Big, Old, and Cheap Helps Move Metal, Ram Dealers Claim
Fiat Chrysler doesn’t break down its Ram pickup sales figures for us wordy-typey slobs, so it isn’t easy to figure out just how much the held-over 1500 Classic has helped the brand’s soaring sales. FCA decided, last year, that the old-generation half-ton should remain in production, and not just to smooth things over while the new-for-2019 1500 got up to speed.
Well, we now have a better idea of just how useful that strategy was. Go figure — scores of American truck buyers are willing to forgo refinement for a lower price on a big, brawny pickup.
According to Automotive News, citing J.D. Power figures, Ram 1500 Classic sales amounted to nearly one-third of Ram pickup sales in the first quarter of 2019. Through the end of March, Ram sales rose 15 percent over the same period last year, helping the brand increase its lead over rival Chevrolet.
The Classic is a continuation of a truck that first appeared in 2009. While its successor has earned accolades for refinement, as well as its two eTorque engines, Ram isn’t letting those versions go for much of a bargain. Incentives abound, however, for Classic buyers already staring down the barrel of a lower MSRP. Our Ace of Base series recently looked at one of those bargain brutes.
As the two model’s trim lines and configurations don’t completely overlap, many customers head to the Classic if they can’t find what they want with the new-generation model.
“While there are more trim levels and features with the new-for-2019 Ram 1500, the previous- generation Ram has a lot to offer,” said Allyson Harwood, associate editor at Kelley Blue Book. “For example, buyers who are looking for a regular cab Ram can’t currently get a new-for-2019 model with a regular cab, but it’s available as a Ram Classic. You also can’t get an 8-foot bed at all, unless you opt for the Classic.”
The Classic’s production is open-ended, with FCA giving no hints as to when it might cease assembly of the older model. FCA recently promised extra cash for its Warren Truck plant, home to both the Ram Classic and the future Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. In that announcement, the automaker said Classic production was “being extended to meet market demand.” Few expect 2019 to be the model’s final year.
Dealers claim the Classic remains popular. Speaking to AN, David Kelleher, owner of David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Glen Mills, PA, said the Classic makes up about 25 percent of his monthly Ram sales.
“The customers coming in and buying $350 a month and are suddenly facing $475,” he said of the new-generation truck. “You’re just going to lose some people [without a cheaper option].”
Commercial customers looking to spend as little as possible gravitate to the Classic in big numbers at Helfman Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Houston, with dealer principal Steven Wolf saying, “If you come in, and you hit all the bells on a [new] Lone Star, I think you can get around $4,250 in rebates if you’re a conquest customer. On a Classic, it’s up to $10,000, just on rebates. That’s a significant difference, and it’s a $5,000 less expensive truck.”
Despite those incentives, the ancient Classic was paid off years ago, meaning its presence is only a problem to FCA if it eats up valuable real estate that could hold a pricier, in-demand vehicle. Eventually, the old model will run out of gas, though not before FCA foists a tempting, Classic-only trim on buyers. If it hasn’t already, the Warlock should reach dealers imminently.
[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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The Ram Classic and Grand Caravan are making FCA King of the Cash Cows.
Maybe this is a better alternative than a new mid-sized Dodge pickup? Which doesn't seem to be coming any time soon. It would be interesting to price this out, compared to similarly equipped mid-sizers.