Ram could show concept midsize truck to dealers in March

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit — Ram dealers begging to have a midsize truck offering may soon see what one could look like.

Ram CEO Mike Koval Jr. told The Detroit News on the floor of the Detroit auto show he is contemplating showing a concept version of the smaller truck at the brand’s dealer meeting in March, its first since 2015. To do so, he says it would have to be authentic to the Stellantis NV brand’s “built to serve” image and capability while also being in the “vein” of its electrification “revolution.”

Mike Koval Jr. is CEO of Ram, the truck brand of Stellantis NV.

"I am considering showing them a midsize concept," he said of the dealer meeting. "It's my little test case of 4,000 testers. ... I want to show them this concept and see what they say, and we'll go from there."

The pickup market previously had been focused on the full-size market with multiple variations, but Stellantis' competitors have pushed smaller, entry-level segments as they've cut sedans. Ford Motor Co. has the Ranger and now the compact Maverick, which it launched last year. General Motors Co. has the midsize GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado. 

“It’s become a really competitive new frontier,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions LLC. “It doesn’t seem like too much of the new volume is cannibalizing full-size sales. It’s bringing younger buyers into the fold and hopefully keeping them into the fold to buy a full-size truck later on.”

The 2008 Dodge Dakota TRX4 Crew Cab.

Ram will show a concept version of its full-size all-electric 1500 pickup in November in Los Angeles. A production version is coming in 2024.

The automaker builds the Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup inspired by the flagship Wrangler SUV in Toledo, Ohio. The Gladiator showed the opportunity in that segment to be shaken up, Koval said.

The company last had a traditional midsize pickup in the United States in 2011, when the Dodge Dakota was discontinued amid declining sales after minimal investment into the truck. The company for years has said it would re-enter the space, but it’s yet to come to fruition.

“For years, we’ve been asking him for that,” said Randy Dye, a dealer in Daytona, Florida, and chairman of the Stellantis dealer council. “Consumers, not in large quantities, but in reasonable quantities look for a midsize truck. We’re currently left out of that. If they can build a midsize truck as good as they can build a full-size truck, it could not only do well, but lead. I have all the confidence it could be the best.”

Koval licked his lips as he said the midsize and smaller truck segments are expected to grow in the coming years in comparison to the more steady full-size and heavy-duty markets. Midsize trucks were the fifth-largest segment to see growth in July, according to Cox Automotive Inc.

Ram has filled that more affordable entry-level with its previous-generation truck it builds at Warren Truck Assembly Plant called the Ram 1500 Classic. But it’s more than a decade old, and the brand has to move toward electric technologies.

“A smaller truck would make a lot sense,” Fiorani said, as an alternative.

Ram also recently said it plans to produce a compact 1200 truck at a plant in Brazil for South America.

“I would love to bring that here,” Koval said, but noted there are challenges with taxes and getting homologation regulatory approval to sell the 1200 in the U.S.

The launch of Ram’s electric full-size pickup comes after that of the F-150 Lightning, Chevrolet Silverado EV and R1T from startup Rivian Automotive Inc., but Koval has emphasized that gives Ram the opportunity to surpass those competitors.

“We have seen an increasing willingness among pickup truck owners” to try an electric pickup, Koval said. But “they won’t compromise on capability, and that’s towing and hauling as well as range and charging speed.”

Koval says Ram will surpass those needs with the electric 1500.

Ram’s first all-electric vehicle will be the ProMaster commercial van coming in 2023 with Amazon.com Inc. as its first customer. It’s also shrinking its lineup with the discontinuation of the small ProMaster City van after 2022, because of technical issues that won’t allow that platform to be electrified. With the global footprint of Stellantis, however, Koval says he’s looking at ways the brand might be able to leverage smaller vans produced by sister brands Citroën, Fiat and Peugeot in Europe. It's also ending production in Sterling Heights of the EcoDiesel 1500.

Koval added he continues to look at ways to increase production of the larger ProMaster at Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Mexico in addition to examining the possibility of building and importing them from Italy or Poland.

Ram also has news regarding its heavy-duty trucks coming at the Texas State Fair, which opens at the end of the month. Koval says it’ll be a busy six to eight months as its electric revolution kicks off. By 2025, Ram will have electrified offerings in a majority of its segments and in all segments by 2030.

“This,” Koval said, “is our time.”

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble