Sacrilege? Ram's Crosshair Grille Is an Endangered Species
Fearing a backlash from die-hard Ram loyalists, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives seem hesitant to move the next-generation 1500 pickup away from the styling that’s made it a bright sales light in the FCA portfolio.
Still, as much as they’d like to avoid it, many say the time has come to drop Ram’s most signature design element — the crosshair grille.
FCA engineers are busy readying the next-gen Ram 1500 for a January 2018 production date, but even if that model bows with a grille reminiscent of those seen on the front of the automaker’s full-size pickups since the 1980s, it might not last.
Speaking to The Detroit News, FCA global design head Ralph Gilles claims the brand needs to make a change that differentiates it from Dodge. Ram was spun off from the brand in 2009, with the name first appearing on Dodge trucks in 1981.
Still, it’s common to hear people talking about a new “Dodge Ram.”
“It takes time,” Gilles said. “Establishing a brand takes five years, so we’re kind of at that point.”
Already, the automaker has taken cautious baby steps away from the feature. The design chief claims recent efforts like the Ram Rebel and the 2017 Power Wagon seem to be paying off. Top end 1500 trims have also ditched their crosshairs in favor of prominent badging displayed dead center in the pickup’s gaping maw.
“I’m watching this space very carefully,” Gilles said. “It’s been an experiment, and it’s working. People have responded to it. We like it. But it’s something we’re consciously doing gradually.”
Gilles said the next-gen Ram is an opportunity to move the brand away from Dodge, and the automaker is “going to take advantage of that.”
Still, Ram chief Mike Manley isn’t ready to ditch the crosshair altogether. He told The Detroit News, “I would never say that something would ever completely move away from things because there’s always opportunity, I think, when you’ve established two different styles of grilles to use them.”
The grille of yore could appear on select models, while the overall styling moves in a different direction, he figures.
If Ram loyalists end up hating the future 1500, there’ll still be opportunities to get into a new “old” model. FCA says it plans to keep the existing generation in production for the 2018 and 2019 model years, with sales aimed at fleet customers.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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