NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Chrysler group plans to boost Dodge Ram production in Mexico and expand the pickup's model line for the 2006 model year and beyond.
"It will be a pretty significant increase in capacity, and at the same time it will enable us to go for further product differentiation as well," Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche said at a press event here.
Zetsche did not say how many more Rams will be assembled in Mexico. But a Chrysler group source said the plant in Saltillo, Mexico, will be expanded. Last year the Saltillo plant assembled 170,913 Rams, accounting for 33.4 percent of total Ram production.
"We are very much aware that the (pickup) competition is heating up," Zetsche said. "In areas where we are strong, we don't want to lose our dominance and strong position, and this takes product actions."
Last year, Ford Division redesigned the F-150, and Nissan introduced the Titan, its first full-sized pickup. Toyota's redesigned Tundra full-sized pickup is expected in 2006. General Motors will redesign its full-sized pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, for the 2008 model year, supplier sources say.
Dodge sold 449,371 Ram pickups in 2003. Sales for the first half of this year are even with the year-ago period.
A Chrysler group source familiar with the program said several new Ram-based models that have not been revealed are planned in the next several years.
"Every year you are going to see new Ram products, new Ram extensions," the source said. "We have enough capacity to run what we want to do for the 2005 model year. As we expand the Ram brand into other things that you will soon see, we will need some expansion to manage those (new) products that are coming. (Mexico) is where we will get the additional volume."
But a Ram-based SUV is not planned, the source said. "If we did that, it would be too big, as large as a Ford Excursion," the source said.
Last month Dodge announced the addition of two Ram models for the 2005 model year: the Power Wagon and the SRT-10 Quad Cab. The Hemi-powered 345-hp Ram Power Wagon is intended for serious off-roading. Standard features include an electronic disconnecting front sway bar and a 12,000-pound winch.
The SRT-10 Quad Cab is equipped with the Dodge Viper's 8.3-liter V-10, producing 500 hp and 525 pounds-feet of torque.
The automaker's three Ram assembly plants are nearly filled. In May the Chrysler group added a third shift at its Warren, Mich., plant. That plant assembles the Ram pickups and the Dakota pickup and will assemble the upcoming 2006 pickup for Mitsubishi. The Ram also is assembled in St. Louis.