By on August 1, 2020

Quite suddenly, large electric pickups have become the hottest thing you can’t yet buy. But they’re out there, looming, just waiting to see whether demand for this embyonic segment materializes.

Ford, General Motors, Rivian, Tesla, and Lordstown Motors all have a stake in the game, with the next two years promising to reveal exactly how much pent-up thirst exists for these battery-bound behemoths. Watching from the sidelines is Fiat Chrysler, an automaker whose historical aversion to EVs is a matter of record.

Not surprisingly, FCA plans to take a wait-and-see approach.

Asked about the ambitions of FCA’s rivals during an earnings call this week, CEO Mike Manley didn’t hop on board the gotta-have-an-EV-truck bandwagon. He’ll catch the ride if it proves itself worthwhile, not before.

“Pickup is a key franchise for us and we’re not going to sit on the sidelines if there’s a danger that our position gets diluted,” Manley said, per Bloomberg.

For now, the automaker is content to offer two flavors of full-size Ram, one old, one new, with heavy duty models rounding out the stable. A midsize would be nice, but that possible project’s still cloaked in uncertainty. For now, the Ram 1500 Classic, soon to enter its third year of production, serves those looking to spend less.

At least for now, it beats spending precious dollars on a costly development program with an uncertain payoff.

Despite unkind words spoken by former CEO Sergio Marchionne about the former Fiat 500e, FCA isn’t uninterested in electrification. Mild hybrids already abound in the cash-cow Ram and Jeep brands. The global popularity of its Jeep brand depends on widespread hybrid availability, and that’s just what the brand is going to get. While electrified Renegades and Compasses will tempt buyers mainly on the east side of the Atlantic, larger models like the next-generation Grand Cherokee also stand to go green. Count the upcoming Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer among that cohort, along with the looming plug-in Wrangler.

FCA’s merger partner, Groupe PSA, revealed a new modular electric vehicle platform this week, stating that it should find its way beneath compact and midsize vehicles by 2023. If FCA needs any more non-pickup EV help in the future, the platform’s there for the taking.

Of course, should demand for big EV pickups take off, there’s always the possibility of tapping Rivian for its in-house skateboard platform, saving the automaker time and R&D costs. Ford went its own way with the F-150 EV, so the two wouldn’t be platform buddies.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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12 Comments on “A Ram EV? We’ll See How Those Other Guys Manage First, Manley Hints...”

  • avatar

    This is probably a reasonable position. The Ram 1500 doesn’t have the fleet presence of the Ford and GM half-tons, which is where I expect a lot of the EV Silverado/F-Series interest will come from. The Ram 2500/3500 does have a decent fleet footprint but the HDs aren’t going electric with this generation. Meanwhile the HUMMER truck is a riskier deal, and FCA usually doesn’t go for that sort of thing.

    The think a PHEV/BEV Grand Cherokee and Pacifica (PHEV already exists for the van) are better places to go. The French also already have some PHEV CUVs that I could see coming over here in some form.

    Stellantis also has sweet, sweet “too big to fail status” in the Europe and probably North America so they don’t have to worry as much about the missing the market.

  • avatar

    Actually, a wise move. The attributes of EV ownership don’t really dovetail with the wants/desires of most actual pickup buyers. And for those who use them as trucks, range is going to be an issue. I’d imagine a 5000lb towing load would deplete those batteries pretty quickly. And for business use, time wasted charging is lost time unless it is always on down time.

    Hybridization makes a ton of sense for most everything. Having a couple hundred K miles on various hybrids showed me how much energy is wasted by braking. None had any hybrid-related failures at all. And now, the added cost is squat. A RAV4 hybrid costs what, $1,000 more than a non-hybrid version? Assuming the usual 15/20K miles a year hybrid power is a no-brainer for normal use.

    Can’t believe they still make the RAM Classic!

  • avatar

    First mover can reward big. Can also be extremely costly.

    This is probably the move I’d make, especially that FCA doesn’t have Toyota or VW levels of $$/¥¥/€€.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I don’t blame them.

    A smart move would be to utilize the Tesla drivetrain, battery, and charging system – and become the second mfr to use the Supercharger network.

    Then, instead of those carbon credit payments going to Tesla for nothing, they can begin sending them money for something useful.

    • 0 avatar

      @SCE: “utilize the Tesla drivetrain, battery, and charging system”

      Musk has said they’re willing to license it to other manufacturers. They should go for it.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually think that’s a bad idea. Do you ever wonder why No one has taken Tesla up on their offer?

      Bragging rights go to Tesla and more importantly ALL DATA goes to Tesla, furthering their competitive advantage. I guarantee operating on Tesla’s terms would be a nightmare for Stellantis.

  • avatar

    Ram needs to stay focused on profits/subsidizing sh!tty Italian cars.

  • avatar

    Politics is the big unknown. How will taxpayer subsidies for EVs change in the future?

    Next problem is the Osborn Effect. Wait until prices of batteries go down … next year or next …

    • 0 avatar

      @forward_look: How will taxpayer subsidies for EVs change in the future?

      Judging by the direction the election is headed, they’ll probably come back for domestic EVs. I’m not a big fan of EV vehicle subsidies, although I like EVs and have had one for a commuter for 6 years. At this point, we need to let lower-cost battery technology and market forces take over. Use the money elsewhere. Subsidize domestic nickel and rare earth mines with some regulatory help. Use the money to give gas stations a small break on the Federal gas tax if they install and maintain working charging stations. Each month they achieve 85% uptime on their chargers, they’d get money back on the gas tax.

      “Next problem is the Osborn Effect. “: It’s affecting my purchase of my non-commuter EV. Instead of cost, I’m waiting for the higher density and million-mile life cells. For my new commuter EV, I don’t care.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    +1 on your comment, DenverMike

    FCA doesn’t have the resources to fight a two-front economic battle.

  • avatar

    They are already diluting their position by continuing to sell the Classic and not updating the 3/4 ton and up trucks.

  • avatar

    “Not surprisingly, FCA plans to take a wait-and-see approach.” Then if approved we will get a delay-and-wait approach.

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