Ram launches with incentive

The 2009 Dodge Ram
DETROIT — In the midst of one of the toughest truck markets in recent memory, Dodge is launching the 2009 Ram 1500 pickup with incentives of up to $1,000.

The $1,000 is available on crew and quad cabs. Customers buying a regular cab get $500 consumer cash. The incentive runs through Sept. 30.

Dodge has not advertised the incentive, though customers visiting dodge.com can find it. Dodge dealers are still working to sell remaining 2008 Rams, which carry incentives of as much as 40 percent.

Dodge is offering the cash even though parent company Chrysler LLC has been trying to move away from heavy incentives and offer customers more fully equipped vehicles for lower prices on new models.

“We’re committed to remaining competitive with our new truck pricing, and that includes offering modest incentive and lowered MSRP pricing,” said Chrysler spokeswoman Eileen Wunderlich.

Earl Hesterberg, chairman of Group 1 Automotive Inc., said he understands why Dodge is offering Ram incentive money right from the launch.

“You need money on it because you’re trading somebody out of a truck they’re upside-down in,” said Hesterberg, whose Houston-based dealership chain owns eight Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep stores. Because used-truck values have taken such a pounding, he said, “you’re going to need some money to make a deal.

“I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness on pricing. I think it’s a sign of what’s happened on the used-truck market.”

Since arriving at Chrysler from Toyota a year ago, co-President Jim Press has tried to realign the pricing strategy at Chrysler, which has led the industry in incentive spending.

A 2008 Ram quad cab 4x2 SLT carried a sticker price of $31,675. The 2009 version of the same truck stickers for $30,675 and comes standard with side curtain airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes and an electronic stability program. The 2008 quad cab had ABS only on the rear wheels, and the two other items were optional.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@autonews.com

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