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Big Rams held back a bit?

by David Zatz on

Starting next year, Fiat Chrysler will rebalance its factories in a massive, cost-intensive, and risky effort to boost truck and Jeep production without new buildings. A cornerstone of that effort is moving Sterling Heights from unibody 200s to body-on-frame Ram pickups, which, by 2019, should result in a hefty increase in production.

2014 Ram heavy duty

The problem is that, as Sterling Heights is coming up to speed, Saltillo was scheduled to go down for a time so they could switch from the current heavy-duty Ram to a new design. What would leave FCA with a serious cash flow problem, as the key Ram 1500 would be in short supply.

According to today’s Automotive News, Ram’s solution is keeping the Ram 2500, 3500, 4500, and 5500 on a refreshed version of the body they have now, rather than moving them to the Ram “DT” cab in 2019. (The two trucks have a very different chassis but much of the cab is shared.) This would both keep Saltillo from a long downtime, and push capital expenses off by another year — an important move in itself when so many plants have to be refitted.

Presumably, in this scenario, the heavy duty pickups would still move to the new cabs and get other improvements a year or two later, and any planned powertrain upgrades would still go forward.

Not many companies would invest heavily in factory upgrades as demand falls, as they try to pay off around $3 billion in debt per year. The up-side is that, if everything works as planned, Fiat Chrysler should be far stronger in 2020 and, especially if it stops changing plans quite so often, product launches should come more quickly.

FCA was contacted for this story but could not comment on future product. Allpar was not able to independently confirm this story.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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