DETROIT -- Chrysler Group, struggling to keep pace with demand for one of its newest products, plans to boost production of light-duty Ram pickups equipped with diesel engines.
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel will account for 20 percent of the Ram 1500 pickup’s annual production volume, up from 10 percent today, Chrysler said in a statement today, without giving details.
The additional output may help Chrysler win customers from bigger rivals Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. Chrysler says nearly 60 percent of all Ram 1500 EcoDiesel deliveries have been conquest sales from competitors’ pickup brands, a notable achievement given the segment’s high owner-loyalty rates.
The optional EcoDiesel engine carries the industry’s highest EPA highway rating for pickups, at 28 mpg. It has become one of Chrysler’s fastest-selling vehicles since its launch in February.
Chrysler doesn’t break out unit sales of the light-duty Ram 1500 and heavy-duty Ram 2500 and 3500. The Automotive News Data Center estimates Chrysler’s Warren, Mich., plant will build about 335,000 Ram 1500s this year, up 17 percent from 2013 totals.
On an annualized basis, that means Ram diesel pickup output could approach 70,000 units.
Chrysler also builds a small number of light-duty Ram pickups in Saltillo, Mexico.
The company said the increase in EcoDiesel mix will be completed by the end of November at the Michigan and Mexico plants.
Overall, U.S. sales of the Ram pickup have climbed 21 percent to 283,256 this year through August. The increase has helped give Ram a 19.1 percent share of all U.S. pickup sales, up from 16.5 percent a year earlier.
Nearly nine in ten pickups sold this year in the U.S. have been full-sized, such as the Ram, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The Ram's share of the U.S. full-size pickup market has climbed to 21.3 percent this year through August from 18.5 percent in 2013.
Last week, Chrysler said it was increasing Ram output in Warren by about 28,500 units a year by revamping hundreds of workstations and reducing waste on the production line.
The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine is built in Cento, Italy, by Fiat Automobiles subsidiary VM Motori. Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa said Ram worked with VM Motori to obtain more diesel engines specifically for the Ram 1500 and that Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel production would be unaffected.
Ram has owned the truck fuel economy crown in both gasoline and diesel trucks this year. But among gasoline-powered pickups, a special, low-volume SFE, or Super Fuel Economy, version of Ford’s aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 coming in December will likely knock the 3.6-liter gasoline-powered Ram 1500 from the top spot.
The Ram 1500 V-6 HFE, or High Fuel Economy, carries an EPA rating of 25 mpg on the highway, while the 2014 Ford F-150 has a top highway rating of 23 mpg.
Ford said Monday the redesigned 2015 F-150 will deliver between 5 percent and 20 percent better fuel economy, placing the most fuel efficient F-150 at either 27 mpg or 28 mpg highway.
Pricing on the Ram EcoDiesel Crew Cab, a popular model, starts at $37,915, including shipping.