Fiat Chrysler delays redesign for its built-in-Saltillo Ram heavy-duty pickups
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Fiat Chrysler will not redesign its current Ram heavy-duty pickups onto its new pickup platform referred to internally as 'DT' in 2018, but instead will keep the same body-in-white and refresh the existing DS-based model, company sources revealed to Automotive News.
“It is unknown why these actions on important products for FCA's two most profitable brands are taking place; FCA has refused to comment”, said Automotive News in its report.
In its five-year business plan presented in May 2014, Ram had forecast what it called a "major update" for its heavy-duty pickups and chassis cabs in 2018.
FCA has since dramatically altered its business strategy, abandoning U.S. production of low-profit cars to focus primarily on building more pickups and SUVs, taking advantage of sweeping changes in consumer preferences.
The DS-based Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups were first introduced in 2010. They have been refreshed to various degrees in the intervening years, expanding their capabilities amid a customer base that is about 75 percent commercial, according to the brand's 2014 business plan.
FCA reports combined sales of light-duty and heavy-duty Ram pickups each month, and said in 2014 that about a quarter of the brand's pickup sales are heavy-duty models. Through November, Ram pickup sales are up 8.1 percent.
The automaker is bound to erase nearly US$ 7 billion in net debt that was on its books at the end of the third quarter. CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he plans to retire in 2018 and wants to leave the global automaker generating billions of dollars in free cash flow annually.
To do that, the company is, in part, undergoing a major revamp of its North American manufacturing footprint in order to build more Jeep and Ram SUVs and pickups and fewer slow-selling sedans.
Through the first nine months of 2016, FCA said it had generated US$ 1.49 billion in global profits.
Delaying or abandoning its plan for what FCA called in 2014 a "major update" of its heavy-duty Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups in 2018 will save FCA money on a changeover of its heavy-duty pickup plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
Saltillo is FCA's only heavy-duty pickup factory, so keeping the current truck going with only a freshening will also ensure that Ram heavy-duty pickups remain available to dealers in an uninterrupted supply.
But the delay will also leave the Ram 2500s and 3500s with a significantly older design than their heavy-duty competitors from top rivals Ford and General Motors.