By on March 2, 2016

2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

Is there a chance that a leadership change at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported by Automotive News could lead to an often-speculated new pickup truck?

Jeep’s longtime director Jim Morrison is leaving that post to head the Ram pickup and commercial vehicle division, replacing Bob Hegbloom, who is leaving for the global shores of Ram International.

Ram and Jeep are by far FCA’s biggest moneymakers these days, and under Morrison’s watch the Jeep brand took on new prominence by expanding its range of models, even if it meant adopting architecture sourced from (sacrilege!) Fiat.

The news of Morrison’s switch to Ram raises the question, “Is this the person who will take the Ram brand in a smaller direction?”

A smaller Ram pickup is an idea that’s been tossed around since the midsize Dodge Dakota was axed back in 2011. From a high point in the early 2000s, Dakota sales had fallen severely, much like the nation’s economy and Chrysler’s fortunes.

At the time, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne — then head of Chrysler Group — speculated that building another small or midsize pickup was unlikely because the American public just wasn’t buying them like they used to. When asked the same question last year, Hegbloom said he was able to come close to matching what made those little trucks from the 1980s and ’90s popular — size, capacity and price — but couldn’t get the fuel economy right.

In Hegbloom’s mind, a smaller Ram would have to attain 35 miles per gallon on the highway to differentiate itself from its larger brothers.

Fiat Fullback (Image: FCA

With Morrison at the helm, the outlook could be different. This is the man who oversaw the green-lighting of the Jeep Wrangler pickup that so many lusted for, and the return of the Cherokee name in USCW form.

In the marketplace, the midsize Colorado/Canyon twins from General Motors, combined, sold over 100,000 units last year. Rumors continue that Ford will move Ranger production stateside sometime after 2018. And for some reason, Honda has decided to offer a second-generation Ridgeline.

The market’s not dead for smaller trucks, but it isn’t what it used to be. FCA, with its existing debt problems, surely wouldn’t gamble on a wholly new platform for a smaller Ram, nor would it source a platform from, say, Jeep, just to have a player in the small truck game. Production costs and lack of existing capacity forbids it.

Beyond that long, relatively unprotected border to the south lies a glimmer of hope for the Baby Ram crowd.

FCA Mexico will soon start production on the new Fiat Fullback pickup, a body-on-frame model bound for overseas markets that’s built on a platform sourced from the Mitsubishi L200 (FCA distributes Mitsubishi products in Mexico).

The Fullback also comes with a 2.4-litre diesel engine designed for the European market that makes 178 horsepower and returns 41 miles mpg on the highway and 35.6 mpg combined (in the existing L200).

FCA has said the Wrangler pickup will come with a diesel and hybrid option, either of which (even if it’s not the Fiat/Mitsubishi diesel) would likely satisfy Hegbloom’s mileage complaint.

Meanwhile, production of high-volume American-market FCA models are moving back to the U.S., while slower-selling models are being punted to Mexico. If a smaller Ram is going to happen, this is the most likely place for it, given the financial benefits to producing the vehicle in Mexico. It also helps to use an existing platform from an automaker FCA is already working with.

That’s assuming a Ram-bodied Fullback can even meet U.S. safety regulations, but stranger things have happened. They made the Prowler, dammit!

[Image: FCA]

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40 Comments on “Could Jim Morrison Make a Smaller Ram Happen?...”

  • avatar

    Riders on the storm
    Riders on the storm
    Into this house we’re born
    Into this world we’re thrown
    Like a dog without a bone
    An actor out alone
    Riders on the storm

  • avatar

    Fiat Fullback or Mitsu L200-based Dakota would be perfect.

  • avatar

    FCA needs to focus on the next generation of Ram and Jeep vehicles before adding to those lines. No sense coming out with a new Ramchop or Jeep truck and let the money makers die of old age.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I’m sure they are focusing on the next generation full-size Ram pickup. This is just a side deal using pre-existing components and platforms, like every Fiat in the US.

      • 0 avatar

        heavy handle – more specifically, they do not have the cash to spread developing “new” stuff that might not sell well. They need to focus their capital on what currently is their biggest bang for the buck i.e. Jeeps and full sized pickups.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m not seeing the need for a mid-sized truck from FCA, either—especially since the Wrangler pickup got approved—but who knows?

  • avatar

    Wow, the mid size truck market is about to triple in choices.
    So Ram and Jeep will have separate models, Ridgeline is redesigned, Hyundai Santa Cruz is in the works, and maybe Ford Ranger will join the party.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      These baby steps toward restoring the mid-size truck market reminds me of a bunch of kids standing near a pond, coaxing each other to go skinny dipping. Some will chicken out, some will get wet, and some will have their clothes stolen.

      I have a hard time believing the market can sustain so many players – kind of like the Republican presidential field at the moment.

      There certainly is no need for Ram and Jeep to shoot each other; FCA should just stick with the approved Jeep product.

      Ford’s Ranger will dominate whenever it arrives.

      Hyundai will be the interesting funky option.

      The Ridgeline will die on the vine.

  • avatar

    With a Jeep pickup already coming, I just don’t see this happening. It might be seen as sacrilege but it’s more likely the Jeep Scrambler would be the source of a new smaller RAM pickup, not a federalization-needed Mitsubishi.

  • avatar

    I think this would be sufficiently divergent from the Jeep market that it could work. I would buy one. Oh yeah, I would buy one so hard…

  • avatar

    The Wrangler pickup will fill this spot. It’s a much better fit in a niche of lifestyle vehicles.

  • avatar

    I dunno. How about a Dart based pickup like the old Rampage? I’ll bet it would outsell the Dart.

    Then again what wouldn’t.

  • avatar

    Unless the Fiat Ram pickup has better payload and towing ratings. It also may be bigger overall, meaning they could appeal to different customers. Perhaps having two distinct and unique products in a rising market segment would pay off. The more the merrier.

    • 0 avatar

      Unless it says “FORD,” I’m not buying it.

      Ford is #1 and THE global leader in vehicle reliability, durability, ergonomics, lean production, fit/finish/fabrication, advanced technology, safety, styling, comfort, integration, and every other category known and benchmarked.

  • avatar

    Ford is not synonymous with reliability here or cutting edge technology. It has a fading star at the moment

    • 0 avatar

      I heard credible rumors that Toyota, Honda, BMW, VAG & Daimler are all preparing offers to try and purchase Ford in order to gain access to their proprietary secrets.

      • 0 avatar

        Trying and put it out of it’s misery? All of them have a swag full of secrets. Notice all the new releases in Geneva, Ford and GM are noticeable absentees

  • avatar

    We’ll have to wait and see what he does. At this point it’s more like he just got into town about an hour ago and is taking a look around to see which way the wind blows.

  • avatar

    My sources at FCA tell me that the Jeep pickup is far from a real project. It’s still in the study stage.

    The new Ram truck is also just in the study stage, having been stopped and started several times. FCA has screwed over so many suppliers with this sort of product indecision that very few are willing to work actively on an FCA project.

    My prediction is that we won’t see a Jeep truck or a new Ram for at least 4 years, if at all. The Americans running MOPAR can get a Jeep truck conversion kit into production in 6 months, but Marchione’s product development teams can’t even get a refreshed vehicle to launch in 4 years, and even then they do a lousy job of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps I missed it, but haven’t seen you comment in a while.

      Good to see your observations on FCA.

      About sums up the constant churn they go through on new product. Alfa next month, Alfa in 4 years, 200 made in updated factory with maybe best paint anywhere, now going to be being made in Mexico, maybe. Jeep to move from Ohio, oh maybe not, FCA about to merge with Arctic Penguin International LLC, Sergio to buy new sweater – definite.

      What a clown show for employees.

  • avatar

    @WMBA – a merger with Arctic Penguin International makes sense considering their track record.

    Oh and this:

    “Arctic Penguin – 70% Off – Lowest Price On Arctic Penguin‎”

    FCA will get another great merger deal ;)

  • avatar

    Personally I like smaller pickup trucks. Still, in a world of cheap gas, I don’t see much future in the US.

  • avatar

    I’m going with Back Door Man.

    Anyway I own a Ram 1500 (I live in Texas so what do you expect?) with the 3.0 diesel. I average 24.7mpg. Going smaller wouldn’t gain me much fuel economy. I wouldn’t mind a smaller option but as long as fuel prices stay crazy low I don’t see the demand. GM and Toyota are doing all right with their mid-sized trucks and FCA probably wouldn’t mind getting in on that but smaller trucks need to be cheaper. Maybe the upcoming (hopefully in my lifetime) Jeep pickup will fill that role? Maybe there’s a diesel Jeep pickup with a manual in my future. Or not. Smaller trucks likely don’t have the crazy profit margins enjoyed by full-sized trucks. Had the Colorado/Canyon diesel been available when I bought my 2016 Ram I likely would have taken a look. Even now I can’t find one at a local dealer. Is that because they’re so popular that they can’t keep them on the lots or because Texas dealers don’t want them?

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