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FauxPar #2: Return of the Dodge Ramcharger

by Patrick Rall

Since a popular trucking magazine issued an especially foolish April Fool's Day report that insisted that the Ramcharger was coming back, there have been a handful of other unscrupulous automotive "news sites" reporting that same false information.

Even though the initial piece stated that it wasn't real, the fact that they included realistic looking images and full specs led many to believe that Chrysler Group was reincarnating the mighty Ramcharger. Sadly, there is no Ramcharger based on the Ram 2500 Power Wagon and really, there is almost no chance of seeing a real Ramcharger anytime soon.

The root of the reason that we will not see a Ramcharger based on the Ram 2500 Power Wagon is that body-on-frame sport utility vehicles are all but gone. The vast majority of the top selling SUVs in America are unibody vehicles, including the Dodge Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The advantages of the unibody construction combined with advancements in chassis technology have allowed unibody vehicles to offer the same towing and hauling advantages as the light duty trucks and SUVs, so using a body-on-frame SUV just doesn't make sense in today's automotive climate.

In short, technology has moved the automakers away from large body-on-frame SUVs like the old school Ramcharger and they simply aren't going to revert to the old style any time soon. In the long run, a modern Ramcharger wouldn't be able to do a whole lot more than the Durango and Grand Cherokee, while the body-on-frame construction would make the Ramcharger heavier, less efficient and less capable.

The GM SUVs (Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, and Escalade) are the only body-on-frame, full-size SUVs that are selling in reasonable numbers. Toyota and Ford's models have failed even among their own loyal buyers. GM is the default choice in full-size body-on-frame SUVs, thanks to a history of sturdy, reliable, capable vehicles.

GM's volume (254,578 US sales in 2014, vs 55,065 for Ford and 11,806 for Toyota) also makes it difficult for competitors, since GM has economies of scale and can easily amortize their investments among a huge number of trucks.

If Ford, with years behind Expedition/Navigator, can't even manage 56,000 sales, and Toyota can't break 12,000, what would Ram be able to achieve? (This is probably the same reason why we have yet to see competition for the Wrangler.) - DZ

Sure, a Ramcharger based on the Ram 2500 Power Wagon would be cool, but it would be very expensive for Chrysler to build, since that shortened wheelbase 2500 chassis doesn't exist, forcing them to create a new chassis. On top of the high cost, the sales for a vehicle of that size and with a price like the Power Wagon Ram would be incredibly low, so the company would incur a whole lot of cost with no real chance of making that money back.

While the fake Ramcharger would make for a very cool concept vehicle, the steady industry shift to unibody vehicles will prevent the company from building any kind of large body-on-frame Ramcharger while the astronomical cost of Ramcharger built with Ram 2500 Power Wagon underpinnings guarantee that we will never see the Ram SUV that surfaced on April 1st this year.

Fortunately, the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee both offer most of the advantages of the old Ramcharger, with more power, a vastly more comfortable interior, and a lightweight design that makes these modern SUVs far more efficient than my beloved 1983 Dodge Ramcharger.

As much as I would absolutely love to see a new Ramcharger, having owned and loved an original Ramcharger, there is just no place for a profitable vehicle like that in the current American auto industry.


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