DETROIT -- When Chrysler Group separated Ram from Dodge in October 2009, the automaker created a fourth brand while others were eliminating brands.
But in 2012, the logic behind Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's controversial move should become clearer to dealers. The automaker will introduce several divergent vehicles -- from a compact sedan to a full-sized commercial van -- that would have been uneasy stablemates at Dodge alone.
With commercial vans, light-duty and heavy-duty trucks, Ram is incompatible with Dodge's economical and performance-oriented sedans and people movers, Marchionne says.
Consider these upcoming new or redesigned vehicles:
-- The 2013 Dodge Dart, a compact sedan due in dealerships before July, is aimed at the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Chevrolet Cruze.
-- Ram will rework its full-sized pickup this year. Details of the changes haven't been released.
-- Ram is planning to introduce versions of two Fiat commercial vans, the Doblo and Ducato, to U.S. dealerships starting in 2013. The vans will be assembled in Saltillo, Mexico.
Trucks "are a different business. Ram has this appeal of toughness that Dodge should not have," Marchionne said at the Detroit auto show.
Some dealers say they have yet to see large benefits from the brand split.
"I think it was a good thing to do to separate truck from car and have a separate team focusing on each one for marketing purposes and product training purposes," said Don Lee of Lee Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Auburn, Maine. "Do I see the benefit of the separation of the brands? I don't see that, but perhaps I'm missing something."