There's a new head of Dodge Ram and his name is Fred Diaz Jr. Appointed president and CEO of the Dodge Ram brand on October 5, 2009, after a dramatic shakeup at the corporate headquarters, Mr. Diaz is a long-time Dodge truck staff member, with deep roots in Texas. This appointment comes on the heels of a larger announcement that Fiat decided to split the Dodge brand in two, separating Dodge cars from Dodge trucks.
The creation of this fourth brand, simply called Ram, will be focused on pickup trucks (compact, half-tons, heavy-dutys, commercial trucks and vans, and possibly more). The new branding strategy has not been fully flushed out, but has some insiders confused about what this will mean down the road. With that said, we can take some comfort in the fact Fiat placed a 20-year Dodge truck veteran at its helm to guide the new brand. Still, at this early stage, there seem to be more questions than answers. We had some time recently to sit down with Fred Diaz Jr. soon after his appointment and ask a few questions and get a feel for how he envisions his new role.
A Texas native, Diaz has worked the state for Dodge in a multitude of capacities, which include sales, communications, and handling, marketing, and advertising duties for various dealer bodies, and had three assignments that had him in Detroit. "I get trucks-it's in my background. There's no bigger truck market in the U.S. than Texas, and our truck guys know what they want," explains Diaz. He goes on to say his job as the leader of this new Ram brand is to keep the trucks authentic and true to the spirit of what real truck buyers want. Although when asked what that means for the future of the product lineup, he's a bit vague: "I've been in this job for only a short time, but I would guess there's going to be more separation between Dodge cars and trucks." It'll be interesting to see how that point plays out as Fiat also appointed Ralph Gilles, lead designer of last year's successful Dodge Ram 1500, as president and CEO of Dodge car. Whether Ralph is able to give the lackluster Dodge car lineup (although we do like the Challenger) some much-needed excitement remains to be seen. Fred goes on to say he feels Dodge DNA would continue inside every Ram half-ton and heavy-duty they made, but isn't specific about exactly how that might affect the midsize Dodge Dakota (Ram Dakota?) or other non-pickup truck models such as the Dodge Nitro (Ram Nitro?). Our guess is the first casualty to this Ram brand strategy could be the remodel of the ubiquitous Dodge Ram badge pasted on so many Ram pickups (see Ram HD tailgate).
In the meantime, the Ram brand will doubtless evolve as Fiat rolls out its long-term plan over the next several months. With only a few weeks under his belt, Fred Diaz Jr. sounds optimistic: "I know this is a big deal. I've got responsibility for the entire Ram brand, and from the looks of the new Ram HD, we're doing all right. And this is just the beginning."