Michael Donoughe, 46, a 22-year Chrysler veteran, is in charge of the automaker's body-on-frame vehicles, including Dodge trucks and the Jeep Wrangler SUV.
Dodge engineers have revamped the Ram pickup for 2006. The Ram gets a new frame, front suspension, interior and body style, the Mega Cab. It also will be the first pickup with a cylinder cutoff system, which boosts fuel economy. Donoughe spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
How worried are you that Toyota's new Tundra pickup will steal market share from the Ram?
We like our chances. We've been rebuilding the Dodge Ram heritage since the early 1990s, and we have been building momentum ever since then. We are pretty confident that that will continue.
Since the Ram's volume is the lowest of the Big 3 pickups, doesn't that mean you are the most vulnerable to losing market share?
No. We have the freshest, most compelling product out there. With the advances we are making with the 2006 Ram, the multiple-displacement (cylinder cutoff) system, the Mega Cab and the quiet ride, I don't think anyone is going to touch us.
How many Ram customers choose the Hemi engine?
About 48 percent to 50 percent of light-duty buyers.
Mike Donoughe with the 2006 Ram, which has a new frame, front suspension and Mega Cab body style. PHOTO: JOE WILSSENS
Do truck buyers care about fuel economy?
That's in transition, obviously. It's important across both light- and heavy-duty. We think that with our diesel offerings in the heavy-duty, we have a very good balance there for providing a configuration that delivers ultimate capability in terms of towing and hauling and fuel economy.
Will you be the first automaker to put a diesel engine in a light-duty pickup?
A diesel does not come in the light-duty now, but there may one be in the future. We have to bring into balance the cost of a diesel and satisfying emissions requirements.
In terms of interior noise, how will the 2006 Ram compare to the Tundra and Ford F-150?
Very comparably. We always aim for the best. We've done some things in the area of wind noise. We've revised the weather seals, used laminated glass on the Quad cab and Mega Cab. We also use constrained layer (quiet steel) technology in the dash panel area. We've enhanced the overall level of refinement that customers are continuing to demand.
They want the best of both worlds. They don't want to give up the capability that's inherent in a pickup truck and the flexibility of use. But they are also coming to appreciate some of the accoutrements that come with more mainstream vehicles, such as SUVs.
What did you do to the frame?
We stiffened it up. What that allows us to do is tune the suspension. You can do things with your rubber (bushing) rates that will allow you to have a more comfortable ride experience without giving up the handling. You want both.
When will the 2006 Ram go on sale? Are you raising prices?
We'll start shipping them in the July-August time frame. We'll announce prices then.
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]