A South Carolina Ram owner's lawsuit filed against Fiat Chrysler last week can be summed up in an everyday question: What's the diff?
Robert Besley Jr. filed the suit after the company informed him the Ram 1500 he bought last year didn't have the heavy-duty differential for which he had paid extra.
It's not clear, though, how widespread the problem is because FCA US declined to comment. A review of Internet forums last week revealed that it is not an isolated case, however.
Besley's Ram was supposed to have a heavier-duty 3.55-to-1 rear axle ratio in the differential, which is a $50 option and better for towing.
But his pickup was equipped with a 3.21-to-1 rear axle ratio, which is better for fuel economy.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in South Carolina. Besley bought the 2014 Ram 1500 Big Horn pickup from Triangle Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Graniteville, S.C., in January 2014. He is seeking unspecified damages.
In general, the higher the axle ratio, the more torque is available at the rear wheels and the better a vehicle is at towing. According to Ram's consumer website, ramtrucks.com, the higher 3.55-to-1 axle ratio adds about 2,500 pounds to the maximum towing ratings of a Ram 1500 pickup over the 3.21-to-1 axle.
Other consumers reported on Internet forums that their Ram 1500s had also been incorrectly equipped with the less-powerful axle. Those consumers were in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and North Carolina.
An FCA US spokesman declined to say how many Rams had been mislabeled or had the wrong axle.
FCA spokesman Mike Palese said the automaker had not yet been served with Besley's lawsuit and would not comment.
After owning his pickup for nine months, Besley was notified by FCA that his Monroney sticker was wrong, and that his pickup instead had a 3.21-to-1 rear axle ratio. According to the suit, the automaker offered Besley "750 Mopar dollars" that could be used to buy service or accessories. The suit, which seeks class-action status, says that the automaker at no time "offered a complimentary replacement of his rear axle."
However, on the Internet forums, consumers reported negotiating a variety of remedies with Ram or the dealership from which they had purchased the pickup, including free extended service contracts or trading the vehicle for one properly equipped.