Fiat Chrysler merger could provide platform for midsize Ram truck

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's merger with French automaker Groupe PSA could provide the platform for a midsize Ram pickup truck.

The possibility raised by Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley came as the automakers announced the signing of a binding agreement to create a transatlantic corporation worth $50 billion that would be the No. 4 automaker in the world by sales volume. The entities seek to create savings by combining vehicle platforms, including one for compact and midsize vehicles.

The midsize Dodge Dakota was dropped in 2011 after a 25-year run. Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said the merger with PSA could give it a platform on which to build a new Ram midsize pickup.

"One area that Ram has long been missing a product is in the midsize market or metric-ton truck," Manley said. "There is fabulous opportunity, I think, in the merger for PSA and FCA once it is fully fueled."

More: What we know about US jobs and other details of Fiat Chrysler, PSA merger

More: Merger creates a hefty to-do list for PSA CEO Tavares

More: Fiat Chrysler, France's Groupe PSA sign binding agreement to merge

The merger would provide the transatlantic corporation an even greater global footprint in places outside the United States with less space for massive trucks. But midsize trucks also are growing in popularity in the United States with market share up to 3.7% through November of 2019, up from 1.5% in 2014, according to auto information website Inc.

"Midsize trucks are extremely popular on a global level," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Cox Automotive Inc. "With the increased distribution and global footprint, it's really almost a requirement."

Ram dropped its last midsize pickup, the Dakota, in 2011 after a 25-year run. Jeep launched the midsize Gladiator pickup this year, but Manley in May on an earnings call said he believed there was an untapped midsize market for Ram.

The full-size Ram this year is poised to overtake General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Silverado as the No. 2 selling pickup in the United States for the first time. But GM still sells more trucks with the GMC Sierra and midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Ford Motor Co., whose F-series is the U.S.'s best-selling trucks, also recently revived the midsize Ford Ranger.

Fiat Chrysler has been working on developing a midsize truck, Manley said in May. A Ram team was "focused on solving a metric ton midsize truck solution for us because it's a big part of the portfolio and growth we want to achieve," he said.

The company was struggling with being able to build a low-cost vehicle that still is applicable in the market, he said at the time: "I want that problem solved, frankly, because it's a clear hole in our portfolio. ... Trust me, they're focused on it. We need to get it fixed soon."

With PSA, Fiat Chrysler may have found the answer. The companies expect two platforms would support two-thirds of the combined automaker's volume. One would be for compact/midsize vehicles, which they predict could support more than three million annual production units. The convergence of these platforms could take as little as 20 months after the deal closes, executives said Wednesday.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble