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Top brass at Fiat Chrysler say the all-new technology-loaded 2019 Ram 1500 is one of the most crucial vehicles the company’s ever launched. And it’s right on time for the start of what many are calling the pickup wars.

The 2019 Ram 1500 debuted Monday morning at the Detroit auto show, and with that, the battle among the Detroit Three can begin. Ram’s new truck caps three days of pickup news from the Detroit Three, with Ford having unveiled its all-new midsize Ranger on Sunday and Chevrolet rolling out a new Silverado on Saturday.

And the Ram press conference Monday wasn't without its jabs. Mike Manley, head of Ram brand, officially rolled out three Ram models, including a the beefed-up off-road Ram Rebel. Manley fired a shot at Ford, quipping that Ram isn't going to unravel a list of "mosts" when describing its new truck.

People are "expecting more from their truck," Manley said. Ram used steel composites in the redesign to lighten the pickup, which also differs from the aluminum-body F-150 Ford that debuted in 2014.

Ram's use of steel "results in a Ram truck that is stronger than ever, but still 225 pounds lighter," Manley said.


Head of Ram Brand Michael Manley reveals the new 2019 Ram 1500 Limited, Ram 1500 Rebel and Ram Laramie. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

Last year automakers sold 4.3 percent more trucks and SUVs than in 2016, all while overall sales slipped because U.S. consumers aren’t buying cars like they used to. The world’s second-largest auto market wants trucks — seemingly even more than it wants SUVs — and as the market shrinks, the Detroit Three will fight harder to gain a bigger piece of it.

For Ram, that means launching a pickup that’s lighter by 225 pounds, more durable, more fuel-efficient and stuffed with more new technology than any truck the company has ever built.

“(Ram) is one of the most important launches we can do,” said Manley.

The company went for a “modern” look with the new full-size pickup. It’s lower to the ground, longer and wider than previous models. The front end was designed with more forward lean. Designers shrunk the script “Ram” across the grille.

Designers are also rolling out what the automaker says is a “more masculine,” chiseled Ram logo, which is centered on the tailgate. The new rams-head logo has more sharp edges and angles than previous iterations that Ram executives characterized as “soft” or “feminine.” An industry joke had been that the Ram logo, which the company pulled off the grille of its trucks a few years ago, looked too much like a uterus.

The 2019 Ram 1500 utilizes an eTorque system to improve fuel efficiency on the 3.6-liter, 305-horsepower V-6 engine option and the 5.7-liter, 395-horsepower Hemi V-8. The system also adds up to 90 pound-feet of torque to the V-6 and up to 130 pound-feet to the V-8. eTorque uses a belt-drive motor generator unit with a battery pack to enable a start-stop function, torque-assist and brake-energy regeneration. Those engines are mated with an eight-speed transmission.

Ram engineers used steel, composites and aluminum to lighten the new model, though the company made clear it didn’t use aluminum wherever possible, “but where practical.” That includes the tailgate, engine mounts, part of the front axle and a few other places.

Like other automakers, the new Ram 1500 has a smorgasbord of trim options. All told, Fiat Chrysler is rolling out the new model with six trims, all with unique interior styling. The truck comes in 12 colors and has 16 new wheel designs.

The truck has an optional class-exclusive 12-inch touchscreen display on the center console for the upper trim-levels. The big screen can be customized, and uses the fourth-generation Uconnect telecommunications service to connect to cellphones and other devices. The screen pulls in heating and air-conditioning controls, too, though the truck has redundant controls on the sides of the screen. Customers can also opt for smaller display screens.

“The 2019 Ram 1500 gave us the opportunity to build on an already leading interior while integrating new technologies and features,” said Ryan Nagode, chief interior designer for Ram Trucks. “We’ve added richer colors and uniquely exceptional materials and textures that give customers an upscale, high-quality experience in all trim levels.”

The new truck also has an emphasis on storage. There are lockable bed storage compartments along the sides of the vehicle, more space in the center console, room for laptops and tablets, and hidden storage under the rear seats. All told, the truck has 12 storage combinations.

The cab length increased four total inches inside, the company said. Across all trim levels, the 2019 Ram has a push-button starter, an electronic parking brake and a redesigned rotary e-shifter dial. Outside, the vehicle has all-new LED adaptive lighting systems.

The new Ram also boasts more than 100 safety features, including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, trailer-sway damping control, lane-departure warning and parking assist.

Ram expects to launch the new truck in the first quarter of 2018. The Ram 1500 is built at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan.

In addition, FCA introduced its new limited edition Ram 1500 Rebel off-road version of the model.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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