AUBURN HILLS, Mich., October 10, 2012 — Chrysler Group LLC is ramping up efforts in the commercial truck market by announcing new engineering and marketing commitments as the company unveils its 2013 line of Ram heavy-duty trucks.
Ram's new 2500, 3500 and 5500 trucks were unveiled September 20 at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.
The truck-building brand of Chrysler Group LLC also planned to announce the creation of a commercial truck division within the brand, featuring its own specialized design, engineering and marketing staff.
"We are getting really, really serious about the commercial end of the business," said Fred Diaz, president and CEO of Chrysler of Mexico and the Ram brand. "We are going to have people dedicated to commercial product development."
The announcement comes on the heels of the introduction of a redesigned Ram 1500 light-duty pickup, due in dealerships by the end of the month. Although updates for the heavy truck line have traditionally waited a year after a major light duty truck upgrade, Ram's Brand Director, Robert Hegbloom, said work was accelerated due to increasing demand for commercial trucks.
Ram's marketers believe the marginally improving economy is encouraging small businesses throughout the nation to update their aging commercial fleets. Businesses have put off buying for so long that the average pickup on U.S. roads is now 10-11 years old.
Ram stepped up introduction of the heavy-duty line to allow orders for 2013 models to be taken in December, before businesses close their books for year's end. The new heavy-duty Rams, which for the first time will include Tradesman work trucks in all sizes, could see their first deliveries in March.
"We have got the product coming at the right time," Hegbloom said.
The heavy-duty line retains the same "big rig" styling with a high hood, massive grille and low front fenders. Underneath, it gets frame and suspension improvements to increase capability and payload.
Although no numbers were given, Ram officials vowed the Cummins diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks will feature best-in-class towing capacity. Better cooling, air intake, new automatic transmission and other engineering improvements for the turbocharged engine will increase torque to near 850 pound-feet and broaden the range of peak power.
Figures on power, pricing and fuel economy will be announced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Buyers of the 3500 line, previously limited to diesel engines only, will be given a choice in 2013 of returning to a gas-fueled 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Gasoline engines will be popular for snowplow use and will reduce the price of a 3500 pickup by almost $10,000. Ram 2500 and heavier diesel trucks also remain the only pickups with an optional manual transmission.
"When we told dealers we were putting gas engines in the 3500, it got wild applause," Diaz said about a recent briefing of dealers nationwide.
All new Ram trucks feature upgraded electrical architecture to support the ever increasing demand of safety and infotainment technology, as well as commercial add-ons like custom bodies. The heavy-duty line will get most features announced with the 2013 Ram 1500, including optional new plush interiors, an 8.4-inch infotainment touch screen and the ability to make the truck a Wi-Fi hot zone for wireless computer connectivity at job sites.
Ram Boxes, the brand's bed fender-top locking storage boxes, will get the new remote key fob locking mechanisms. Tailgates also lock and unlock with the same button that controls the truck's passenger doors.
A new "smart exhaust brake" ties the diesel engine's ability to slow the truck while descending steep grades into the cruise control mechanism, to keep speeds constant while traveling uphill, downhill and on level ground.
All heavy-duty Rams will come with internal frame bracing to support dealer installation of gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer hitches. A tailgate-mounted camera that makes trailer hitching easier on the 1500 pickup will be joined by a camera mounted at the rear of heavy-duty truck cabs to aid in fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitching.
Source: detroitnews.com, © 2012 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.
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