A top Ram executive is heading to Brazil next week as the truck maker increasingly cozies up to the idea of adding a smaller pickup to its lineup.
The trip comes after Mike Manley, global head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep and Ram brands, told The Detroit News that an “opportunity” exists in the U.S. midsize pickup market.
“I think that space is big enough, certainly, to have two offerings there,” Manley said at last week’s New York Auto Show, referring to the recently-announced Wrangler pickup and a hypothetical Ram model.
The midsize market, dominated by the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins and Toyota Tacoma, has shown considerable growth and has the potential to benefit an automaker willing to add a third entry.
Manley didn’t confirm a new Ram, but the trip to Brazil by Ram International head Bob Hegbloom clearly signals the beginning of a product strategy. Hegbloom will be looking at partnership opportunities between Ram and the company’s Latin American Fiat division, Manley said.
Without its own midsize architecture, and with little capacity to develop and produce such a vehicle in the U.S. (where focus remains on the strong-selling Ram 1500 and 2500 models), tapping Fiat could be the only way forward.
In the Brazilian market, Fiat has just rolled out its new Toro pickup, while FCA’s Mexico factory produces the Fiat Fullback pickup (based on the Mitsubishi L200).
The Toro is a unibody four-door pickup based on the Fiat Small-Wide platform that underpins the Jeep Renegade. Power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine or 2.0-liter diesel four, mated to a six-speed manual or six- or nine-speed automatic transmission.
When Hegbloom was head of Ram’s North American division (a post now occupied by former Jeep head Jim Morrison), he bemoaned the fact that the company couldn’t attain the fuel economy ratings needed to market a smaller pickup alongside the larger Ram.
That was then, but now the winds of change seem to be blowing…from south of the border.
[Image: Fiat Toro, FCA Group]