Well, this particular person always states how he is serious about tow/load safety, etc. And yet he goes out in a remote region where it is hard to find help first for first aid/medical attention and secondly for retrevial/repair of a vehicle.

            4x4ing, like motor racing can be fraught with much danger and this guy who claims to be a first repsonder and talks of “fools and morons” regarding the use of motor vehicles is worse than the people he has supposedly saved.

            4xx4ing can be extremely rewarding, like motor racing, you don’t require success everytime, only now and then. You nut out mods and if they do work you are rewarded, like knocking a 1/10 of a second off a lap.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Oh, many off roader don’t realise this, but buy a hand winch before a highlift jack. You will find this will be of more use and around the same price.

            You can winch from most any angle/side of the vehicle.

            A highlift jack has a base of around 16″ squared. That isn’t going to hold 100lbs safely in the mud, even with a base plate.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            They actually don’t do bad in the mud at all compared to the other options out there. My 48″ high lift has a jacking height of 3 feet. 60″ high lifts go about 4 feet. Generally you find bottom by then, particularly if you throw a couple of logs in under them. If you truly need a jack in the bog to change a tire or an axle shaft there’s really no better option to get your vehicle .

            There are better jacks on the market if your on the hard pan and better options for routine winching but all in all they’re a very capable multi use tool. Most everyone I know that spends any amount of time in the back country solo has one in thei r vehicle at all times.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Mason,
            It easier to find a long log to use as a lever (as a jack, simple physics) in the woods/forest than a winch.

            In the mud you can’t beat a winch, even a simple $85 hand winch.

            Generally in the mud you will stop when the mud overcomes the friction on your wheels.

            In other words it doesn’t take as much in normal situations to keep on going.

            When you are in deep sh!t mud, then a winch is the only way.

            The most important issue when off roading is to have good comms and another partner vehicle, to share your experience and to help each other out.

            If you go it alone you are looking for trouble.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          @BAFO – “Overbuying/Under-loading” is a function of safety. Also read, *choices*. OZ car reviewers “under-loaded” 8 Aussie-sold ‘utes’, and results ranged from OK to downright scary!

          “The back end was steering the truck!!” to paraphrase one reviewer. And this was a load in the bed, well within the rated payload.

          But fat chance you put a this off-road “video” you speak of. Any 3rd grader from the 3rd World would *of* uploaded it by now. FROM HER PHONE!!!

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Reliability and parts longevity (and that of the truck) is another big reason for overbuying. Ask any successful business owner, utilizing trucks everyday.

            Here’s the link you’re gonna ask for.

            caradvice.com.au/388419/ute-comparison-ford-ranger-v-holden-colorado-v-isuzu-d-max-v-mazda-bt-50-v-mitsubishi-triton-v-nissan-navara-v-toyota-hilux-v-volkswagen-amarok-2/

            When it comes to “rating” your Aussie-sold pickups/utes, seems like no one’s guarding the hen house.

    • 0 avatar
      Seth Parks

      Depends on which truck you are comparing it to. A Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4×4 tops out at around 5,600lbs, which is a very close approximation of what a full-size Ram SUV would weigh. A LWB version will add about 300lbs. A 3.0L diesel powered SUV won’t win many races, but would match up favorably with a 5.3L Tahoe.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Seth Parks,
        I agree with your comment.

        Here in Australia the preferred Grand Cherokee for towing applications is the 3 litre VM V6 diesel over the Hemi. The Pantastar doesn’t even get mention in the towing department.

        A VM diesel like the 3 litre VM is a V8 replacement in many instances. It will not win any drag races, but it sure will do 0-60mph in 9 sec.

        Even those 4 litre, in line 6 XJ Cherokee’s like I owned could only muster 9 seconds for a 0-60 and these weighed under 4 000lbs.

        At altitude the diesel will perform very well as well. Other than just losing hp at altitude a gas engine’s fuel usage rises dramatically as well.

        Even a 4 cylinder can become a fuel devouring monster.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    The margins on these are so obscene, and the retooling needed to build them so minimal, that FCA really has nothing to lose.

    The difference between this and the Armada is that Nissan wasn’t a viable seller of full-size pickup trucks. Ram has showroom traffic that can support this model. And I’d think their coil springs in back are perfectly suited to a better-riding Suburban knockoff.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This is truly the easiest segment to crack open, there are no competitors for a low priced true FS SUV with a solid rear axle.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Not exactly going to pan out like this.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The grille on that Sequoia is just hateful. It looks like a freezer rack that needs thawed.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I feel like all the Ramcharger ever was – was a more rusty and worse built version of a K5 Blazer or a Bronco, with a hood ornament.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      College acquaintance had one it was about 1998 or so and his was a 1991 model. He grew up in a hardcore Chrysler family and he thought it was the greatest vehicle he had owned to that point in his young life. But yes it was far rustier than it should have been and the transmission was in much worse shape than it should have been for the mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      In the early days of the Ramcharger, the 440/727/NP-203 combination was better than anything offered by the rest of the UAW-3. It wasn’t until fuel economy became a thing that the Ramcharger stopped being the best performing SUV in the world. They made Range Rovers look like garden tractors, although they weren’t built much better than Range Rovers.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        A small 2 door SUV with a 440 sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

        Granted, I bet they made great monster trucks!

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          They weren’t all that small, NoGoYo. After all, they were built with a full-sized pickup cab and a short bed with no wall between cab and bed–kinda like modern SUVs but with a fully removable roof (in some cases.) Look closely at the first and third Ramcharger photos above and you’ll see what I mean.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Small was a bad word. Short wheelbase is a better word.

            I wouldn’t want to take a corner in a 440 Ramcharger at speed!

      • 0 avatar

        440 was awesome. Also the early one had a full removable top (including over the driver). The 81 update aimed the Ramcharger more towards personal luxury vehicle the bronco made the same change around the same time. By the late 80’s both were pretty cushy inside whereas the K5 stayed kind of the same until it was replaced with the GMT400 version. Really I think dodge did OK with the ramcharger it just took a long time to be updated. The 318 and 727 will run forever really they were durable comfortable trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      K 5 is much rustier. Just saying.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I’m a little disappointed that no one has commented on the picture of ‘Joe College’ in the blue sweater leaning over the hood.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    They were FREE money on a chassis that was paid for, just chopped with a stretched cab. And they forced top trim, except strippers for the Border Patrol (easy money), same as ’73+ Broncos and Blazers.

    Made no sense to stop building them, even when down to just 20K annual sales each. The Raptor does 1,000 to 1,400 sales a month.

  • avatar
    GreginToronto

    The truck in the first picture is actually a badge-engineered Plymouth Trail Duster.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    Why does the hood in the first photo say Plymouth?

  • avatar
    rpol35

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/02/full-size-suvs-arent-taking-part-suv-boom/

    Interesting story and timing about FCA’s direction considering this TTAC post from earlier in the week.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      It really all comes down to price and how it’s marketed, make it cheap (inline with the pickups) and oriented toward men and it will know no bounds.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Hummer – most Tahoe’s, Suburban’s and other large SUV’s I see are almost always driven by women.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          That’s why I included that little tidbit, all of GMs SUVs now are oriented toward women, the male oriented GM SUV went away when they stopped using the same metal and front ends as the pickup.
          Not necessarily a bad thing, but as we know women will buy a masculine vehicle much quicker than a man will buy a feminine vehicle.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    Why not call this the Jeep Grand Wagoneer? Or maybe Gladiator.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    FCA will probably be far better off designing a global midsize pickup, a Wrangler pickup and most importantly a redesign of the Ram.

    This RamCharger thing will be a total loss since large SUVs are becoming passe and midsize is becoming more popular.

    This will occur with pickups as well sooner or later. When this occurs it will be a day of reckoning for the Big 3. I suppose the Big 3 can import from Mexico smaller fuel efficient vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Can’t they just sell the Wrangler pickup worldwide as a competitor to Rangers and Colorados and Amaroks, etc? That seems like a smart way to grow the Jeep brand internationally.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        derekson,
        There is a chalk and cheese comparison between a global midsize pickup and a Wrangler, if it was made into a pickup. The Wrangler is a tractor. Like most any vehicle, as you make it perform better in one area will detract from another performance dimension of the vehicle.

        Jeep could use the chassis/suspension of the Wrangler and place a cab/interior on top that is fit for human habitation, with all the little luxuries to make owning the vehicle for daily use more appealing.

        There is no live axle pickups on the market other than the Patrol and 70s Toyota. Even then the 70s on the road is almost like driving a turd.

        Decent on road performance/refinement is a must to sell vehicles as most only ever encounter the shoulder and maybe a dirt driveway.

        Even 90% of Jeep Wranglers sold are sold to the “hairdresser set”, like an accessory for Oakley sunglasses.

        Jeep is NOT an iconic brand. The only countries where Jeep has a name are the close WWII allies of the US, ie, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          I understand that Jeep isn’t a big brand elsewhere. My point is that Sergio has clearly stated he wants it to be, and Wrangler pickups could easily be a part of that. And having a “true off road” pickup would give them a viable niche to attack. I don’t think they can really expect to make a better pickup than Ford or GM or Toyota. So they make a mediocre competitor and brand it as a Fiat or a RAM? That isn’t going to attract any specific type of customer and it isn’t going to be nearly as profitable as a Wrangler pickup.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            “I don’t think they can really expect to make a better pickup than Ford or GM or Toyota.”

            Show me a legitimate 1,000,000 mile club from Ford, GM, or Toyota.

            Then I’ll show you one for Dodge.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Jeep is NOT an iconic brand. The only countries where Jeep has a name are the close WWII allies of the US, ie, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada.”

          I would disagree with you as Jeep is very well known in the old Soviet Union countries (including Russia itself), India and China, where knockoffs were rampant before the Jeep brand itself arrived (and probably still are.) In fact, the Mahindra cars and trucks are direct descendants of the old Kaiser Jeeps as owning a perpetual license to the model, if not the name. Mahindra, by the way, is a surprisingly well-known brand for tractors here in the US and if it weren’t for a certain franchising importer trying to essentially hijack all the profits by contract we might have already seen Mahindra trucks and SUVs here in the States.

          So yes, Jeep is pretty much a globally-recognized brand; admittedly for the very reason you mention: it’s WWII, Korea and later military reputation. Even SEA knows the Jeep, albeit not fondly, I’m sure.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “I would disagree with you as Jeep is very well known in the old Soviet Union countries (including Russia itself)”

            Yes and no. When talking about any 4×4, many Russians will call it a “jeep,” very much supporting your claim. But aside from that Jeeps occupy a different segment of the market than they tend to in the US.

            A black ZJ Grand Cherokee with tinted windows and a brushguard was absolutely emblematic of the “wild 90s” in Russia, associated with Russian mafia. The current GC plays pretty well in the luxo-SUV segment against the likes of the Range Rover Sport.

            As offroaders perhaps less so although there are definitely some Jeep guys in Russia. There are almost zero YJ/TJ Wranglers, and no CJs at all. JK Wranglers are very expensive and more so rich men’s play things than an everyman’s offroad hunting/fishing rig, although their technical capability is respected. That “actual offroader” niche is firmly owned by Lada Nivas, UAZ Patriots and older 452/469 models, as well as a plethora of used Japanese stuff (Land Cruiser, Patrol, Pajero, Terrano, Escudo, etc). For serious cross country 4×4 ‘rallys’ across Siberia or into Mongolia, Jeeps have very little presence. Again, it is highly modified Russian iron and older Japanese 4x4s.

            The equivalent of the offroad Jeep scene in the US in Russia is definitely the UAZ 469 (later modernized and sold as the “Hunter”) as well as the newer Patriot. Both are fairly primitive, BOF solid axle front and rear rigs and are modified to the moon and back with huge tires, locking differentials, bumpers and armor, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I didn’t say they were the most popular things there; for most of those countries they’ve become a status symbol because of how easy it is to recognize them from locally-built vehicles. China is noted for copying the more distinctive models of foreign brands and one of their off-road vehicles (civilian) was a not-quite-close-enough twin to the TJ Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      A Ramchager would be easy profits, there is little extra tooling to make a SUV out of the existing Pickup parts and a stripped down version with 10K on the hood, because they are the new comer, will still net at least 10K in profit. If they can sell one that competes with the top pricing of GM then there is 40K per unit profit. Fact is there is room for more competition in this segment. No it is not a huge segment but the number of current players means almost no discounting. The loaded up models outsell the strippers. GM’s entries easily are the most profitable vehicle per unit and are probably not that far behind their pickups in the most total profit from a product. So there is room for Ram and if they or Ford bring back a 2500/250 version they can attack the weal spot in the General’s armor.

      The other beauty of the HD version is that it would be exempt from CAFE. Personally I don’t get why GM dropped the 2500 Suburban since it was CAFE exempt. Since they are still using a stick axle out back it is easy to bolt on the 2500 pickup parts instead.

      Ford quietly dropped the E150 in 07 to dodge the CAFE rules. They actually kept the E150 badge but put the same springs, axles, brakes, and tires as found on the previous E250 without the extra payload package. The 07 E250 became what had been the E250 extra payload package. GM itself dropped their 1500 vans entirely to dodge CAFE.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      There will be those looking to find the Ram 700 on US highways.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        But they are unlikely to find it. A full size makes much more financial sense. They’ll be able to sell those for 50-70K each with a massive profit per vehicle. A Ram 750 would be lucky to top out at 25K and that would net a very slim profit. It will be way easier to sell 1 Ramcharger than 10 or more 750’s.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    FCA needs to focus on quality of existing, and future product. Especially when trying to expect people to pay $80K for a Grand Wagoneer. If the Ramcharger comes out, it will simply pull existing sales from SUVs currently produced or already in the works by FCA. In addition, the smaller/hybrid powertrains should be developed for updated/newly facelifted current models. T
    FCA is having problems, and really needs to improve what they have.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      better to eat your own lunch than to have someone else take it.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “FCA needs to focus on quality of existing, and future product.”
      Future product is already being taken care of by original engineering. Existing product battles the fact that it is derived from prior, faulty engineering intended to use the least costly materials possible and resulting in more frequent defects due to materials and workmanship of those materials. I would far rather trust a new-design Cherokee or Renegade over the obviously poor quality seen in nearly every previous model since Daimler took over. Yes, Daimler did create some popular designs, but prior to the JK, how many people complained about “Death Wobble” in Jeep Wranglers? THAT is proof of bad design.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Vulpine,
        I don’t think FCA/Chrysler can fix it’s deficient quality issues quickly.

        The problem FCA/Chrysler has found itself in, is they are cheaper than the competition for a not so great vehicle overall.

        FCA quality appears to be inconsistent, some good and many bad.

        FCA culture needs to change before the quality issues can be fixed.

        Can FCA/Chrysler remain afloat if FCA is forced to increase prices to cover the costs of improving quality?

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          While I might agree that they can’t fix what Daimler screwed up very quickly (if at all) I would note that their newly-designed vehicles really aren’t doing all that badly quality-wise. There are more complaints from non-owners than there are from owners from what I’ve been able to garner with their newest models. I own a true Fiat (500 Pop) that hasn’t given me any reason to complain in 14 months of ownership. Not one single visit to the garage for anything but a blistered tire from hitting a pothole at 60mph. Mechanically it is still fine and cosmetically still practically new at just below 15,000 miles. And yes, everything still works on it. You would think by some reviewers that it should have fallen apart by now.

          On the other hand, most of the Chrysler cars and trucks (including Jeeps) are fighting recalls based on design errors made as long as 20 years ago and longer; far longer than Fiat has owned the company. Yes, FCA has been trying to repair those issues but I also believe they’re being unfairly charged to spend their own money to fix the things that bankrupted DC and TCG. The fact that they’re going out of their way to make these repairs in some cases is to their credit, not their detriment.

          I’m content to wait and see what the FCA-designed-from-scratch models can do. The Dart itself is not nearly as bad as many complain, especially after they were able to successfully meet the Federal government’s demands for a 40mpg model in only a little under 2 years and subsequently upgrade the powertrain to better meet that model’s performance demands. I personally know a couple Dart owners and they love ’em.

          FCA has outlined several new models for the near future, including three new Jeeps (one to replace the Compass/Patriot pairing, a new Wrangler and a pickup based on that new Wrangler) and apparently redesign the overall Ram lineup with more than just a facelift. They’ve also projected at least two Dodge/Chrysler crossovers to replace the Dart/100 and 200. Admittedly this appears a bit optimistic for FCA, but the shared platforms should help the company even with its European market if not elsewhere.

          As for your question of staying afloat by increasing pricing; it doesn’t seem to have hurt JGC, Cherokee, Renegade or Wrangler sales any. Nor the trucks. What they’re doing now is building cars into the markets that their predecessors effectively abandoned which already have price tags in the areas where FCA is pricing their entries.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Oh, I don’t think it’s an old Chrysler problem, it’s an old Fiat problem of cheaping out production.

            You must have heard the FCA parts supplier talk: “Cut the price in half, and then we’ll talk.” Because of tactics like that, FCA now has the lowest cost, lowest tier suppliers out there, and that’s the reason for the poor quality.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I’m an owner, Lorenzo, of an ’08 Chrysler Group product that was designed during the Daimler days. Fiat has been going out of their way to fix what Daimler screwed up–to the point that I had another major repair done at a fraction of ‘retail’ cost last month.

            And no, it was not a “re-repair”, it was a first-time incident of something that the model became well known for and of which there are videos on YouTube and other sites. I choose not to link to any of them as I intend to wait and see if the issue recurs after this repair.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The Death Wobble?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Aye, DM. The “Death Wobble”. It took my Jeep over 8 years to display the issue, which is why I questioned its existence at the beginning. Having experienced it, I now understand what it is but apparently even today most Jeep technicians don’t know how to fully prevent it. And as far as I know, ONLY the Daimler-designed JK and JKU experience it.

            Do you wonder now why I blame Daimler for Chrysler’s bankruptcy?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Most any live front axle vehicle can “death wobble”, usually due to worn parts in the suspension. Happened to my WJ Grand Cherokee due to worn tie rod ends. Will scare the poop right out of you the first time you experience it! Happens on Rovers too, but not on mine yet.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Most any live front axle vehicle can “death wobble”, usually due to worn parts in the suspension.”

            The problem is, many people were complaining early on with the ’07 JK on practically brand-new cars. Mine at least took 75,000 miles to experience it. Multiple inspections prior to the event never indicated worn tie-rod ends, ball joints or even (in my case) the steering adjustment nut. Pretty much got an all new steering assembly out of it.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            Death wobble, I.E. ANY, and I stress ANY live axle configuration that is either neglected on the maintenance end or burdened with oversized tires that it was never meant to handle, or a combination of both. Ford, Dodge, and Jeep all fall into this category, GM uses that IFS stuff commonly found on pavement queens and grocery getters. Jeep has unfairly been put in the spot light for this, mainly because more owners routinely run larger tires, beat the piss out of them, and neglect critical maintenance than any other brand.

            40’s are for 2-1/2 ton Rockwell’s, not Dana 44’s.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            So what you’re saying is that because I’ve kept my Jeep factory stock for so long the issue simply never came up where it would have become more evident had I lifted it and put bigger tires under it. Makes sense.

            That said, it may be why many off-road vehicles today are going independent, to help eliminate the problem. Clearly the HMMMV was a very capable off-road rig with an independent suspension (as compared to later Hummer-brand models.) It may be that “live axle” will become relegated to off-road use exclusively in the future, requiring them to be towed to the off-road parks instead of driven there. More extreme lifts tend to be towed already.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I’ve experienced the death wobble on all of the live front axle vehicles I owned, Trucks, Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer, long before Daimler even thought of taking over Chrysler.

            In each case it was due to worn-out front suspension parts, and (relatively) easy to fix.

            Inspection of suspension components is part of regular maintenance.

            The death wobble on my 1996 RAM Cummins snapped the passenger-side ball-joint and the truck was FUBAR.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Hmmm… And prior to this Jeep I’d never experienced it in any vehicle. Still, Like I said above, complaints were coming out even before the JK could have put that many miles on to wear out those parts. Guess I need to consider myself lucky, eh? Though I am surprised prior inspections never discovered the wear.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            When the death wobble first starts, it is very mild – just a gentle shaking of the steering wheel when decelerating.

            As wear progresses over time, use and abuse, the shaking gets progressively worse when decelerating.

            Using balloon tires like the 31.5″ bogging tires I used on my mudders speeds up the deterioration a lot.

            We countered with extra shocks and stabilizers, both horizontally and vertically. The forces exerted when rapidly accelerating and decelerating during competition are enormous.

            Using the vehicle as intended and minimizing abuse of the suspension can delay the onset of the death wobble for many years.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I doubt it would affect the sales of their existing product but if it did canabalize those sales that would be a good thing from a profit perspective as there would certainly be a greater profit in a full size SUV that started at ~$50K than one that tops out in that range.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I just found this….. Ram had unveiled a concept “RamCharger” at the Moab Jeep Rally last Easter.

    Looks real good.

    http://www.fourwheeler.com/moab-experience/2015/1504-ram-unveils-2017-ramcharger-concept-at-easter-jeep-safari-2015-in-moab/

  • avatar
    hshields

    Question for the TTAC team:

    Why isn’t FCA contemplating a full-sized Chrysler nameplate SUV? Something to compete with Escalades/Suburbans/Navigators? Limo industry has seen the death of towncars and the rise of the MKT-TownCar edition to fill the void. Is FCA thinking that segment is already saturated? Go for the “macho” Ram segment because that market has growth?

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      FCA is continuing Chrysler’s patent on ‘stupid’. Dodge was once the leader of all pickups, vans and commercial heavy (medium) trucks. They p!ssed it all away, chasing segments that don’t pay, and they can never do right, or better than half @ss’d anyway.

      It’s not just the limo industry, but law enforcement is loving fullsize SUVs too.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        When were they the leader in pickup trucks?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Drzhivago138 – those who worship at the altar of the big “C” would say the moment they put a Cummins under the hood.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Okay, but when were they actually class-leading in any truck segment? 1935?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            How many WWII, Korean War and/or Vietnam War trucks were built by Dodge? As I recall from personal experience, movies and documentaries, Dodge trucks were extremely common in the military and the original Power Wagon was an offshoot of these Dodge trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            There’a a lot more to it than just “pickup trucks”. Collectively, Dodge dominated the “truck” arena, including vans and Ram chargers, but fleet sales especially.

            Everything from half ton pickups and vans, to heavy duty class 7 cab-chassis’, for private, commercial, government,, utilities, church, fire/ambulance, in the form of cube vans, flatbeds, utility beds, and school buses, to name a few.

            But there was also ‘window vans’, up to 15 passengers, for all sorts of users, plus let’s not get started on van conversions.

            These were absolutely everywhere, not to mention RVs of all sorts, sizes and configurations, including “class A” motor homes.

            Too many categories to list them all, but Dodge was likely in more of them, while dominating more of them.

            So where did all this go and why? And for what?

    • 0 avatar
      Seth Parks

      Good question. Chrysler’s product range challenge goes far deeper than not having a full-size SUV. They don’t compete in the high volume compact or mid-size SUV segments either. I would expect those to be a larger priority.

      We can’t speak to what they are or are not contemplating. But your idea of slicing off the highest end trim of their contemplated full-size Ram SUV, moving some sheet metal around, and badging it a Chrysler is interesting. It would certainly signal FCA’s commitment to the Chrysler brand.


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