The Truth About Cars » Ram http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Ram http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com No Fixed Abode: You Don’t Want A Jeep Pickup, You Pansy! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/no-fixed-abode-dont-want-jeep-pickup-pansy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/no-fixed-abode-dont-want-jeep-pickup-pansy/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 13:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1145497 Last week, rookie TTACer Aaron Cole called the RAM Rebel a Jeep pickup. I don’t think it would be impossible to make the case that the Rebel is a successor of sorts to the J10 and J20 full-sizers like the one that Jalopnik is rebuilding right now. Those pickups were discontinued after Chrysler acquired AMC […]

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brute

Last week, rookie TTACer Aaron Cole called the RAM Rebel a Jeep pickup. I don’t think it would be impossible to make the case that the Rebel is a successor of sorts to the J10 and J20 full-sizers like the one that Jalopnik is rebuilding right now. Those pickups were discontinued after Chrysler acquired AMC because there just wasn’t enough money in the hopper to update them and do a new Dodge Ram truck. Shame, really, because the “FSJ” did have some fans and there are still people willing to pay sixty grand for a ’91 Grand Wagoneer.

Chances are, however, than when you think of a “Jeep pickup” you’re not thinking about a full-sizer at all. Rather, you’re envisioning what’s known as a “CJ-8″. It’s perfectly possible to buy a modern CJ-8. It’s also perfectly impossible that Jeep will ever be willing to sell you one. The reason? Why, it’s basically the same reason that the Camry V6 is not the most popular cop car in existence.


1982-Jp-Scrambler-rt-sd-color

Over the weekend, my son and I went to the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio. It was his third trip to the facility and maybe my twentieth. It’s a great place to visit and it’s completely free. It is also under military jurisdiction. This is important in the event that, say, you have a felony assault warrant in your name and you’re looking for a place to hang out all day where you are absolutely guaranteed to not see a police officer. I’m just mentioning that for your future awareness.

The focus of our trip was cargo planes. Having just finished the LEGO Technic cargo plane, the boy was eager to take a close look at the real thing. In the Korean War gallery, tucked back near the double-decker Superfortress variant, there was a Jeep — more properly, a quarter-ton Willys truck. It looked, frankly, like a toy; like something adults had no business owning or driving. It took me a second to put it into perspective and remember that my idea of “Jeep” was based on the last CJ-descendant I drove: a forty-thousand-dollar, long-wheelbase, leather-lined, Pentastar-powered super-Jeep of sorts. Next to my lady friend’s Sahara Unlimited, this quarter-ton Willys stacks up like so. First number is the Willys, second is the Sahara:

  • Length: 132.2 / 184.4in
  • Width: 62.0 / 73.9in
  • Height: 69.0 / 73.7in
  • Curb Weight: 2,453 / 4,255lb

While the original composite Willys/Bantam M38 was always overweight from the very first prototype — the Army had hoped for a curb weight in the 1,500-pound range — it was remarkably compact for its carrying capacity and durability. This compactness had at least one unforeseen effect: When the Army replaced the M38 with the semi-monocoque Ford M151 “Mutt”, the Mutt’s sixty-four inch width meant that only one row of Mutts could fit into the C-141 cargo plane, compared to the double-row loading possible with the Jeep for which the C-141 was originally designed. And if the Mutt was a little bit bigger than the Jeep, the AMC-built Jeeps that followed were bigger still, with the coil-sprung 1997 “TJ” model representing the most complete break from the past in terms of both construction and dimension. The current Wrangler, of course, casts a larger shadow than any “CJ” or “Wrangler” before it.

Willys M38

While the original M38 had a utility body that was most often configured as two seats and a small open bed, most civilian Jeeps were four-seaters. It wasn’t until the long-wheelbase CJ-8 arrived in 1981 that you had a Jeep with a “real” pickup bed. The CJ-8 offered a 61.5-inch box in an era where a “short-bed” pickup came with a six-footer, so it still wasn’t considered a serious challenger to existing mini-trucks from Toyota, Nissan, et al. It also didn’t sell worth a damn.

I could end this article right here and say, “There’s no Jeep pickup because nobody bought one the last time such a vehicle was for sale,” but to do that would be to ignore both the vast changes in the personal-transportation market since 1987 and my personal duty to give you more than a glib answer on the subject. Let’s instead focus on what a current-model Jeep pickup would need to be successful and whether it would be possible to build such a creature. To do that, we need to think about the changes in pickup trucks since 1987.

The most obvious change: today’s pickups have become physically massive two-and-a-half-ton beasts that frequently bring around four hundred horsepower to the table and are expected to meet the ride and handling standards for full-sized sedans of the previous decade. No vehicle that was even approximately based on the JK Wrangler could approach the exterior size or interior space of something like the current F-150. So any Wrangler-ish truck that you could buy would be closer to a Chevrolet Colorado or Toyota Tacoma in size. That’s a problem right there because the American public has shown again and again that it will only really take interest in a smaller pickup if that pickup comes from Toyota or Nissan. They’ve also shown that they don’t want to pay full-size prices for mid-sized trucks.

No chance, then, for something that was related to a Wrangler but looked more like a regular truck. Any Wrangler-based pickup would have to literally follow the CJ-8 template and simply be a Wrangler with a long bed. As it turns out, such a vehicle can be purchased for about $70,000. It’s called the AEV Brute Double Cab and it’s a Wrangler with a sixty-one-inch bed. You can also get it with a HEMI installed, if you’re so inclined, making it basically a ninety-grand Tonka toy.

aev_brute_doublecab_utah_setting

The AEV price premium of forty to sixty thousand dollars exists mostly because they have to take a Wrangler apart to build a Brute. I cannot imagine that the price premium for a factory-built Brute Double Cab HEMI from Jeep itself would be more than ten grand. Maybe less than that. For between forty and fifty grand, therefore, you could have a proper Jeep pickup. That’s pretty much heads-up with the RAM Rebel, and who can doubt that a Jeep “Double Cab” HEMI would be significantly cooler and more capable off-road than a Rebel? There has to be a reason that Jeep doesn’t build one, and that reason cannot have anything to do with avoiding intra-company competition. We live in a world of niches now. If BMW can make at least three different versions of the 3-Series with a swing-up hatch, then surely “Fiatsler” can offer two bad-ass off-road trucks at once.

I’d suggest that my comment above about cops and Camrys has something to do with it. Once upon a time, cops just drove the same car as everybody else, only with some extra “cop motor, cop brakes” beefing-up. As late as the early Eighties, you had plenty of people who bought Dodge Diplomats for police use and plenty of people who bought Diplomats for personal use. Yet when the M-body Diplomat private buyers traded in for a K-based Dynasty, the cops didn’t follow suit. Why? I’m sure every police officer who surfs TTAC has his own reasons, but the real reasons for the refusal to follow the American public into FWD mid-sizers was simply a perception of required capability and required image.

Cops didn’t like the look of the Accord or Camry, and they didn’t like the low-testosterone connotations of driving a FWD car. It didn’t matter that even a four-cylinder Accord could dust a Crown Vic around a handling-test course. They didn’t like the lack of “law enforcement presence” that came with the short hoods and friendly faces of the modern mid-sizers. The actual capabilities of the cars, which were proven to be entirely adequate in most cases, didn’t matter. Police departments all across the country began dreaming-up specifications that FWD cars couldn’t meet, like “jump a curb at 40mph”, to make sure that they stayed in Crown Vics and the like.

When the Crown Vic was discontinued, some departments panicked at the idea of being forced to drive a Taurus. Yet when the Explorer Police Interceptor appeared, they went for it in droves, even though the Explorer is basically a Taurus. Why? It’s simple: they liked the visual presence and implied capabilities of the Explorer. It said “cop car” to them in a way that a Taurus does not, even though a Taurus is superior to an Explorer in every dynamic test you can dream up.

Cops are people too, and pickup-truck buyers are also people, and those people are also obsessed with perceived capabilities and required image, and that is why you can travel this great land and rarely find anything beyond a bag of groceries in the back of a pickup truck. The people who buy trucks buy them for the look, for the perceived capability, and for the image. Nobody uses their truck for anything that can’t be done with a Camry, at least not often enough to justify owning a truck over owning a Camry and renting a truck. As Heath Ledger once said, I’ll show you: If you have an F-150 instead of a Camry, and you drive 15,000 miles a year, you’re buying 1,000 gallons of fuel instead of 500. That’s a $1,500 annual cost of F-150 ownership. My local Enterprise will rent me an F-150 for about seventy-five dollars a day. So, if you owned a Camry instead of an F-150, you could also have an F-150 for twenty days a year, and it would always be a nearly-new F-150. Do you use the additional capabilities of your pickup truck twenty days a year?

By the same token, getting a Jeep pickup truck over a standard Jeep Wrangler would impose additional costs — in fuel economy, purchase price, parking space, garage-ability, and so on. Even if it’s only five grand extra for the Scrambler body, that’s still $100 a month the way everybody (but you, Cash Money Internet Millionaire) buys cars. Jeep people will pay five grand extra every day of the week for a Rubicon package or a winch or something like that, but a pickup bed? They’ve already got the image thing covered, because they’re already buying a Wrangler. The only reason they would buy the pickup bed would be if they honestly needed the pickup bed. And since nobody needs a pickup bed, they don’t bother.

In case you’re wondering, that’s what killed the El Camino and Ranchero. Nobody needs a pickup bed, so buying a family car with a pickup bed makes no sense. People buy pickups because they are pickups, not because they have pickup beds. They buy pickups because they don’t want CAFE-friendly snub-nose FWD blobs, because they want to at least sit level with the SUVs that dominate traffic, because they think pickups last longer, because they think pickups are safer in a crash. Most of all, they buy pickups because the modern American life is an out-of-control spiral to the bottom where your healthcare costs more every year and your job pays less and your home is worth less but renting an apartment costs more and there is absolutely nothing you can do about any of it. Owning a pickup is what Margot Timmins would call your “horse in the country”. It’s a machine that deceives you into thinking you have some control over your life.

Which is also what a Jeep is.

So the real reason there’s no Jeep pickup is this: A Jeep and a pickup are the same thing. And you’re not a rebel for owning either one, are you?

Photos by AEV; AlfvanBeem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons; and Jeep.

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Review – Identity Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 19:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141673 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm) 8-speed 8HP70 automatic 15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear […]

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm)

8-speed 8HP70 automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear exhaust with bright tips; Luxury group, $560 (Heated mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors); Protection group, $150 (Transfer case and front suspension skid plating); Monotone paint; Rear Camera and Park Assist, $595 (Backup camera, ParkSense rear park assistant); ZF 8-speed automatic, $500; Anti-spin differential rear axle, $325; 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, $1,150; Rebel instrument cluster, $175; Four corner air suspension; Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen w/nav, $1,005; RamBox cargo management system, $1,295; Trailer brake control, $230; Spray-in bedliner, $475.

Base Price (Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4):
$45,195*
As Tested Price:
$52,375*

* All prices include $1,195 destination fee.

Any debate about Jeep inevitably ends on a common, agreeable topic for all parties involved:

“Jeep really needs to make a pickup already.”

The idea that stuffed shirts at Auburn Hills, who make more in a day than we do in a year, have somehow missed the point is entirely possible (remember the center-mounted exhausts in the Grand Cherokee SRT8, effectively prohibiting any sort of towing?) but highly unlikely.

In fact: Jeep now has a pickup. It’s called the Ram Rebel.

Obligatory disclosure: I have no skin in the pickup game. None. My father owned exactly one of the following: A white Ford F-150, a black Chevrolet Silverado and a green Dodge Ram (when they were called as such). They were all new when he bought them, of 1990s-era vintage and equally pampered. No, we were not a wealthy family, and no, I still couldn’t back up a trailer with a gun pointed to my head.

To be even clearer: The only pickup I fondly remember is a dingy 1996 Toyota Pickup (pre-Tacoma years) that my brother took to college. It was five in speeds and six in cylinders; gutless and indestructible. It couldn’t run up a hill and run the A/C at the same time, but it felt like it could run over anything.

Put simply, in the domestic pickup war for dominance, I am Switzerland.

Now that you know where my allegiances fall, let’s get on to the important stuff.

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Powertrain
The nuance and variation in pickup powertrain and configuration options is dizzying and, in some places, probably an accredited college course for matriculating majors. I shall do my best.

Our Ram Rebel came equipped with the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The 395 horsepower mill bests any option from Ford (for now), but falls short of the 6.2-liter V-8 offered by GM by 25 ponies — if the tale of the tape is the sort of thing matters to you.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(16_of_18)Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 is getting a little long in the tooth and isn’t my favorite all-around application in the Ram 1500 anyway — the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 takes that crown. But in the Ram Rebel, the V-8 is saved by the smartly cautious and clever 8-speed ZF slushbox. The eager mill keeps the Rebel in check on highway driving, keeping revs low and mileage high. Off road, the 8-speed decently held gears depending on yaw and steering angle, and I seldom used the steering-wheel-mounted gear selection buttons to adjust the ZF’s gear selection. (The gearbox’s Achilles heel is freeway passing; mash the pedal to the right between 55 mph and 80 mph and wait for a second before the revs and speed react accordingly. Eh.)

The motor is decisively torquey and moderately responsive, but certainly not nervous. On a couple ascents, I adjusted the throttle position ever so slightly forward to encourage the mighty motor to climb, but I wouldn’t consider it to be deficient or lagging. After all, I would expect a 13-year-old truck engine to be about as spry and useful as three bad knees.

(Strangely, I would have imagined Ram could have pulled out its 6.4-liter Hemi V8 for the Ford Raptor-esque Rebel. Perhaps that gets a little too close for comfort with the Power Wagon?)

In back, the power is transmitted through a standard 3.92 rear axle or an optional 3.21 rear axle, both available with an anti-spin rear differential if you’re so inclined to add it to your 4×4. Our tester was fitted with the former, optioned with anti-spin, and could climb and sprint like a champion. (Predictably, our mileage with the higher ratio wasn’t great.)

Our Rebel’s rated towing capacity is 9,600 pounds and its payload capacity is 1,211, according to the manufacturer. We opted to find the nearest mountain to climb instead.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(1_of_18)

Exterior
Choose your own adventure!

Do you think Ram’s new design language is awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 1)

Do you think Ram’s new direction isn’t awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 2)

Paragraph 1: Head to toe, the Ram Rebel is the most polarizing truck on the market. Undeniable.

Paragraph 2: If the Rebel’s front end has evolved into a snout, then the rear end is most certainly an ass.2015_Ram_Rebel_(7_of_18)

When Ram took the wraps off the Rebel earlier this year, it was clear that the truckmaker couldn’t
outrun its Dodge days fast enough. The rear end, which sports a “Ram” brand visible from space, doesn’t pass the breakfast test for me. The front end boasts a Ram logo that is big enough to be an intention and not a brand (i.e. “I’m going to RAM you with my RAM truck now!”) is saved by the amount of black plastic hiding its sharp lines. If you get past both braggadocios ends, then Ram makes a case as a sensible alternative to Ford’s Art Deco movement and GM’s wallpaper paste movement.

(The hood-mounted nostrils are more my speed, and I wish Ram had left it at that.)

Between the head’s fangs and the tail’s, um, pipes, is the heart of the Ram. Thankfully, chunky 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country A/T tires aren’t hidden by the Ram’s black wells; deep gray wheels pull the rubbers from the wells. There is a little more cladding than I’d like, but it gives the Rebel a sense of purpose and a dare to drivers: Use me.

I really do like Ram’s overall style; I just wish it were subtler that their current approach — which is understated like a five-finger ring.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(12_of_18)

Interior
You could find more comfortable chairs than the ones found in the Ram (or any other full-size FCA car for that matter), but they’d probably have the word “La-Z-Boy” written on them somewhere. The overstuffed-oversized thrones are deeply comfortable and I’m highly suspicious that they’ll last any longer than a couple years.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(10_of_18)The high-contrast red on black interior is a visual cue to the Rebel’s unique position within Ram’s lineup — just incase you missed the giant “Rebel” emblazoned on the glove box and instrument panel. There were nice touches everywhere, like the embroidered Ram on the sides of the driver and passenger seat, and the embossed tread pattern on the seat backs, but in all, the Ram Rebel is a nice place to be — even on rocky roads.

The controls and gear selector knob all have a feel of being usable and accessible, even with work gloves on, and I can appreciate its tactile feeling. Ram may have to catch up to GM in terms of ergonomics and accessibility, but we’re talking about a 7-year-old design compared to a 2-year-old design — there will be generational differences.

You want gripes? I have a few. The Rebel’s unique instrument cluster isn’t very easy to read, and its 12-volt power plug is buried in the small storage opening.

But I love the gripped phone holders, which are placed in the small storage opening underneath the infotainment. That’s a 30-cent solution to a million-dollar problem. Engineering at its finest.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(13_of_18)Infotainment
Ram’s 8.4-inch Uconnect screen (yeah, that Uconnect) was stuffed into the dash of our tester and performed adequately. For my money, General Motors still has the least fussy, easiest-to-understand system (yes Mark, I know) but Ram’s Uconnect isn’t bad.

It could use a few more pixels and a better Bluetooth interface, but I wouldn’t kick Uconnect out of bed.

I’m also petitioning for better navigation-to-instrument cluster integration, but I’m assuming that’s already on the horizon.

Drive
Unexpectedly, the Ram Rebel was stiffer than I was expecting. Its interstate manners were sorted, but the Bilstein dampers aren’t doing it any favors there. The road ride is stiff (but not as painful as a Power Wagon) and the Rebel pines for extra-road activity.

Off road — though, admittedly not the most technical course in the world — the Rebel shines. The extra inch of ground clearance the Rebel gains over the Ram helps to increase its approach angle by some 2.5 degrees (22.9 vs. 25.3), and it can climb moderately steep inclines. (I’d figure that we shimmied up a 30-degree incline without scraping anything.)

2015_Ram_Rebel_(4_of_18)The Rebel is equipped with an adjustable air suspension that raises or lowers the truck four inches from top to bottom. We spent more time in Aero mode — which is below Normal and Off Road heights, but above Entry/Exit height — because “aerodynamic truck” feels like an oxymoron. That’s just who I am, people.

Around the bumpy stuff, the Rebel is communicative and expressive. It’s timbre and buck expressed the uncertainty of its footing below the bed, but remained relatively quiet inside. On highways, the chunky tires drone. On the trail, the chunky tires grip and plant. It’s a wonderful toy.

Which is why, after days behind the wheel, I realized what kind of truck Ram made with the Rebel. It isn’t a logical competitor to the Raptor. In fact, it’s not even close.

In reality, the Rebel feels like the next step up when a Wrangler Rubicon just isn’t big enough. And despite the massive Ram badge on the back, I know exactly what the Rebel is: It’s a Jeep.

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For $58 You May Pass the IIHS Small-overlap Crash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/58-may-pass-iihs-small-overlap-crash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/58-may-pass-iihs-small-overlap-crash/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 17:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132489 Metal bars welded to the Ford F-150 Super Crew in front and behind its front wheels that helped it pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s notoriously difficult small-overlap crash cost roughly $58, Automotive News is reporting. It was revealed last week that the low-cost part was left off of regular- and extended-cab models, prompting the […]

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2015 F-150 Crash Test

Metal bars welded to the Ford F-150 Super Crew in front and behind its front wheels that helped it pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s notoriously difficult small-overlap crash cost roughly $58, Automotive News is reporting.

It was revealed last week that the low-cost part was left off of regular- and extended-cab models, prompting the insurance organization to retest the F-150 models and revise their ratings much lower than the original test.

According to Automotive News, Ford stopped short of saying that it would include the low-cost parts on the regular- and extended-cab versions of the truck, but said it would install “countermeasures” to improve crash performance. The regular and extended cab comprise about 5 and 25 percent of overall F-150 sales respectively.

Ram has said it would include the bars, which engineers have dubbed “wheel blockers,” in its pickups this year going forward.

overlap-overheadThe effectiveness of the relatively inexpensive part underscores the auto industry’s evolution to the small-overlap crash, which has been incredibly difficult for automakers since it was introduced three years ago. In 2012, only 3 out of 11 midsize luxury or near-luxury cars received “good” or “acceptable” ratings on the crash. In 2015, many of those ratings had improved to “good,” but when optional crash avoidance systems were installed on the car. For instance, the front crash mitigation package on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which scored a “good” rating when equipped with that option, costs $2,800.

Safety officials at the IIHS said they would begin testing the top two bestselling models of pickup trucks to avoid truckmakers testing only their most-popular models and applying the rating to the rest of its lineup without having the same equipment.

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No, Fiat Chrysler Probably Won’t Go Broke Buying Back Used Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fiat-chrysler-probably-wont-go-broke-buying-back-used-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fiat-chrysler-probably-wont-go-broke-buying-back-used-cars/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 22:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126033 After this morning’s announcement that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would be subject to one of the largest civil penalties for an automaker, reports that the automaker could be on the hook for $2.5 billion in cars aren’t true, the automaker said today. “While such amounts may exceed the $20 million, contrary to certain reports, FCA US does […]

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2009_Dodge_RAM_1500_SLT_4-door_pickup_--_NHTSA_01

After this morning’s announcement that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would be subject to one of the largest civil penalties for an automaker, reports that the automaker could be on the hook for $2.5 billion in cars aren’t true, the automaker said today.

“While such amounts may exceed the $20 million, contrary to certain reports, FCA US does not expect that the net cost of providing these additional alternatives will be material to its financial position, liquidity or results of operations,” the automaker said in a statement.

In other words, expect to find some screaming deals on Ram trucks in the next few months.

The automaker announced on its website that not all customers would participate in the buyback plan and that 60 percent of the affected vehicles had been repaired already. That leaves roughly 200,000 cars that could be eligible for free repairs or to be purchased by FCA.

Those vehicles would be purchased at “a price equal to the original purchase price less a reasonable allowance for depreciation plus ten percent,” according to the automaker.

The manufacturer said under the guidelines of the penalty, it would be allowed to resell the recalled trucks to the public.

The vehicles that may be eligible for repurchase are:

• 2009-2012 Ram 1500s

• 2008-2012 Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4×4, Ram 2500 4×4, 3500 4×4, 4500 4×4, 4500 4×4

• 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango

• 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota

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Fiat Chrysler May Have to Take Back 1.5M Defective Jeeps, Rams http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-may-take-back-1-5m-defective-jeeps-rams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-may-take-back-1-5m-defective-jeeps-rams/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125729 In an order detailing the largest civil penalty for an automaker so far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could have to buy back 500,000 defective trucks and accept trade-in above market value for 1 million defective Jeeps . The automaker’s record $105 million fine includes a $70 million […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

In an order detailing the largest civil penalty for an automaker so far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could have to buy back 500,000 defective trucks and accept trade-in above market value for 1 million defective Jeeps .

The automaker’s record $105 million fine includes a $70 million penalty, $20 million set aside for meeting safety standards dictated by the federal bureau and an additional $15 million in penalties if an independent monitor discovers further safety violations.

The record ruling comes after the agency said FCA botched recalls of more than 11 million vehicles for wide ranging issues, including Jeep models with rear gas tanks that could catch fire in rear collisions. The issue has been linked to more than 50 deaths. 

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind scolded the automaker in a statement Monday announcing the fine.

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said. “This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture.”

According to a statement by the automaker, Jeep owners who haven’t yet complied with their recall could get a $100 gift card to bring their vehicle into a dealer. Owners of defective Jeep models would also be eligible to trade in their vehicle for $1,000 above fair market value.

In addition to the Jeep fix, FCA will attempt to purchase or fix for free Ram trucks or Chrysler SUVs with a suspension defect that could cause the car to lose control. FCA could resell those fixed cars.

The automaker will have to submit to independent monitoring of its recalls for the next three years, with NHTSA being able to extend that agreement further for an additional year.

Last week, FCA announced it would be recalling 1.4 million cars for a security vulnerability that could allow hackers to remotely take control of a vehicle.

Read the ruling here.

The vehicles that may be eligible for repurchase are:

• 2009-2012 Ram 1500s

• 2008-2012 Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4×4, Ram 2500 4×4, 3500 4×4, 4500 4×4, 4500 4×4

• 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango

• 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota

The vehicles that may be eligible for a $100 gift card for dealer inspection or $1,000 over market value for trade-in are:

• 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

• 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty

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Super Duty Buoys Flagging F-150 Sales for Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/buoyed-heavy-duty-ford-still-leading-pickup-sales-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/buoyed-heavy-duty-ford-still-leading-pickup-sales-us/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 18:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123137 The Chevrolet Silverado has outsold the Ford F-150 so far this year, but sales of Ford’s Super Duty trucks have boosted the company’s truck business past its competition, PickupTrucks.com is reporting. All three truck makers are selling more pickups than they were a year ago, but flagging F-150 sales and depleted inventory could be keeping Ford’s […]

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2015 Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevrolet Silverado has outsold the Ford F-150 so far this year, but sales of Ford’s Super Duty trucks have boosted the company’s truck business past its competition, PickupTrucks.com is reporting.

All three truck makers are selling more pickups than they were a year ago, but flagging F-150 sales and depleted inventory could be keeping Ford’s perennial half-ton leader back.

The website, which used data from Cars.com to determine sales by segment, said that Ford’s Super Duty trucks led Ram and General Motor’s heavy-duty offerings by a large margin. Roughly 120,000 three-quarter and full-ton Ford pickups have been purchased this year, compared to around 80,000 and 75,000 heavy-duty trucks for Ram and General Motors, respectively.

Earlier this month, Ford offered a series of incentives totaling $11,000 on its F-150 in specific areas for specific models. A spokesman for Ford said that dealer stocks of the full-size F-150 pickups were unusually low, and that normal inventories would be restored by the end of September.

According to our own Timothy Cain, truck sales represent around 14 percent of overall vehicle sales in the United States, up one percentage point from last year. And the average price paid for a truck is $42,429 so far this year.

So who’s ready for a $100,000 pickup?

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Ford Announces Nearly $60K-to-Start “Limited” F-150 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-announces-nearly-60k-start-limited-f-150/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-announces-nearly-60k-start-limited-f-150/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 19:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1121473 Ford announced Tuesday its new range-topping truck, the F-150 Limited, which will go on sale this winter. The Limited replaces the Platinum as the most you can pay for an F-150, and while the automaker didn’t specify how much the Limited may cost, it’s clear it will be knocking on the door of $60,000 — if not […]

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2016 Ford F-150 Limited

Ford announced Tuesday its new range-topping truck, the F-150 Limited, which will go on sale this winter. The Limited replaces the Platinum as the most you can pay for an F-150, and while the automaker didn’t specify how much the Limited may cost, it’s clear it will be knocking on the door of $60,000 — if not kicking it down.

Limited only in name, not in price, Ford’s newest F-150 is aiming to push average transaction prices higher and further than they’ve ever gone before. According to Reuters, the average price paid for a pickup was $42,429 so far this year.

The Limited model sports 22-inch wheels, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6, 360-degree cameras and massaging seats.

The F-150 Limited will take head-on the Ram 1500 Limited and GMC Sierra 1500 Denali, which cost $51,370 and $51,160 respectively.

In addition to unique exterior and polished aluminum wheels, the F-150 Limited sports four colors: Shadow Black, Magnetic, Blue Jeans (!) and White Platinum Metallic.

The new Limited trim features all of the interior goodies available: Ford’s Sync infotainment system, panoramic sunroof, cross-traffic alerts, remote start and tailgate release, and a laser-engraved production number plate on the center console that shows the position of your truck in the likely five-figure “limited” production run.

2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited

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Fiat Chrysler Tops Annual ‘Total Quality’ Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-tops-annual-total-quality-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-tops-annual-total-quality-survey/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 16:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1118545 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles earned the top spot overall in an annual survey of new car quality. Strategic Vision, a San Diego-based research firm, ranked FCA No. 1 for the first time since the company began measuring customer satisfaction in 1995. Last year, Kia earned top honors. FCA had six cars that topped their respective segments, […]

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FCA US HQ

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles earned the top spot overall in an annual survey of new car quality.

Strategic Vision, a San Diego-based research firm, ranked FCA No. 1 for the first time since the company began measuring customer satisfaction in 1995. Last year, Kia earned top honors.

FCA had six cars that topped their respective segments, including the Fiat 500 and 500e; Dodge Charger, Challenger and Durango; and, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

While FCA took the top spot this year, General Motors and Volkswagen followed closely behind, tying for second place, one point behind FCA on a 1,000-point scale.

According to Strategic Vision, 46,000 consumer responses were used for the study, which rated consumer satisfaction along with problems in each vehicle. The Mini Cooper Roadster earned the highest score among new cars. Land Rover was tops among luxury automakers, Ram was first among non-luxury automakers.

BMW had six segment winners including the i3, 3-Series Wagon, X4 and X5; Mini Cooper Roadster and Countryman.

According to the Detroit News, the Total Quality Index study comes out less than a week before the annual J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout survey that last year ranked all FCA brands below industry average.

Of course, TTAC has never really been a big fan of the report anyway.

 

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Ram On Rampage Registering Patent for Built-in Bed Ramps http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ram-files-patents-built-ramps/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ram-files-patents-built-ramps/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 18:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1115241 Today’s most alliterative award may go to truck maker Ram registering rear ramps recently. The folks at Allpar detail the filing, which was reportedly made by engineers at Ram. The patent was awarded June 30 and details a system for bed-mounted sliding ramps. The system, which could be called Ram Ramps, could complement other monosyllabic options such […]

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Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 9.03.57 AM

Today’s most alliterative award may go to truck maker Ram registering rear ramps recently.

The folks at Allpar detail the filing, which was reportedly made by engineers at Ram. The patent was awarded June 30 and details a system for bed-mounted sliding ramps.

The system, which could be called Ram Ramps, could complement other monosyllabic options such as Ram Box and Ram Dams (our suggestion for their active grille shutters).

The adjustable loading ramp system is detailed extensively in the filing and includes a locking mechanism while the ramps are not being used in the bed.

The longitudinally stored ramps would be laterally adjustable and stored in recesses in the bed.

This isn’t the first patent we’ve seen where Ram has tried to improve the utilitarian pickup bed. In addition to the now-production RamBox, the company has also patented a split-tailgate system which has not yet come to fruition.

Both General Motors and Ford offer various devices to load or unload their beds, including the F-150’s ladder and bumper-mounted steps on the Silverado.

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FCA Defects from Takata, Finds Solace with TRW for Airbag Inflators http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-defects-from-takata-finds-solace-with-trw-for-airbag-inflators/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-defects-from-takata-finds-solace-with-trw-for-airbag-inflators/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097793 FCA, looking a 4.1 million unit recall in the face thanks to defective Takata airbag inflators, will source replacements from a rival, ZF-owned TRW Automotive. The Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram parent will be the first company to refuse to toe the line. While the announcement has not yet been made official, The Detroit News obtained “copies of the written […]

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FCA US HQ

FCA, looking a 4.1 million unit recall in the face thanks to defective Takata airbag inflators, will source replacements from a rival, ZF-owned TRW Automotive.

The Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram parent will be the first company to refuse to toe the line.

While the announcement has not yet been made official, The Detroit News obtained “copies of the written testimony from the executives ahead of Tuesday’s hearing” before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Scott G. Kunselman, FCA U.S. senior vice president and head of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance, said in written testimony the company is “replacing all driver-side inflators involved in the recall with an alternate and permanent design provided by TRW,” effective June 8.

That does not mean FCA is leaving Takata full stop. The two companies are working together to improve passenger airbag inflators, says the report.

A total of eleven automakers have been affected by the recalls.

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2016 Ram 3500 Looking to Win in Torque War with 900 lb-ft http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-ram-3500-looking-to-win-in-torque-war-with-900-lb-ft/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-ram-3500-looking-to-win-in-torque-war-with-900-lb-ft/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097209 FCA isn’t content with taking the horsepower crown with the Dodge Charger Hellcat. They also want to win the torque war amongst the heavy-duty pickups and grab a first place towing trophy in the process. Say what you will about Best In Class claims when it comes to pickups, but Ram keeps pushing the torque envelope. The […]

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2016 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Laramie Limited

FCA isn’t content with taking the horsepower crown with the Dodge Charger Hellcat. They also want to win the torque war amongst the heavy-duty pickups and grab a first place towing trophy in the process.

Say what you will about Best In Class claims when it comes to pickups, but Ram keeps pushing the torque envelope. The HD truck is now pushing 900 lb-ft of torque, up from 865 lb-ft in 2015, when equipped with the 6.7L Cummins diesel I6. That means it will also best the competition in towing capacity – by a margin of more than two tons – with a rating of 31,720 pounds based on the SAE J2807 standard.

Engineers were able to make the gains through improvements in fuel delivery and turbo boost calibration while reinforcing the rear axle ring gear with 16 bolts (up front 12) to handle the additional torque.

The new trucks will go on sale in the third quarter of this year.

[Ram 2500 pictured]

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: ProMaster Of Rustbits Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/whats-wrong-picture-promaster-rustbits-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/whats-wrong-picture-promaster-rustbits-edition/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1094921 There are few traditions at TTAC as hallowed as that of the “low-quality point-and-shoot photo used as centerpiece of article”. The undisputed master of this genre, the Mapplethorpe of the grainy tree-growing-mysteriously-out-of-a-car’s-trunk-just-above-the-glowing-date-stamped-on-the-shot, was TrueDelta’s Michael “TrueDelta” Karesh, of TrueDelta. Some of his work was so bad it approached the status of art. If I had […]

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promaster

There are few traditions at TTAC as hallowed as that of the “low-quality point-and-shoot photo used as centerpiece of article”. The undisputed master of this genre, the Mapplethorpe of the grainy tree-growing-mysteriously-out-of-a-car’s-trunk-just-above-the-glowing-date-stamped-on-the-shot, was TrueDelta’s Michael “TrueDelta” Karesh, of TrueDelta. Some of his work was so bad it approached the status of art. If I had space on my walls at home, I’d enlarge and frame some of the shots, and give them names, like Silver Hump On Equally Silver Car, In Shadow. Then I would sell them to wealthy Russian immigrants and become rich enough to fund my long-awaited Lifetime autobiographical movie in which Colin Farrell would get fat just so he could play me in my forties.

So as you look at the Zaxxon-esque pixelation of the above photo, try to think of it less as “Jack doesn’t own an actual camera” and more like “Jack is honoring the spirits of all who have gone before under the red-and-white masthead”. Or something like that. And before you waste too much time trying to figure out what the photo actually shows, I’ll tell you: it’s the door hinge on a nearly new RAM ProMaster cargo van, and it is rusting.

The cynic in me says, “Well, the Mercedes Sprinter has been, and continues to be, the most rust-prone vehicle since the 1983 Civic 1500GL, and it continues to sell in remarkable volume at prices that could almost be characterized as ‘predatory’ compared to the outgoing Ford Econoline and Chevy Express. In light of that demonstrated customer apathy, why shouldn’t the ProMaster rust? For that matter, why shouldn’t the Transit rust? The old Transits had reputations for rust in the UK long before we ever saw the nameplate here.”

The former Ford van salesman in me, on the other hand, looks at the current lineup of available “Euro-style” vans and wonders whether American commercial customers really want them. Consider the following options:

  • 2015 RAM Promaster, 118″ WB, 3.6L Pentastar/280HP, $29,735
  • 2015 Ford Transit, 130″ WB, 3.7L Duratec/275HP, $29,735
  • 2015 MB Sprinter, 144″ WB, 2.1L Diesel/161HP, $35,995

The outgoing E-150 was nominally priced at $28,200 and offered much less space than any of these. The Chevrolet Express, the last of the old-school vans, starts at $29,555. So what’s the problem? It’s just this: the old vans didn’t sell for anything close to MSRP, and they lasted more or less forever. In the late Nineties we used to shove six-cylinder 150 Econolines out the door for fifteen grand all day. As late as two or three years ago, the major dealers were still selling base vans for $19,995 on the weekends.

The new vans cost more, they have fewer incentives available, and the dealers have less room to move. It also remains to be seen how expensive they will be to operate. The Sprinter has gained a reputation over the years for requiring frequent and costly service. It also rusts, particularly in the salt states. I’ve been reading the European commercial-van sites and, from what I can gather, Ford has made major strides with the current generation Transit. The Fiat Ducato? Well, it’s intended for use in countries like Italy and France. How well will it do in Ohio?

The photo above suggests it won’t thrive in places where any unprotected metal rusts overnight, but I could be wrong about that. One swallow does not a summer make, and one rusty hinge doesn’t mean that the ProMaster will rust like the Sprinter. But if I ran a small business, I’d wonder.

I’d also wonder why, in a segment where low initial cost and longevity mean about as much to the customers as quarter-mile time does to buyers of supercharged ponycars, the manufacturers have collectively forced an “upgrade” on those customers at considerable expense. Say what you like about the old vans, they were durable and very well-understood. I have no doubt the Transit is better in every way than the old E-150, which wasn’t a modern design when I was selling it in 1996. But the additional cargo space and increased fuel economy mean very little to customers who don’t fill the box all the way and who leave the vans idling in loading zones half of the time. They’d rather have hinges that don’t rust. Or if they’re going to rust, they should at least be bulky enough to last a while with rust on them.

Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “It is the business of the future to be dangerous…” As I survey the current automotive landscape, with its super-sized family cars, mandatory automatic transmissions, four-door coupes, wagons on stilts, and miniature luxury CUVs, I wonder if perhaps the manufacturers haven’t confused dangerous with obnoxious.

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FCA Delaying Dozen Model Introductions, Redesigns Across Product Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-delaying-dozen-model-introductions-redesigns-across-product-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-delaying-dozen-model-introductions-redesigns-across-product-range/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 16:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1082089 Suppliers close to FCA and its plans say production for a dozen new and redesigned models have been delayed, including key Jeep and Ram offerings. While high-margin products like the Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, and Ram 1500 wait for their redesigns, Alfa Romeo may be the only brand in FCA’s portfolio to receive its awaited […]

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition

Suppliers close to FCA and its plans say production for a dozen new and redesigned models have been delayed, including key Jeep and Ram offerings.

While high-margin products like the Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, and Ram 1500 wait for their redesigns, Alfa Romeo may be the only brand in FCA’s portfolio to receive its awaited models much sooner than planned, Reuters reports.

The suppliers stated a number of reasons behind the delays, including last-minute design and engineering changes, especially those whose changes could reduce the automaker’s overall investment in its products in the short-term as CEO Sergio Marchionne continues seeking a partner for consolidation. FCA held a net debt of €8.6 billion ($9.6 billion USD) at the end of Q1 2015, while cash and marketable securities fell €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) over the same period.

Despite the automaker’s focus on updating its most profitable models, redesigns of said models are being pushed back. The redesigned Ram 1500 was to hit production by the middle of 2017, but the suppliers say the pickup will begin its trip down the line in November 2017. Meanwhile, the Jeep Wrangler is set for a July 2017 introduction instead of earlier in the year, the Grand Cherokee may be delayed by as much as a year from its autumn 2017 launch, and the Grand Wagoneer — which is expected to share its underpinnings with the Grand Cherokee — may not make its autumn 2018 production date.

Other models to see delays in introduction or redesign include: a Jeep compact crossover to replace the Patriot/Compass siblings (pushed back six months from spring 2016); Dodge Dart and Journey (full redesign set for 2019-2020); Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger (new designs to now come in 2019 or later); and Chrysler full-size and mid-size crossovers (postponed/shelved from 2017 and 2018 introductions).

[Photo credit: Jeep]

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FCA US Reducing Powertrain Warranty To 60K Miles For 2016 Models http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fca-us-reducing-powertrain-warranty-to-60k-miles-for-2016-models/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fca-us-reducing-powertrain-warranty-to-60k-miles-for-2016-models/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 19:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1077546 Those shopping for a new Charger, 300, Wrangler or 1500 because of the powertrain warranty may need to pull the trigger soon due to an upcoming mileage cut. According to the following statement, FCA US is cutting the warranty down from the current 5-year/100,000-mile guarantee to a new 5-year/60,000-mile term for the 2016 model year, […]

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21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior-007

Those shopping for a new Charger, 300, Wrangler or 1500 because of the powertrain warranty may need to pull the trigger soon due to an upcoming mileage cut.

According to the following statement, FCA US is cutting the warranty down from the current 5-year/100,000-mile guarantee to a new 5-year/60,000-mile term for the 2016 model year, Automotive News reports:

Following changes already made by competitors, FCA US is adjusting powertrain warranty coverage for 2016 model year vehicles to be more consistent with industry practices. For 2016MY, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram Truck vehicles with gasoline engines will be covered by a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty.

An FCA representative says the company’s 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty will remain unchanged, while diesels, Alfas and Fiats are not affected by the policy change; Fiat has its own 4-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The move follows General Motors’ decision in March 2015 to cut-down its 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty for its Chevrolet and GMC products to a 5-year/60,000-mile policy.

[Source: Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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Chart Of The Day: What If Dodge And Ram Were Still Just Dodge? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/chart-day-dodge-ram-still-just-dodge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/chart-day-dodge-ram-still-just-dodge/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 12:45:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072834 As recently as 2009, Dodge was the sixth-best-selling auto brand in the United States. But through the first four months of 2015, Dodge is the tenth-best-selling auto brand in America. Granted, Dodge volume has fallen 15% year-over-year, but the real reason for Dodge’s lower ranking is that the Dodge of today isn’t the Dodge of […]

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Dodge Ram sales chart

As recently as 2009, Dodge was the sixth-best-selling auto brand in the United States.

But through the first four months of 2015, Dodge is the tenth-best-selling auto brand in America. Granted, Dodge volume has fallen 15% year-over-year, but the real reason for Dodge’s lower ranking is that the Dodge of today isn’t the Dodge of yesterday. 

Ram, formerly part of the Dodge division, is the twelfth-ranked auto brand in America so far this year.

As a unit, Dodge/Ram is currently – you guessed it – the sixth-best-selling auto brand in America, ahead of FCA’s top-selling Jeep brand. Ahead of Hyundai, too.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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While You Were Sleeping: No Holden Volt, Super Troopers 2, and Meeke Gets a Win http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-no-holden-volt-super-troopers-2-meeke-gets-win/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-no-holden-volt-super-troopers-2-meeke-gets-win/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:03:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054985 The second-generation Chevrolet Volt won’t go on sale in Australia as GM will not convert it to right-hand drive. The Holden Volt is dead (CarAdvice) It appears a Holden version of the second-generation Volt will not come to fruition as General Motors has decided not to build the car in right-hand drive. Bolt still on the table. […]

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Mary Barra and Chevrolet Volt at NAIAS 2015

The second-generation Chevrolet Volt won’t go on sale in Australia as GM will not convert it to right-hand drive.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ram Quad-Cab Tradesman http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-dodge-ram-quad-cab-tradesman/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-dodge-ram-quad-cab-tradesman/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 15:40:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031329   Recently I had to go pick up a pallet of mortar for a temporary job I was managing. My Suburban was not up to the task, and I didn’t want impossible-to-vacuum-while-still-getting-into-every-crack concrete dust sitting in my wife’s BMW X1 for the next decade. So I snagged the keys to a coworker’s 2015 Ram 2WD 1500 […]

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Recently I had to go pick up a pallet of mortar for a temporary job I was managing. My Suburban was not up to the task, and I didn’t want impossible-to-vacuum-while-still-getting-into-every-crack concrete dust sitting in my wife’s BMW X1 for the next decade. So I snagged the keys to a coworker’s 2015 Ram 2WD 1500 Quad Cab. I’ve driven Rams in the past, but this is my first interaction with the new ZF 8-speed transmission. It was introduced on the 2014 model year Rams, but the hardworking, good-looking editors here at TTAC elected to skip the launch to review another rented Ford Fusion Ecoboost[Not true-DK].

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 This particular Ram listed at $35K, but came off the lot at $27,000 before a trade-in. Ram dealers in the Atlanta area are throwing money at customers, despite growing sales. Even though Ram has seen double-digit percentage sales increases over the last two years they are very short of the number GM is pushing off the lots. For sheer numbers, believe Dennis Leary, Ford is the king of pickup sales.

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 Last year, Matt Gasnier piloted a Ram V-6 EcoDiesel across this vast and great land and had very positive reviews. Eight years ago I traveled from Montgomery Alabama to Altamont California in a 2005 Ford F-150 STX. I did not have the same pleasant experience, and it was actually my own truck. That speaks volumes for the ride quality improvement in trucks across the board. Alex Dykes also had a great review of the diesel 1500 Ram and gave it high marks. But dear reader, this is not a review of a sinister oil burner here pollutin’ up my green city with parh-tic-you-lates and whatnot.

IMG_0199No sirrie bubba, this here is an old-fashioned, pee-trol-fueled, 5.7-liter “Hemi” putting out 396 horses and 425 lb. feet of torque. That may not sound like a lot of twist in a conversation about diesels, but in a frame just over 3 tons and mated to the aforementioned 8 speed, this thing will go, and in a hurry. I discovered this as I pulled away from the worksite. Applying a little too much throttle I was rewarded with wheelspin. The owner wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was (Maybe it was the “Yee-Haaaww!” and throwing the horns out of the window). My experience with Rams of the past found their power and acceleration on par with the offerings from GM and Ford. But this transmission really makes a difference. The zero to 60 times don’t tell the same story on paper, but trust me; you could school some Gee-Em and FoMoCo pickup driver in this thing.

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In stark contrast to the modern drivetrain, the cabin is sparse even by truck standards. I was a little surprised to find the asking price north of $30,000 and even $27K might be a little much for this interior. When Ram “revolutionized” their trucks in the early 90’s, one of their selling points was a cabin designed for working. This tradition still carries with this Tradesman model, but at the expense of the material quality. It’s not the amenities, but the materials. The black door inserts are particularly out of place and look malaise era cheap. I can’t help but wonder how well these items will wear in a work environment compared to other pickups, including the imports. The seats are fine and comfortable, but the back seats are a bit of a joke. The headroom is great, but there is no room for a normal human being’s knees with another normal human sitting in the front.

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The stereo however, is excellent. with quality sound and compatibility for an entry level. The controls on the steering wheel, while a bit small, are instinctive and work well. The wheel-mounted shifters responded quicker that I expected, but ultimately the truck will override bad decisions and shift the truck with enough throttle input.

IMG_0202 It’s a good-looking truck; with chrome wheels raised white letter tires and factory dual exhaust. It’s an excellent, stable and comfortable ride. While it’s mostly an evolution of the 09 redesign, the transmission really transforms this into a vehicle that can be driven on the freeway and in complete comfort as was referenced by the cross-country trip. The owner is seeing upwards of mid 20’s in Atlanta traffic with makes my 11-year old Suburban downright embarrassing in comparison.

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The new all aluminum F-150 is much more expensive even before the repair costs are weighed in. In the realm of work trucks, the market Ram has clearly targeted, this is a real factor to consider. Even if you are fine with the nicks and dings that come with a truck that earns its’ living, it will have a negative effect on resale. Atlanta area Chevy and GMC dealers are putting cash on the hood, but it’s an eminence front (see what I did there?), as they are not getting their similarly equipped models under $30K. Why? Because here the Eh Tee El, they don’t have to. Those trucks will sell regardless, your market may vary.  Nissan doesn’t offer a Titan quad cab below $32 and good luck finding an entry level one at the dealer. Toyota Tundras start at $28, but when optioned to even this sparse level they hit $30K while being down on HP and MPG to the Ram.

So for a truck that will see work beyond hauling petunias from Home Depot on weekends, the Ram 1500 might be worth a test drive. Especially if your dealer is as aggressive about making a deal as this one was.

Ram didn’t contribute a thing to this test. The truck is privately owned and was a replacement for a previous 2004 Ram Quad Cab that blew a head gasket at 200,000 miles.  Mental did owe the owner lunch after boiling his tires like a drunken redneck in a Miranda Lambert song.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, still loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and makes Derek wonder if English is actually his first language. Follow him on Twiiter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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Truck Sales: What Does “58 Consecutive Months Of Growth” Mean For The Ram P/U? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/truck-sales-58-consecutive-months-growth-mean-ram-pu/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/truck-sales-58-consecutive-months-growth-mean-ram-pu/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 12:25:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030345 “Sales of the Ram pickup truck were up 7 percent in February; its 58th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.” – FCA US LLC press release, March 3, 2015. What do 58 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. sales improvement look like? The accompanying chart is one way of looking at it. Ever since May 2010, […]

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2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited“Sales of the Ram pickup truck were up 7 percent in February; its 58th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.” – FCA US LLC press release, March 3, 2015.

What do 58 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. sales improvement look like? The accompanying chart is one way of looking at it. Ever since May 2010, Ram P/U sales have been on the rise. Most recently, this translated to a 24% year-over-year increase in calendar year 2014, a 14% jump in January 2015, and a 7% improvement last month.

No high-volume vehicle has even approached the level of consistent growth achieved by the Ram P/U, America’s third-best-selling vehicle line. The Audi brand’s 50 consecutive months of year-over-year improvement and 19 consecutive months of monthly sales records is similar, powered by an expansion of its model range, greater interest in entry-level luxury, and steadily improving brand image. Indeed, the Ram P/U’s parent company, FCA (née Chrysler Group) has posted consecutive U.S. year-over-year sales increases in every month going back to April 2010.

Ram sales chartOf course, part of the reason for the steady growth of the Ram truck line was its steady decline. Ram volume declined in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, tumbling 61% between 2003’s high of 449,371 sales and 2009’s 177,268-unit performance.

While it’s true that the truck market declined consistently during the same period, the class-leading Ford F-Series didn’t fall quite as hard, sliding 56% between 2004’s record high and 2009’s low point. Moreover, while the F-Series continues to be America’s top-selling truck and best-selling vehicle line overall, it hasn’t recovered to the same degree as the Ram: F-Series sales jumped 82% between 2009 and 2014 and even last year were still 20% off 2004’s pace.

Ram sales, meanwhile, jumped 148% between 2009 and 2014. Last year, the Ram P/U was only 9582 sales off its 2003 total.

And yet, even now, Ford’s overwhelming capacity and steady increases from the full-size GM twins keep the Ram at bay. In 2003, 18.8% of the full-size trucks sold in the United States were Rams. Over the last two months, that figure is only modestly higher at 20.1%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Chicago 2015: 2016 Ram Laramie Limited Sports Fancy Duds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-2016-ram-laramie-limited-sports-fancy-duds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-2016-ram-laramie-limited-sports-fancy-duds/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 22:12:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=998714 Sajeev delivered his Vellum Venom on this one earlier. Now, it’s time for the rest of the 2016 Ram Laramie Limited’s story. The Laramie Limited offers rhinestone cowboys black leather, real wood trim, silver pinstripes and special badging inside the quad-cab, as well as the latest 8.4-inch uConnect system. The main feature, however, is the […]

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Sajeev delivered his Vellum Venom on this one earlier. Now, it’s time for the rest of the 2016 Ram Laramie Limited’s story.

The Laramie Limited offers rhinestone cowboys black leather, real wood trim, silver pinstripes and special badging inside the quad-cab, as well as the latest 8.4-inch uConnect system.

The main feature, however, is the truck’s updated face. Picking up where the Ram Rebel left off in Detroit, the truck’s chrome grill now resembles a nose thanks to the nostrils on either side. Meanwhile, the “RAM” name takes center stage in many a rearview mirror, while those following behind will get an eyeful of chrome-plated testosterone via the truck’s tailgate.

Other features include: air suspension (1500 only); remote start; power adjustable pedals; heated steering wheel and front seats; Berber carpet floor mats; French stitching; seven exterior colors; and 20-inch wheels.

The Laramie Limited will be offered on 1500, 2500 and 3500 single-wheel and dualie weight classes in two- or four-wheel drive on short- and long-wheelbase frames, with either Crew Cab or Mega Cab mounted on the frame. The 1500 will be first, going on sale in Q2 2015 as a 2015 model, while the 2500 and 3500 will hit the showroom in Q3 2015 as 2016 models.

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-10 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-11 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-12 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-6 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-7 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-8 2016-Ram-1500-Laramie-Limited-4

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Peak Emblem http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/vellum-venom-vignette-peak-emblem/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/vellum-venom-vignette-peak-emblem/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:40:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=997690   Most design students don’t consider Peak Oil in their studies, but The Reckoning was on my reading list back then. While Peak Oil is tangentially connected to car design, we clearly reached Peak Emblem. It cannot get any worse than what’s being introduced in Chicago this week. Emblem size, just like wheel size and body/firewall (versus glass) height has […]

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This just happened. (photo courtesy: Ram)

Most design students don’t consider Peak Oil in their studies, but The Reckoning was on my reading list back then. While Peak Oil is tangentially connected to car design, we clearly reached Peak Emblem.

It cannot get any worse than what’s being introduced in Chicago this week.

Emblem size, just like wheel size and body/firewall (versus glass) height has been on the rise for over a decade.  Park a new Corolla next to a 1995-2000 model for proof.  The problem is empty real estate, sheets of painted metal with no landscaping. A big problem for a top-tier RAM, for the Laramie Limited trim. How do you visually separate a premium model when even the mid-level model has that in-yo-face look from a huge grille and acres of chrome?

Larger and larger emblems, apparently: on the grille and the tailgate.  Damn Son, dat tailgate!

As mentioned before, it’s all about proportioning: big butts need MOAR BLING. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless the proportions are so extreme that creativity is stifled and the sheet metal cannot to rest on its design laurels.  A shame, as the RAM (like many new Chrysler designs) are quite fetching by themselves.

Here’s my suggestion:

1985 Dodge Power Ram (photo courtesy: www.fortrucksonly.com/truckforum)

Stamp a (unique to trim levels like the Laramie Limited) tailgate with negative area, then add a metal insert with small(er that what you did) lettering. Of course Ye Old School Dodge has a much smaller tailgate, but applying the concept of negative area to the Laramie makes sense.  Well, perhaps not the financial sense of slapping the biggest emblems you can make on dat butt.

Peak Emblem is real, it happened.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely weekend.

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Manley: Jeep Wrangler Truck Perfect For Brand, Business Case Not There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/manley-jeep-wrangler-truck-perfect-brand-business-case-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/manley-jeep-wrangler-truck-perfect-brand-business-case-not/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983761 The B&B’s only bet for buying a Jeep Wrangler pickup at the moment is to buy a Wrangler, then send it to a third-party for conversion. CEO Mike Manley says he’d love to have such a beast in his brand’s portfolio, as well, but there’s a hitch. According to CarAdvice.au.com, Manley says that while “every […]

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Jeep Wrangler Eliminator

The B&B’s only bet for buying a Jeep Wrangler pickup at the moment is to buy a Wrangler, then send it to a third-party for conversion. CEO Mike Manley says he’d love to have such a beast in his brand’s portfolio, as well, but there’s a hitch.

According to CarAdvice.au.com, Manley says that while “every international market” would take a Wrangler pickup, and that the idea “fits the portfolio exactly,” the business case for the truck still isn’t there.

Part of that case involves Ram: a Wrangler truck would do gangbusters on the showroom floor — the Wrangler made up 25.3 percent of the record 692,248 Jeep products sold in 2014 — but at the expense of the designated truck brand, an issue that has persisted for some time.

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NAIAS 2015: 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE Adds Aero For High Fuel Efficiency http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-2015-ram-1500-ecodiesel-hfe-adds-aero-high-fuel-efficiency/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-2015-ram-1500-ecodiesel-hfe-adds-aero-high-fuel-efficiency/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:45:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982081 Ram isn’t satisfied with wanting Baja Valley, as the brand sets its sights on Green Valley with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE leading the charge. Joining the original 1500 EcoDiesel in the lush foothills below Truck Mountain, the HFE improves the former with extensive use of aero throughout. The result is an EPA-certified 29 mpg […]

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2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE

Ram isn’t satisfied with wanting Baja Valley, as the brand sets its sights on Green Valley with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE leading the charge.

Joining the original 1500 EcoDiesel in the lush foothills below Truck Mountain, the HFE improves the former with extensive use of aero throughout. The result is an EPA-certified 29 mpg on the highway, 21 mpg in the city, and a combined rating of 24 mpg, besting the nearest competitor by 12 percent in the fuel economy game.

The HFE is based on the 1500 Tradesman Quad Cab, boasts a 6-ft, 4-in bed, and rides upon 20-inch wheels. The truck can also be had with the Ram Express’ body-colored face for a more sporty appearance over the standard EcoDiesel. Other exclusives include wheel-to-wheel side steps, a tri-fold tonneau cover, and an HFE badge showing off how awesome it is at saving diesel fuel; considering the fuel’s current price per gallon, that might mean something.

The 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE is expected to arrive in showrooms late in Q1 2015.

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NAIAS 2015: Ram Delivers A Rebel Yell Across Baja Valley http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-ram-delivers-rebel-yell-across-baja-valley/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-ram-delivers-rebel-yell-across-baja-valley/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 15:50:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=980249 Ram unveiled the 10th trim addition to its truck lineup at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, the 1500-based Rebel off-roader, signalling the brand’s intent to tackle Baja Valley in so doing [Live photos now available – CA]. Power for the Rebel comes from a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 VVT, which produces 305 horsepower, 269 lb-ft […]

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Ram unveiled the 10th trim addition to its truck lineup at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, the 1500-based Rebel off-roader, signalling the brand’s intent to tackle Baja Valley in so doing [Live photos now available – CA].

Power for the Rebel comes from a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 VVT, which produces 305 horsepower, 269 lb-ft of torque, and 25 mpg on the highway. The optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8 VVT ups the ante to 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Both engines send their power to the rear or all four corners via an eight-speed automatic. Gear ratio for the HEMI is 3.92 in 4×2, 3.21 in 4×4; the Pentastar is 4×4-only, with a ratio of 3.92.

Suspension includes Bilstein front and rear shocks, a 1-inch lift, air suspension, softer rear stabilizer bar, and modified alignment of its independent front suspension. Toyo’s 33-inch Open Country A/T all-terrain tires, mounted on 17-inch silver and black cast aluminum wheels, help improve on-road comfort while providing better snow traction. The combination results in a ground clearance of 10.3-inches.

The Rebel is exclusively a crew cab model with a 5-ft, 7-in bed and optional RamBox. Five colors — Granite Crystal Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, Flame Red, Bright White, Brilliant Black — are available in either monochrome or two-tone, while the interior is done in Radar Red and Black with Light Diesel Gray and Radar Red accent stitching throughout.

Other features include: a black RAM grill in the vein of Ford’s Raptor; powder-coated billet silver skid plate; front tow hooks; LED lighting; optional backup camera; all-weather mats; and tri-fold tonneau cover.

The Rebel is due in showrooms in early H2 2015.

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Benson: Ram ProMaster City Portfolio Could Expand Via Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/benson-ram-promaster-city-portfolio-expand-via-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/benson-ram-promaster-city-portfolio-expand-via-demand/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=969937 Right now, one can pick up a new Ram ProMaster City for catering tacos and installing cable down Flower Shop Lane. If that’s not enough, however, Ram might soon have a few more tricks up its sleeve. According to Edmunds, Ram commercial truck operations chief Joe Benson says consumer demand could increase the current ProMaster […]

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2015 Ram ProMaster City 01

Right now, one can pick up a new Ram ProMaster City for catering tacos and installing cable down Flower Shop Lane. If that’s not enough, however, Ram might soon have a few more tricks up its sleeve.

According to Edmunds, Ram commercial truck operations chief Joe Benson says consumer demand could increase the current ProMaster City portfolio beyond the two-passenger commercial panel van and five-passenger people carrier. Possibilities include diesel power, shorter wheelbases, seven-passenger models, a taller panel van, and a pickup variant with drop-down sides for easy cargo-box access.

Regarding the overall picture for Flower Shop Lane, Benson believes combined U.S. sales could climb to 100,000 by 2016, compared to the predicted 50,000 units sold in 2014. The increased demand is likely to come from Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari owners looking to replace their aging units with those from not only Ram, but Ford, Chevrolet and Nissan.

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Coast to Coast 2014: Being Modern in Palm Springs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/coast-coast-2014-modern-palm-springs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/coast-coast-2014-modern-palm-springs/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:35:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=954777 Albert in West Cielo Drive, Palm Springs CA * You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * After surviving Death Valley we now arrive at our last stop before reaching the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles: Palm Springs California, the mid-century architecture mecca of the world. The traditional Photo Report, car landscape study, Palm Springs […]

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1. Albert Palm Springs 1Albert in West Cielo Drive, Palm Springs CA

You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

After surviving Death Valley we now arrive at our last stop before reaching the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles: Palm Springs California, the mid-century architecture mecca of the world. The traditional Photo Report, car landscape study, Palm Springs trivia and a guide to the unmissable architectural attractions in town are below.

2. Ford Thunderbird Palm SpringsThe Ford Thunderbird is the Hero in Town in Palm Springs CA

Before we go into some Palm Springs trivia and the reasons behind this small desert town’s popularity, I have to spend a bit of time on the Hero in Town: the 11th and last generation Ford Thunderbird, on sale from November 2011 to June 2005. I had seen a couple in New Orleans but apart from that the Thunderbird had been extremely discreet, in line with its poor sales during its short-lived career. That was before Palm Springs. Very noticeable notably in its vintage colours – turquoise, torch red and bright yellow – they are everywhere to be seen in town. Obviously not the most frequent car in the Palm Springs streets, but way more popular here than in all the cities I have visited so far in this Coast to Coast trip… combined.

As opposed to the 9 generations in between, the 11th generation Ford Thunderbird followed a then-recent trend for retro styling initiated by models such as the VW New Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Mini Cooper, and used design cues from the first generation Ford Thunderbird launched in 1955. In this context, its popularity in Palm Springs is more understandable, as it suits the mid-century architecture, furniture and car obsession in town.

1955 Ford ThunderbirdThe original 1955 Ford Thunderbird

Living in Palm Springs means you probably own a house designed in the fifties, with the corresponding vintage furniture you have accumulated throughout the years, so it only makes sense to own a car that takes its design cues from this era. It’s the second-best option to owning a car actually made in the fifties. Add to this the unusually low ratio of family with kids in Palm Springs (15% of households) and you have the perfect breeding ground for vintage-looking 2-seat coupés/cabriolets like the Ford Thunderbird.

3. Palm SpringsCasa Blanca Motel in Palm Springs CA

Though it was initially well received by the automotive press in its first year of existence, many publications changed their mind after a few years, with Car and Driver Magazine even making it one of the “10 Most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History”. Ford expected sales of 25,000 units per year, but despite a great start in 2002 which saw dealers charging well over the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and 31,121 units produced, subsequent years did not reach half that figure. Forbes attributed this failure to lack of marketing: “Ford dealers have been successful selling $40,000 trucks but have little experience selling automobiles in the near-luxury price range. If there was a marketing effort by Ford Motor, I wasn’t aware of it. Naturally, sales didn’t meet expectations.” said Forbes writer Jerry Flint.

Ford Thunderbird production – last generation:

Year Production
2002 31,121
2003 14,506
2004 12,671
2005 9,220
Total 67,518

Source: Wikipedia

4. Albert Palm Springs 2Albert in Palm Springs CA

Now that we have cleared the cult status enjoyed by the 2002 Ford Thunderbird in Palm Springs, let’s get into some trivia. Palm Springs is a desert resort city located just 107 miles (172 kilometres) east of Los Angeles within the Coachella Valley in California. It is home to just 44,552 inhabitants and enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year. The city became a fashionable resort in the 1900s when health tourists arrived with conditions that required dry heat. Palm Springs was more comfortable in its microclimate because the area was covered in the shadow of Mount San Jacinto to the west and in the winter the mountains block cold winds from the San Gorgonio pass. In the 1920s, Hollywood movie stars, attracted by the hot dry, sunny weather and seclusion, started building homes and estates here.

5. Palm Springs House 1Palm Springs house in Monte Vista

After World War II, architectural modernists flourished with commissions from the stars, using the city to explore architectural innovations, new artistic venues, and an exotic back-to-the-land experiences. Inventive architects designed unique vacation houses, such as steel houses with prefabricated panels and folding roofs, a glass-and-steel house in a boulder-strewn landscape, and a carousel house that turned to avoid the sun’s glare. In 1946 Richard Neutra designed the Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann House. A modernist classic, this mostly glass residence incorporated the latest technological advances in building materials, using natural lighting and floating planes and flowing space for proportion and detail. Culver (2010) argues that Palm Springs architecture became the model for mass-produced suburban housing, especially in the Southwest. This “Desert Modern” style was a high-end architectural style featuring open-design plans, wall-to-wall carpeting, air-conditioning, swimming pools, and very large windows.

6. Dodge Challenger Palm SpringsDodge Challenger in Palm Springs CA

Although the home of dozens of striking mid-century houses, it’s relatively hard to find a reliable list of must-see architecture in Palm Springs online. The Palm Springs Modern Committee however sells (for a mere $5) an awesome map of Modern Palm Springs, featuring no less than 82 mid-century landmarks, their location, exact address, date of construction and corresponding architect. A goldmine, also available as an app on palmspringslife.com/psmodapp. I highly recommend it and can happily report I have spent a good 5 hours making sure none of the 82 landmarks went unchecked.

8. Albert Kaufmann House Palm SpringsAlbert reverse parking into the world-famous Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs CA

The highlights among these 82 landmarks are – very subjectively – with their construction date and architect:

  1. Franz Alexander House (1954 – Walter White), Palevsky Residence (1968 – Craig Ellwood), Edris House (1953, E. Stewart Williams) and pretty much all houses towards the up-end of West Cielo Drive. Breathtaking views from here and casually manicured desert gardens. To me, the essence of Palm Springs.
  2. Village Manor – Orbit In hotel (1955 – Herbert W. Burns)
  3. Kaufmann Desert House (1946 – Richard Neutra)
  4. Casa Blanca Motel (1970s renovation – Hugh Kaptur)
  5. Most houses around Monte Vista and Camino Sur in Palm Springs North
  6. House of Tomorrow / Robert & Helene Alexander Residence, Elvis Presley Residence 1966-1967 (1962 – William Krisel)
  7. City National Bank / Bank of America (1959 – Victor Gruen Associates)
  8. Coachella Valley Savings & Loan No. 3 / Chase Bank (1960 – E. Stewart Williams)
  9. Dinah Shore Residence (1964 – Donald Wexler) but would have been better to see inside the house – Google it for pics
  10. Frank Sinatra Residence (1947 – E. Stewart Williams) here again better inside than out – see Google for pics

One disappointment: Southridge Drive in Palm Springs South offers fantastic views down below on the city but no way to stop the car to take it all in as it is fiercely guarded. That means both the Steve McQueen Residence (1968 – Hugh Kaptur) and Bob Hope Residence (1978 – John Lautner) are off limits along with a couple of other landmarks.

Albert Elvis house Palm SpringsAlbert in front of the House of Tomorrow (Elvis Presley’s residence 1966-1967) in Palm Springs CA

9. Bank of America Palm Springs1959 Bank of America building in Palm Springs CA

7. Nissan Versa Palm SpringsNissan Versa and Chrysler 200 in Palm Springs CA

Now onto the Palm Springs car landscape. Apart from the surprising (but logical) frequency of 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbirds, Palm Springs is the first town in this Coast to Coast trip where the Toyota Prius is truly successful. Once again this is logical: we are in California where the Prius family tops the sales charts, and on top of it we are in a very wealthy town – which has proved to be a good pre-requisite for environmentally aware customers that want to show that even though they spend gallons of water on their golf course, they still care for the earth enough to drive a hybrid car. Hollywood stars were a big part of making the Prius mainstream, and they still have residences here. In fact, it seemed that as we were here on the weekend, every second person we spoke with lived in LA and only spent a weekend in their 2nd home in Palm Springs here and there. Such a hard life…

10. Nissan Sentra Palm SpringsNissan Sentra in Palm Springs CA

Even though the hispanic population in Palm Springs is only 25% vs. over 50% for most parts of California, Nissan still very strong here with the Versa fighting for the title of best-selling nameplate in Palm Springs, and the Sentra potentially inside the Top 5. A hypothetical ranking based on meticulous street observation of the most recent cars in town gives us:

1. Honda Accord

2. Nissan Versa

3. Toyota Prius

4. Honda Civic

5. Nissan Sentra

Beyond the absolute best-sellers, other observations on the Palm Springs car landscape include the particular popularity of GMC with the Sierra, Acadia and Enclave very successful, the rarity of Ford F-Series (in accordance with Californian sales charts) with only a couple of private F-150 spotted, the Audi A3 sedan already making its mark and a shiny-as-new 1987 Ford F-150 spotted in the centre of town. Most pickups are company cars used for road work (there is a lot of it in Palm Springs) and are the heavy duty variant, for example the Ford F-350 or Ram 2500 Tradesman, my very own Albert’s big bro.

8b. Albert Palm Springs Car Wash 1How much more perfect can this picture be?

Best-sellers in California – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Toyota Prius (all models) 69,728
2 Honda Civic 66,982
3 Honda Accord 63,194
4 Toyota Camry 56,788
5 Toyota Corolla 52,167
6 Ford F-Series 41,671
7 Honda CR-V 31,850
8 Nissan Altima 31,029
9 Toyota Tacoma 28,182
10 BMW 3 Series 27,026

A quick reminder of the best-sellers in California last year, and this time (as opposed to Death Valley) we are getting a little closer in Palm Springs with the Prius, Accord, Camry and Corolla all very frequent. It would appear Nissan over-performs in Palm Springs as well, particularly the Versa and Sentra.

12. Albert Palm Springs 5Albert in front of the 1965 Tramway Gas Station, now Palm Springs Visitors Center

Let’s finish on a review of the Orbit In Hotel where I stayed while in Palm Springs, described by Time as “the place to stay” in Palm Springs and a “modernist heaven”. For once the critics have it right. A quintessential mid-century modern property set around a saline pool with all rooms sporting designer furniture by Eames, Noguchi, Jacobsen and many more, the Orbit In was actually relatively cheap for the luxury it offered (from $149 per night). Plus the owners, a lovely couple, were there almost the entire time making sure every one was happy. Once you pay for the room, everything is free including cocktails during the cocktail hour which ended up lasting 3 hours, breakfast, daytime sodas and snacks, wifi and cruiser bicycles to borrow. A typically American generosity that, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find in one of the poshest hotel in this uber-posh town. The cocktail (3) hour(s) brought all guests together to exchange travel stories and our Coast to Coast trip with Albert made them all envious. As they should be!

Next is the very last episode of this series, the arrival in Los Angeles and my final review of Albert. Stay tuned so you don’t miss it!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Many thanks to David Curry for the pictures in this article.

13. Orbit Inn HotelOrbit In hotel in Palm Springs CA

14. Ford F-150 Palm SpringsFord F-150 in Palm Springs CA

15. Albert Palm Springs 6Albert in Palm Springs CA

11. Hyundai Elantra Palm SpringsHyundai Elantra in Palm Springs CA

Chevrolet Impala Palm SpringsChevrolet Impala in Palm Springs CA

Garage Palm SpringsArguably the best-looking garage entrance in the world… (in West Cielo Drive)

Albert Palm Springs 3Albert in Palm Springs CA

Ford F-350 Palm SpringsFord F-350 in Palm Springs CA

Hummer Palm SpringsHummer in Palm Springs CA

Hyundai Sonata Palm SpringsHyundai Sonata in Palm Springs CA

Honda Accord Palm SpringsHonda Accord in Palm Springs CA

Albert Palm Springs Car Wash 2Albert getting a thorough cleanup in Palm Springs CA

Hyundai Elantra Palm Springs 2Hyundai Elantra in Palm Springs CA

Palm Springs Street scenePalm Springs street scene

Albert Palm Springs 4Albert in Palm Springs CA

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