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What’s the future of Ram International?

by Bill Cawthon on

Ram’s display at an auto show in Germany is testing the waters to see if there is more than a small niche market for full-size pickups.

There’s no doubt the pickup market is growing in the European-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region. Last November, when FCA was launching the Mitsubishi L200-based Fiat Fullback in Dubai, the company told Automotive News Europe that mid-size pickups make up 23% of the industry’s total 675,000 sales in the EMEA region. The Middle East and Africa are the major pickup markets with 58% of the segment’s sales.

2016 Ram 1500 and Case CNH

Can a case be made for FCA to get directly involved, selling Rams through franchised dealers?

Probably not.

The ProMaster vans would just duplicate the Fiat Professional line, leaving Ram with just pickups and chassis cabs, and some significant handicaps.

In Saudi Arabia, where a Ram 1500 sells for about $32,000 and gas is 90¢ a gallon, a reviewer praised the Ram’s comfort and off-road capabilities, but criticized the fuel economy and said the truck was “way too big.”

Size and mileage limit the appeal of the big trucks in Europe, partly because of smaller street widths and parking spaces. The chart below shows the cost of feeding a big pickup’s appetite for gasoline or diesel in three major European markets.

ram-euro-fuel-web

Even in the most pickup-friendly nations, mid-size or compact pickups are the rule. Ram doesn’t have a mid-size pickup, and with the new Fullback and Strada sold, there’s little incentive to develop one. That’s not even including the upcoming Wrangler pickup, with its more appealing brand recognition, size, and capability.

jeep pickup mule

Most big American pickups sold abroad are either gray market or are imported by distributors not affiliated with the manufacturer. FCA works with these distributors; helping, for example, American Special Vehicles to convert the Ram 2500 and 3500 Laramie to right-hand drive and to get it certified for sale in Australia and New Zealand. This model makes the most sense for the foreseeable future.

Ram is already an international brand: the display in Hannover is best thought of as a promotional event to attract new distributors and new markets.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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