Ram delays major changes to pickup until 2017

The Ram's U.S. sales have grown from 257,000 in 2009 to 463,000 in 2013. Sales rose another 26 percent this year through April.

DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is delaying the next major update of the Ram pickup, one of its most profitable vehicles, until 2017 -- a year later than originally planned.

Product plans for the Ram brand, which includes the Ram pickup and Fiat Chrysler’s commercial vehicles, were revealed today when company executives outlined their five-year global business plan in suburban Detroit.

Ram brand chief Reid Bigland said that since 2013, after the current version of the Ram pickup debuted, the marque’s sales have been on a tear, with growth outpacing Ford, General Motors and import brands.

Bigland said the Ram brand has gained 10 percentage points of market share in North America since 2009, as sales have grown from 257,000 to 463,000 in 2013.

Bigland credits the Ram pickup’s success in outpacing rivals to the truck’s features and its fuel efficient gasoline and diesel engines. Innovations such as the coil spring rear suspension that smooths out the rough ride common to trucks with old-style leaf spring suspensions and the cargo box storage system in the rear fenders are unique Ram.

Bigland, speaking of the Ram pickup with the optional EcoDiesel 3.0-liter engine, said: “This thing is truly a freak show on wheels with almost compact-carlike fuel economy and the ability to tow 9,200 pounds.”

Bigland said the Ram brand plans to increase its commercial vehicle sales and he outlined four growth strategies: enhancing capabilities, increasing the number of dealers dedicated to commercial customers to 900 from 332, expanding marketing and leveraging Fiat Professional, the company’s commercial vehicles division.

Ram entered the North American commercial van segment late last year with the ProMaster, which is based on the Fiat Ducato, one of Europe’s top-selling cargo vans. Bigland said the ProMaster has captured 18 percent of the North American market and is poised to grow further.

This year, the ProMaster will get a 3.0-liter diesel engine. Also this fall, a smaller cargo van, the ProMaster City, based on the Fiat Doblo, will be launched in North America.

It will compete with the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express.

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