Chrysler Group LLC, whose U.S. pickup sales are growing faster than Ford Motor Co. (F)’s and General Motors Co. (GM)’s, will gain an edge by introducing revamped pickups before GM does, an executive said.
“We’ve got a long glide path before GM is in the market and I think that’s going to be a huge advantage for us,” Fred Diaz, president of the Ram truck brand, told reporters today during a briefing in Detroit. The company has started making 2013 Rams and “from every indication we’re hearing,” it doesn’t expect GM to start selling revamped full-size trucks until “the summer of next year,” he said.
The new trucks are crucial for Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne because the models are among Chrysler’s most profitable. The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker’s 24 percent U.S. sales gain this year is boosting profits and offsetting losses in Europe for its majority owner, Fiat SpA. (F) Ram pickup deliveries rose 20 percent through September, topping gains of 11 percent by Ford’s F-Series and 0.6 percent by GM’s Chevrolet Silverado.
Chrysler today showed reporters one 60-second and four 30- second commercials that begin airing Oct. 12 promoting the 2013 Ram 1500. The ads include special effects in which a crack in the ground opens up between two cities and brings them closer together, highlighting the new pickup’s fuel economy and using the tag line “engineered to move heaven and earth.”
The marketing campaign has added significance because truck owners tend to continue to buy the same brand more so than owners of vehicles in other segments, Diaz said.
“We know how incredibly loyal truck buyers are,” he said. “If we can get somebody into our dealership and get them behind the wheel of that Ram truck, they’re sold.”
Ram’s 1500 will achieve 21 miles (34 kilometers) per gallon in combined city and highway driving. Chrysler has said its new light-duty pickups will top U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ratings of 19 mpg for Ford’s 2012 F-150 flex-fuel version and 18 mpg for GM’s similar 2012 Chevrolet Silverado.
The 1500 will be available with six- and eight-cylinder engines that improve mileage from their predecessors by as much as 20 percent, according to Chrysler. The automaker is making its eight-speed transmission standard with smaller engines in the truck, which will start at $23,585 including a $995 destination charge.
Chrysler is creating a new Ram Commercial division within its Ram truck brand aimed at fleet buyers and small businesses as it introduces new heavy-duty pickups next year. Diaz said last month that the heavy-duty pickups will have best-in-class towing capabilities, which will be detailed along with pricing in January at the Detroit auto show.
Diaz has said Chrysler is considering added production of its Ram pickups. The automaker assembles the Ram 1500 at a Warren, Michigan, plant that operates on two shifts.
Chrysler sped up the line rate at its heavy-duty truck plant in Saltillo, Mexico, in August, Mike Cairns, head of Ram truck engineering, said last month. Jodi Tinson, a company spokeswoman, declined to say how many additional trucks will be built as a result of the move.
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