Innovating and Imitating Truck Manufacturers- Sway Control
There’s no question the Ram brand has been an unqualified success for parent FCA. Long a distant also-ran behind Ford and General Motors, Ram is now considered a formidable competitor, and the division has established a reputation for being an innovator in the fullsize truck segment. Ram was the first brand to market with an eight-speed transmission, the first to bring a light-duty diesel in more than two decades, and the only brand to use rear coil springs on its 1500 and 2500 models. Ram’s reputation for innovation is well-deserved. But short of an all-new model, how does Ram continue to capitalize on its success?
"Top-trim trucks are big moneymakers for dealers and manufacturers."
It seems like the answer is to take some cues from its competitors and offer new trims that mimic the style and packaging of popular competitive models. The first example is the Ram 1500 Rebel, revealed at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Almost immediately, the first word that came to mind was “Raptor,” right down to the script used for the trim logo and its blacked-out, block-letter grille. Although undoubtedly some true truck aficionados are attracted to the Raptor by virtue of its specialized hardware and engineering, an equal or probably greater number are attracted to its unique style. Unfortunately, tight availability and widespread reports of big dealer markups have kept the Raptor out of the reach of many truck buyers.
The Rebel now gives truck buyers an aggressively styled option that promises to be much more obtainable than the rare and pricey Raptor, with the additional choice of either the Pentastar V-6 or Hemi V-8 and the choice of two or four-wheel drive. Factory 33-inch tires, Bilstein shocks, and a 1-inch suspension lift give it some measure of off-road credibility.
At the other end of the fullsize spectrum, Ram unveiled the Laramie Limited at the 2015 Chicago International Auto Show, bringing a generous helping of chrome-plating, real wood interior trim and a more restrained look than the somewhat “ranch hand” image exuded by the Laramie Longhorn trim. Other than the obvious target of Ford’s Platinum and Limited trims, the low-key luxury theme seems aimed squarely at GMC’s Denali sub-brand.
While many of you have said you’d like to see a return to more basic, utilitarian trucks, and many of us on staff share that sentiment, the marketplace has spoken and top-trim trucks are big moneymakers for dealers and manufacturers. Besides which, Ram already has that market well covered, with the hypothetical combination of a short-bed, regular cab Ram 1500 with the Hemi V-8, crank windows, and vinyl seats a buildable configuration. So, it only makes sense that Ram would expand the upper end of its lineup.
Does Ram’s introduction of similar models to its competitors mean it’s run out of ideas for keeping its trucks competitive and innovative? Not at all. At the end of the day, especially in the fullsize truck segment, it’s all about sales and maintaining and building positive momentum. If a proven formula has worked for Ram’s competitors, there’s no reason to think that it couldn’t work for FCA’s truck brand too. As long as the core attributes of content, quality, and capability are still present, it’s a smart marketing move to broaden your appeal.