Ram launched the 1500 EcoDiesel, the first light-duty diesel pickup in the United States in more than a decade, early this year. Sales are strong, and Ram is working to increase the supply of the 3.0-liter Italian-made turbodiesel.
Still, engineers are not satisfied with the 28 mpg EPA highway rating and are gunning for 30 -- and eventually higher. Bob Hegbloom, 50, Ram brand director, was interviewed June 26 by Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
Q: The Ram EcoDiesel, at 28 mpg highway, carries the highest EPA rating ever for a full-sized pickup. What are customers telling you about their real-world fuel economy? Is it close to the window label?
A: Typically with consumers, when you talk to them, they see the label and they expect they will never get to the number on the label, maybe only close to it. What's happened in reality with the EcoDiesel is that people are taking screen shots (of the fuel economy gauge), and we've heard third-party endorsements of people who say they are blowing away 28. We've got people out there who are saying they are getting into the low 30s consistently with their truck.
Are these people trying to squeeze out maximum fuel economy, or are they driving normally?
Just driving regularly, they are beating that 28 mpg number, and that is what is so surprising to most customers. So, now there is this social environment going on where people are posting what their actual mileage is. I've got one with 20,000 miles on it. And even my average is incredible. I am averaging about 25 mpg, and I do a lot of city as well as stop-and-go driving to work.
What's the potential for increasing the EPA highway rating from 28? Is 30 mpg the goal?
We can't stand still in this market. If you do, someone will surpass you. There are always ways to improve your efficiency, and that is what we are going to continue to work on.
Is 30 mpg attainable without re-engineering the truck?
The first manufacturer that gets to 30 mpg wins. We are seeing that with our 28 mpg EcoDiesel as well as the 25 mpg on the Pentastar V-6 model that fuel economy is so important. We are seeing it in the share gains and the growth for the brand. That's a number that is out there, but I don't think you can stop there.
So Ram eventually will have 30 mpg on the window sticker?
I just want to have continuous improvement and to keep gaining every day. We sat still in the past and it doesn't lead to a great place. We are focused on constant improvement every single day.