NEW YORK -- Ram brand boss Bob Hegbloom says he can't make numbers work to fit a midsize pickup into the brand's lineup.
The key sticking point? The price of higher fuel economy.
Despite rival General Motors' launch of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, Hegbloom says he doesn't see a way to offer a Ram along the lines of the Dodge Dakota, discontinued in 2011.
He said that in the 1980s, the heyday of midsize pickups, customers bought pickups that had less capability than full-size pickups, but were considerably smaller, less expensive and "had incredible fuel economy."
"When you look at those four factors, that's truly what a midsize pickup customer is looking for," Hegbloom said in an interview at the auto show here. "I've been able to develop a strategy to come up with three of the four -- and even with what's out there on the market today, I haven't seen anyone who can deliver on all four."
In today's market, "incredible" fuel economy probably would mean 35 mpg highway, he said. The Ram 1500 with a diesel engine has an EPA fuel economy rating of 29 mpg highway. The Colorado and Canyon pickups top out at 27 mpg highway.
"If full-size now is pushing 30 [mpg], you're going to expect a midsize to be at least at 35," Hegbloom said. "You're also going to expect it to be significantly less expensive. But to bring the technology in to deliver on 35 mpg, then you're going to raise the price."
Using a small diesel could get a midsize pickup to 35 mpg, he said: "But if you do that, you also have the expense that goes along with it. Now you've got a price point consistent with a full-size truck."