By on October 28, 2015


During a call to discuss its third-quarter financial results, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne hinted that the automaker may launch a Ram-branded large SUV to compete with Ford’s Expedition and General Motors’ Suburban/Yukon XL.

The battleship segment is “the near-exclusive use of some others. We have a reasonable chance of getting at least part of that market,” Marchionne said, according to Automotive News.

Marchionne pointed toward Ram’s pending upgrade as a reason to suggest spreading its vehicle portfolio wider to pull closer in vehicle sales rankings to Ford and General Motors.

“I think we have a unique opportunity with renewal of the pickup line, with the powertrains we selected, to significantly increase output,” he said, according to Automotive News. “We will also be exploring, as a result of that investment, some other segments.”

What about the Jeep Grand Wagoneer? The three-row SUV that has been all-but confirmed for 2019? Would a Ram SUV cannibalize any of those sales?

Marchionne said the Grand Wagoneer would be more akin to a luxury SUV than a family team bus.

“I don’t think anybody who buys a large SUV is confusing it with a Range Rover,” he said.

A large SUV could also be a big driver of profits for the cash-strapped company. (Pun intended.) So, welcome back Ramcharger?

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73 Comments on “Say What? Marchionne Says Ram Studying Expedition/Suburban-sized SUV...”

  • avatar

    How screwed will they be when four years from now oil is driven up artificially again and this product is just hitting the market?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s true, I think higher oil prices are a given in the next few years, but I could see expensive SUVs like that not being effected by well heeled buyers.

      I guess if you’re dropping $60k+ on an SUV, an extra $30 a month in gas doesn’t really phase you.

      I know the new Expeditions in the Limited trim go out the door awfully close to $70k, which seems insane. Then I see Escalades going for $90k.

    • 0 avatar

      Vehicle makers should have a product on tap for any likely situation. Historically oil prices have followed a 25 to 30 year cycle, and we are just past the recent $100 peak. Nobody can see the future, but low prices look likely for quite some time.

      What we see today is oil in the $40 to $50 per barrel range. Economics dictate relatively low oil prices in the future because of fracking. $70 per barrel is probably the max absent some major Middle East war.

    • 0 avatar

      Presumably, the diesel would be part of the product mix, just like the Ram 1500 and Grand Cherokee. Up here in the land of gas taxes, plenty of Rams have that big badge on the front fender.

    • 0 avatar

      About as screwed up as they’ll be if they IGNORE this market and oil prices DO NOT rise four years from now.

      Not unlike what got Honda in the early 1990s, left out of the high-profit SUV market.

      The problem here is that oil price swings, and oil PRICES, are all POLITICALLY driven. Product planners can look at economic trends and plan. But nobody can predict the whims of OPEC ministers – or whether or not it will be politically expedient to not seek to develop our own sources of crude.

      As we could do.

      • 0 avatar

        OPEC might be able to seriously sway oil prices if they got their act together. But they haven’t done that for some decades, and there’s no sign that’s about to change any time soon.

        So, for the time being at least, oil prices will continue to be determined by our old friend the law of supply and demand.

    • 0 avatar

      By “artificially” do you mean an unprovoked attack on the world’s second largest producer of oil? Well, there’s an election coming up, which way are you going to jump/

    • 0 avatar

      The line of fools predicting when oil will run out, or go to a zillion dollars a barrel, is a long and winding one.

      The most rational approach for a car maker is to look at the 100-year price chart and assume that oil will continue to follow a more-or-less inflationary price curve for the foreseeable future, while hedging its bets with fuel-efficient offerings.

      • 0 avatar

        The long term trends are predictable, but the next two years are anybody’s guess.

        Recognizing that oil is a volitile commodity and having the flexibility to deal with the kind of wild price swings makes the most sense. It’s selling both sunscreen and umbrellas.

        Want a ginormous SUV? We got those!

        Want an efficient small car with grownup styling? We got those, too!

        Which one do you want?

  • avatar

    This could be a great idea if the following criteria are met:
    1. 3/4 ton model – many lament the demise of the Suburban 3/4 ton
    2. 6.7 cummins diesel – don’t bother with the little diesel motor
    3. Stripper model for fleet sales – an under $40k model would kick GM’s ass
    4. Offer choices that differ from Suburban – Ford is already the also-ran in this segment.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Sounds like the short-lived Chrysler Aspen, which essentially burned out in 4 model years.

    2006 = 7656
    2007 = 28788
    2008 = 22254
    2009 = 5996
    2010 = 30
    (Thanks to Tim Cain at GCBC)

    I don’t know how this proposal aligns with FCA’s desperate need to improve its CAFE numbers.

    • 0 avatar

      The Chrysler Aspen was the last hurrah in the get-rich-quick scheme of playing dress-up with a mid-size SUV and calling it a legitimate luxury vehicle (see also Olds Bravada/Buick Rainier, Mercury Mountaineer/Lincoln Aviator).

      This hypothetical vehicle will (AFAICT) be neither a luxury vehicle (well, it will be if it has a Laramie Limited trim or something akin to Ram’s top trims) nor a mid-size.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      Under the new CAFE formula, increasing the footprint size of a vehicle has the same effect on the corporate average as decreasing its fuel consumption.

      Why do you think only the short wheelbase Caravan was discontinued?

    • 0 avatar

      The Aspen was just a tarted up Durango, which was a mid-sized Explorer/Trailblazer class vehicle not an Expedition/Tahoe class.
      This sounds like a RAM 1500 based product, which offers the possibility of a diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        That generation Durango was based of the Ram so it was closer to the Tahoe than the Trailblazer. That is why the Hemi fit that but not the Dakota sold at the time. They were separate platforms at that point.

        • 0 avatar

          It was a bit of a weird size–longer and wider than the previous Dakota-based model, but not quite wide enough to be considered a full-size.

        • 0 avatar

          I believe it only shared the brakes with the Ram the frame suspension etc were all one off’s for the Durango.It was originally intended to share parts with the Commander but they changed direction and stretched the GC chassis for the commander. It really is closer in size to the trailblazer then Tahoe just a little wider. but no where near as roomy in the front seats as a tahoe.

  • avatar

    Frankly they should be beating themselves over the head for not doing it 6 years ago with the 2009 Ram redesign.

  • avatar

    Sergio’s English isn’t perfect. All that espresso and lack of sleep means that he gets confused between delusion and denial. That’s one part of how boners like this happen. Ego is another, of course.

    Regardless, it seems inevitable that a dumb move like this will lead to history repeating itself. In fall 1973, Chrysler’s “hot product” were redesigned 1974 full-sized cars designed to out land-yacht GM and Ford. The Arabs turned off the spigot days later.

    By the time this thing hits the market — assuming it ever does — another energy “correction” will send everyone into a tizzy.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The redesigned 74-78 Chrysler full-sizers which replaced the very good fuselage models were quite subpar with numerous issues such as balky Lean-burn units. Probably one of the reasons why Chrysler had to go to the feds for a bailout and there were enough Dodge Royal Monocos for two Blues Brothers movies.

  • avatar

    The profitability of this category is robust.
    So no surprise they’re looking at the segment.
    Not much tooling investment or development cost building off the pickup base.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my first thought as well.

      Chassis already exist, drivetrains already exist, even a good chunk of the sheetmetal/structures already exist, etc.

      There is so much less here to do than a vehicle built from scratch. Add on top of that the profit margin in the fullsize body on frame space is substantial, meaning even a small share of the fullsize SUV market share is likely to still be profitable… and further use of all the shared components with their fullsize trucks will give them slightly better pricing en masse.

      Fullsize SUV’s are unlikely to cannibalize sales from their trucks, so you’re looking to steal Suburban buyers.

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia also fall into the battleship segment.

    V8 power, big monster SUVs based on BOF trucks who get less miles per gallon than an LS3 G8 GXP.

    Ford and GM don’t have exclusive domain in this space.

    • 0 avatar

      Go to a Toyota dealership and count the BOF models that don’t start with a T or a 4. Now count the number of BOF vehicles at said dealership with solid rear axles that don’t start with a T or a 4.

      Your answer comes out to 0 for the first check, and 0 for the second.

      They can’t sell what they don’t stock, and buying a BOF vehicle without a solid axle for towing or trailing makes no sense with such a large selection of crossovers available.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford and GM have exclusive domain when the last time one saw a Sequoia was at the auto show and no one but the brain-dead and credit-challenged even consider an Armada, which was a hefer when it was new.

    • 0 avatar

      The Sequoia seems to have a marketing problem I’m car guy and didn’t realize they redesigned it until 2010 sometime when I had a claim on one. Plus no dealers here in CT seem to stock them despite that I have started to see quite a few here in the last 6 months. The armada seems to have it’s fans here in the northeast the local dealers always have a couple I think it’s mostly bought as a good value 3 row fullsize SUV. I see a lot of the QX80 lately including several former Armada owners at my sons school. In all the these cars seem to sell in proportion to how well their truck version do with the exception of the expedition which is way under.

      • 0 avatar

        The MY11+ QX56/QX80 has zero in common with the preceding QX56, which was a poorly-rebadged Armada – complete with nonsensical hidden rear door handles. Way to showcase a $60k ‘luxury’ SUV’s lineage to…a 2-door Pathfinder?

        The current model is based on the Nissan Patrol and has the assembly quality and design cache to match its asking price, unlike the junky Tennessee-assembled QX.

        And not to beat a dead horse, but I have really never experienced a fullsize SUV so cheap in terms of material quality AND build quality than an Armada.

  • avatar

    This what they’ve needed all along, Ford has all but given up on this segment, and GM has out priced the typical buyers, so profit in this segment is like taking candy from babies.

    Simple formula
    1. BOF
    2. At least one solid axle
    3. V8
    4. Full size, not tall midsize like Durango was all along, that’s hideous, and still is even without the frame.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t say that they’ve given up. The current Expedition/Navigator is a good product and Ford is cutting tooling for the new one in pretty short order. If they were giving up, there wouldn’t be a new model. Ford prioritized other products since Carmeggedon, and the Expigator was making money.

      I would like the return of the Excursion. Since the Bronco is coming back, why not?

      • 0 avatar

        The jury’s still out on the Bronco coming back (to the best of my knowledge), but if both the Super Duty and the Expedition are gonna be sharing F-150 parts, it would be almost the easiest thing in automotive history to make a new Excursion by dropping an Expedition EL rear on an F-250 crew cab front.

    • 0 avatar

      The durango competes more with Large CUV’s and the flex. It’s a street oriented vehicle between a CUV and a SUV in reality it seems close to what the consumer wants in the segment. But yes it is and always has been a large midsize.

  • avatar

    I guess it’s never too late for them to get their head out of their A$$.

  • avatar

    Didn’t Kia do this the last time gas was moderately affordable just prior to a spike?

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t half the auto industry spend billions introducing hybrids and electrics just a few years back while I’m now riding past gas at $1.75 in VA and less in SC.

      Besides if one can afford a $30,000 vehicle then they should certainly be able to afford 16 MPG at $4.00 a gal.

      • 0 avatar

        Still gotta meet CAFE.

        • 0 avatar

          Or just raise the price a few hundred dollars and tell CAFE to screw off.
          Or build the truck with a GVWR over 8,500lbs.

          • 0 avatar

            If CAFE didn’t matter, GM would be selling a $30K Tahoe.

            And FCA isn’t doing a 3/4 ton SUV. GM or Ford would be the one to wade into that market first.

          • 0 avatar

            According to Lutz (I know I know) the SUVs are paying the R&D for the undesirables.

            With 10 year old diesel Excursions still selling for $20,000, FCA would have no trouble if they sold 3/4 SUVs at the same price as the trucks. GM hasn’t had a decent 3/4 since the 8.1L and even then they refused to do the dirty work involved to add the Allison, so it wasn’t even capable of living to its potential.

          • 0 avatar

            Well people are buying SUVs, CUVs, and trucks. So yeah, they are the profit centers. According to Mark Fields, the most profitable products in Q3 for Ford were the Explorer, Edge, Mustang, F150, and SuperDuty.

            I still can’t see FCA doing a 3/4 ton SUV. And the Excursion is still going for $20K because of the 7.3L that existed before all the added emissions crap.

          • 0 avatar


            I highly doubt it, when you’ve got a winner you make them pay through the nose.

          • 0 avatar

            Cafe matter they need to balance the fleet. Gm would rather not pay the fines and make more profit on each truck it’s a win win. Selling Tahoe’s at 30k gives them a slim margin adding fines to that margin would be hard. I would argue the should start at least 5k less then they do now.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, you make them pay through the nose, but all the companies are going to do their best to meet CAFE AND make consumers pay through the nose for certain products.

          • 0 avatar

            “If CAFE didn’t matter, GM would be selling a $30K Tahoe.”

            Those things became a disaster when oil prices leaped.

            Automakers should not be in the oil speculation business. It’s better to sell more efficient crossovers to that segment, as the market for those is less likely to implode if oil prices start surging.

            Much of what the auto industry is doing to save fuel today is motivated by the unpredictable nature of markets more than by regulations. Detroit has a bad track record of coping with high oil prices: during the 70s, they lost entire segments to the Japanese and Germans, while during the 2000s, they ended in bankruptcy court. At least for now, they seem to have learned something from their recent failures.

  • avatar

    There’s definitely demand in this segment. I live in a nice little SoCal town and diesel powered Ford Excursions still score more points at the Elementary School drop off than anything else. For a substantial number of people, more size, weight and power equals safety.

  • avatar

    I don’t really have an opinion about FCA bringing a large SUV to the market, but I do feel good about Ramchargers, so here’s to the next hour or so on Craigslist.

  • avatar

    I’ll wait for the “Town Panel Hellcat” edition. Or maybe the CarryAll Hellcat edition.

    Bonus points if either rings a bell with you.

    No Hellcat – Forget it.

  • avatar

    I think this is a smart move. These vehicles are built on the pickup truck platforms, and RAM has a good one to base a passenger vehicle on. It already has best-in-class ride and handling.

    The Suburban and Expedition have long been profit monsters because they are built on the same low-cost technology as are fleet work trucks but sell for huge prices as a luxury product.

    Build a nice cabin in the back instead of bolting on a pickup truck box and you have yourself a monster SUV with which to make monster profits.

  • avatar

    I always wondered why Dodge (before RAM) didn’t make a RAM-truck based SUV years ago. After it was redesigned back in the mid 90’s the RAM was highly successful. Right around the time SUV’s became all the rage and gas was relatively cheap. Creating an SUV version of the 1500, with similar styling, seemed a no brainer. I just assumed there was some inherent part of the design that prevented them from making it into an SUV the way Ford did with the F150/Expedition.

  • avatar

    Chrysler slowly, prematurely, if not foolishly, moved away from all the things that make them great, for the plan of beating Honda, Toyota, Datsun/Nissan, etc, at their came.

    It wasn’t just the industrial truck division, but Fury cop cars, fullsize vans and fullsize pickups. They did save the pickup trucks at the last possible moment, but they were torpedoing before Cummins helped pull them out of extinction. They were doomed otherwise. But they didn’t even offer a real crew cab until ’09, while Ford and GM sold millions of them.

    Sh!t for brains??

    And GM, Ford, Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infinity have put what seems close to a billion FREE money, fullsize SUVs on the road before the light goes on at Chrysler.

  • avatar
    That guy

    Low hanging fruit. The major mechanicals are already in place, hell the truck already has SUV friendly coil spring suspension. It’s a situation where Chrysler doesn’t need huge volume to make some extra cash. I’m surprised they haven’t done it already.

  • avatar

    Magnum + lift kit + Hellcat

  • avatar

    Wow, gas is cheap for a few months and we get giant SUV’s back.. /facepalm/

  • avatar

    So is Marchionne still talking about killing the Durango? Because I still think that’s a mistake. I believe that Grand Wagoner sales would be “IN ADDITION” to Durango sales, not “INSTEAD OF”.

    Unless the replacement for the Dodge Journey is going to be more Highlander/Pilot/Traverse sized.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Durango is a beautiful SUV. I don’t like the new tail light treatment but it otherwise looks expensive, confident, solid. You can’t ask for better sheet metal to have your logo on.

  • avatar

    “I don’t think anybody who buys a large SUV is confusing it with a Range Rover”

    Like hell they aren’t. Yukon Denali, LX570, Escalade, Land Cruiser, GL, G-Wagen – all of these are interchangeable to the vast buying public.

    Range Rover drivers don’t confuse things with Range Rovers, because they chose that in particular and wouldn’t settle for something else.

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