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Ram distancing itself from Dodge roots?

by Daniel Bennett on

Opinion/analysisAny time you take a brand and split it in two, there’s going to be an identity crisis.

With the recent 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited  and Ram Rebel, we see more distance between Dodge and Ram. Gone are the crosshair grilles and Rams-head emblem, which first appeared on the 1932 Dodge cars. (Ram did not become the name on full size Dodge pickups until 1981 or so, unless you count the Ramcharger, and it was shared with the Mitsubishi-sourced Ram 50. The Ram name was used across all Dodge pickups, vans, and van-based wagons starting in 1984.)

Only in 2010 did Ram become its own brand, not just a Dodge model — and at that point, Ram still shared Dodge’s brand code in the VIN.

Part of the process of differentiating Ram from Dodge was that the ram-head emblem, which started showing up on all Dodges in the early 1990s, would be dropped from Dodge. Now, it appears that Ram itself is playing down both the ram’s head and shared crosshair grilles as well, possibly to keep people from saying “Dodge Ram.”

1940 and 1994 Dodge Ram pickups

In five years since the amicable divorce, Dodge and Ram still share the same showrooms, are serviced by the same techs, and in most cases, share drivetrain components with the rest of the full size vehicle lineup;  even many dealership personnel use the name “Dodge Ram” when referring to the full size trucks.

Differentiation has never been harder.

In a recent article in  Automotive News, Larry Vellequette eloquently laid out the case as to the why Dodge and Ram might be seeking some distance. He did however question the methods that FCA appears to be using to do so. I agree with his conclusions, as many of the same thoughts had percolated to the top of my head when I first saw the images of the Rebel and the Laramie. [This article was begun before Mr. Vellequette’s article.]

Does creating distance from its roots help or hurt the Ram brand? Only time will tell, but if after five years the name Dodge Ram is still on everyone’s tongue, there is a tough battle ahead for Ram’s branding people. Then again, roots are not Chrysler’s strong point. Recent ads talk about Dodge’s roots in muscle cars and trucks — though the Dodge brothers never made a single muscle car, and only made a small number of trucks.

Ironically, Dodge recently ran the tagline, “Never forget where you come from.”

In a recent interview with Allpar’s Dave Zatz, Ram’s head of exterior design, Greg Howell, stated that the 2016 Ram design was locked in. In the same interview, Howell mentioned that the Rebel and Laramie grille change for 2015 was an experiment with the idea of changing to the “RAM” logo versus the standard Rams head logo and cross hair grille that we are all so familiar with. Take from that what you will, but FCA is playing its cards close to the chest on this.

It is entirely possible that the Rebel and Laramie grilles are unique and were designed to help distinguish those two trim lines away from the more pedestrian trim levels, which could retain a version of the cross hair grille.

Only time will tell, but FCA has been on a roll, even with some of its more controversial styling choices ( Cherokee ) selling well above what many of the pundits would believe possible. While many old school Mopar guys might not like veering away from our beloved styling cues, some change may  be needed to attract new blood to the brand. It seems to be working decently so far.

Dan Bennett was doomed from the start. His parents bought a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner when it was known that he was coming along, and the rest of the story was written from that point forward.
Raised in a Mopar only home, Dan has also been Mopar only. From ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s muscle to current SRTs of various flavors, Dan has owned, and in many cases raced, each of the Mopar brands.
Dan’s real career is as a “parts guy” at a local dealership, but he also is a muscician, computer geek/gamer, avid reader, and general all around seeker of knowledge. His whole working career has been spent in the parts industry, starting in the aftermarket, and now at the dealership level. He took a couple years off and went in a different direction for a bit as a jewelry designer and salesman, and even though he won a design award for a piece, his true calling, automotive, won out in the end.
He has written articles, or has had vehicles that have appeared in Mopar Muscle, Sport Truck, and Truckin’. In various forums and social media, he has made a name for himself as the “Go-to” guy for tech information for all things Mopar. He also has a large background in many forms of racing and engine building, holding at one point a ASE Certified Master Engine Machinist rating. Though he no longer keeps that certification up to date, he is still very active in the engine building side when he has spare time.
To Dan, there is no option to covering the Mopar world, it is an imperative that must be done to keep his world in balance.
You can contact him at (206) 736-7670.

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