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Ram unveils Rebel pickup; ups EcoDiesel MPG

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Ram Truck is driving to become a rebel of the U.S. pickup industry.

Dodge debuts the 2015 Ram Rebel truck during Day Two of press previews at the North American International Auto Show in Cobo Center in Detroit,  Michigan on January 13, 2015.

The FCA US LLC, formerly Chrysler Group LLC, truck brand unveiled a new "Rebel" model for its popular Ram 1500 light-duty pickup Tuesday at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel, as its name alludes, offers an alternative, more aggressive, off-road look with blacked-out badging and accessories traditionally found in the aftermarket. It also features a higher stance, class-exclusive dual exhaust, large aluminum wheels and redesigned front and rear fascias.

Ram CEO and President Bob Hegbloom said the truck is aimed at buyers who want the more aggressive look of the brand's $49,000 Power Wagon, but the capabilities and pricing comparable to its Big Horn model — starting at about $31,000 — that represents about 40 percent of current sales.

"Now's the time to bring it to market," he said during the unveiling of the pickup. "The Rebel, as it's name implies, is an all-new breed."

The pickup was unveiled during an elaborate press conference that included large 20-foot or so screens, a new video showcasing workers putting their vehicles to work and a vertical moving stage for the pickup.

Hegbloom also announced some models of the brand's EcoDiesel Ram 1500 model will get up to 29 miles per gallon highway, up 1 mpg from the current highway mpg.

Pricing for the Rebel is expected to be announced closer to the vehicle arriving in dealerships later this year.

Besides a higher stance and blacked-out features, the Rebel marks the first time in more than two decades that the brand has gone away from its cross-hair grille on a pickup. Hegbloom said the move is not permanent, but designers wanted to try something a little different with the Rebel.

"We'll see how it resonates," he said during a previous interview with The Detroit News. "We have a long history with the cross-hair grille and I don't ever see us walking away from that, but there may be packages where you do different executions."

Also absent from the exterior of the pickup is the Ram logo. Instead, designers used "RAM" on the front grille and tailgate — a throwback to previous generations of the fastest-growing truck brand in the U.S. The logo is featured prominently inside the pickup.

"We really wanted to take what we did in the front and then extend upon it to the back," said Greg Howell, chief of Ram exterior design. "The Ram logo is very prominent on the back. There's no mistaking what this truck is anymore."

Given the overall demand for trucks in the U.S., Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said it's not surprising Ram would offer a truck like the Rebel.

"The demand for trucks feels almost insatiable right now, which means brands like Ram can produce specialized niche models, with higher pricing and profit, and be assured of enough volume to justify the exercise," he said. "The Rebel also extends Ram's reach into buyers who want the image of a serious off-road machine but can't afford the pricier Power Wagon."

Brauer was surprised by the brand changing the grille, "given how closely tied that styling feature is to the brand."

The interior is exclusively available in Radar Red and Black with fabric inserts embossed with the Toyo tire tread pattern, matching the Rebel's actual footprint. It also features a redesigned center console with larger cup holders and a media storage device that will extend to other trucks in the Ram lineup.

Rebel is available exclusively as a four-door crew cab with a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 offering 305 horsepower, 269 pound-feet of torque or an optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with fuel-saving cylinder shut-off that provide 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

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