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Ram Truck Design: Focus on Function

Engineering, Design Collaborate Closely

Apr 28, 2015
As the automotive market has become more commoditized, styling and design has taken an increasingly prominent role in product marketing and differentiation. Superficially, it may seem that a lot of design decisions are driven purely by focus groups, or the capricious whims of eccentric designers with little regard to their functionality or impact on vehicle performance. But in our conversation with the Ram Truck design team, the close collaboration between design and engineering came to the forefront as being a critically important component of the design process that guides the engineers and designers each step of the way.
A closer look at the process in modern truck design was prompted by the reveal of the 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited, and the new Ram 1500 Rebel trucks. Although both trucks share a block-letter logo front and rear, the approach and design of the two trucks is was totally unique. And surprisingly, the decision to go with the letter logo was influenced as much by functionality as it was by fashion.
Working Hand-in-Hand
Greg Howell, head of Ram Truck exterior design, said his team worked closely with engineering to come up with a solution that was both stylish and functional. The move to the block-letter grille for the Rebel came partially from a need to increase the grille surface area to improve cooling. The new grille design for the Ram Limited also shared the same functional requirements, but the inspiration and approach was different. With the Limited’s liberal use of chrome, and more understated premium look, at first we thought it was being positioned similarly to the GMC Sierra Denali, however Howell said the primary inspiration was the 1939 Dodge pickup, with its prominent use of horizontal elements in the grille. When asked if the block-letter Ram logo will ultimately replace the current “crosshair” grille on other Ram models, Howell said, “If you look at our 2015 model year lineup, the crosshair design will be the predominant one you’ll see on the road. Going forward, it’s too early to say.” Howell added the decision to go with the block logo for the Rebel and Limited wasn’t guided by feedback from focus groups, but from an internal decision.
The Inside Story
We also had a chance to talk to Ryan Nagode, head of Ram interior design, about the inspiration and approach for the Ram’s interiors, which are among some of the Truck Trend staff’s favorites among current fullsize trucks. For many years, Chrysler products had an unfortunate reputation among many consumers for having cheap, uninspired interiors. Under previous management, this was largely driven by decisions related to cost, as well as a general emphasis on exterior styling, with interior design being a secondary consideration. When design work began on what was to become the 2013 model, Nagode said the interior design team took initiative, and showed management how good the interior could look with just an incremental increase in cost. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the go-ahead was given to increase the quality of interior materials in the new trucks. As with the case of the grille design, functionality is as, if not more important than aesthetics in interior design, especially in the context of trucks. “The redundancy of controls is a big thing. We wanted to make sure with a single touch of a button, you can get to the commonly-used controls,” Nagode said.
Photo 8/9   |   2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Interior
Both designers said the Ram team is driven by a desire for continuous innovation and improvement, to continue to surprise and delight customers with useful design features. Although the competitive landscape with fullsize trucks is constantly changing, Ram has already made its mark in the marketplace by offering handsomely-styled trucks with the features and attributes many buyers are looking for, and isn’t content to rest on its laurels.
Photo 9/9   |   2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Cabin 1

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