Recently, Muscle Cars & Trucks (MC&T) had a chance to sit down and talk to Ram CEO Mike Koval, Jr. during the media day at Roadkill Nights a couple of weeks ago, to talk about the future of the Ram brand. The MC&T talked with Koval on several topics, including midsized pickups, electrification, and the future of Ram TRX.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the future of the Ram Truck brand is whether there will be a midsized pickup in the future. Ram does offer smaller pickups outside the North American market, but could we ever see any of them here? Well, MC&T asked Koval about such a vehicle, and his answer was quite surprising.
“We’re obviously looking at it very very closely, but nothing to announce today,” Koval stated to MC&T. “We also have access to different platforms, so I’m looking at other alternatives and other opportunities that we currently have for sale in other markets. There are challenges with homologation and federalization, it’s never easy. I’m absolutely looking at it, I promise you that, as prices have crept up I think there’s opportunity in that small truck portion in the U.S. market, and that’s where I’m looking to leverage part of our portfolio that may exist in other countries and potentially bringing something here.”
With the recent announcement of the discontinuation of the HEMI engines in the Dodge L-series cars, there have been a lot of questions about the future of the Ram 1500 TRX. When asked, Koval mentioned that there could be a future with a TRX beyond the internal combustion engine (ICE).
“It’s an engineering marvel in and of itself. I think the beautiful thing about that truck and what it’s been able to do for the brand is that it’s given me inspiration for the future, and what I think the electrified future could potentially be like,” Koval exclaimed. “Of course, we don’t have anything to announce today, but boy does it make you wonder. Electrification does not have to be a limiter. I’m very excited [about] what we have planned for the future.”
Another challenge that has been facing the automotive industry has been the continuous semiconductor chip shortage. The shortage has plagued dealers with low inventory issues and has caused customers to order the vehicle through a dealer which has led to long wait periods. MC&T asked Koval about the brand’s sales expectations for 2022, despite the ongoing challenges.
“(The chip shortage) is beginning to stabilize. Every time you think you hit calm waters something pops,” Koval explained. “But I just reviewed the June/July sales performance numbers and it was an excellent month.” He went on to say, “Sure, headwinds are all over the place, but I think our customers are resilient and there’s still plenty of demand in terms of truck and van sales. I think it will be a race to the finish in 2022 but I’m very pleased and confident in the outlook for the rest of the year.”
The upcoming Ram 1500 battery-electric vehicle (BEV) is probably one of the most talked about vehicles in the Stellantis lineup. Scheduled to start production in 2024, we should see a conceptual version of the new truck in November. But there are still a lot of questions surrounding the truck that will take Ram’s pickups in the electrification direction. MC&T asked Koval about the upcoming truck, and he steered clear from specifics.
“We have clarity of vision, clarity of focus, clarity of purpose,” he said. “It is a distinct competitive advantage for our brand that with full knowledge of what our competitors are doing, we will deliver the best electric half-ton pickup in 2024 where it matters the most: towing, payload, range, and most importantly, charge time.”
But how will it stand against the Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EV?
“I think what’s gonna differentiate Ram from our competitors is that we’re gonna offer a fuller suite of electrified solutions,” Koval stated. “One size doesn’t fit all in electrification.”
What he is referring to is the Range Electric Paradigm Breaker (REPB) variant, that will be produced alongside the Ram 1500 BEV. According to our inside sources, as we explained in an earlier post, the REPB will use an ICE to work as a generator to charge the battery pack for the electric drive motors, if the batteries are in need of a charge beyond a certain point. The ICE engine would not be powering the wheels directly, similar to the system found on the Chevrolet Volt sedan.
As for the brand’s “Ram Revolution” website, the exclusive insider program that fans of the Ram Truck brand can join to keep updated on the progress of the Ram 1500 BEV, Koval explained that the website has gained a lot of traction over the past several months.
“Tens of thousands of people are signed up to the website,” said Koval. “Think about it as a backstage pass, we give them images before we release them, sometimes we give them images before nobody else sees. We’re sending engineers and designers to these events, having real conversations with real truck owners. I want all of the feedback; the good, the bad, the ugly.”
“Feedback ranges from the benign to the absurd,” Koval continued. “Research is showing us that more and more truck intenders are open-minded to the idea of heavy electrification, but they don’t want to compromise on those core attributes like towing and hauling, and range anxiety has probably bubbled up as the number one issue. I think Ram will address that better than anyone.”
MC&T also pressed Koval about the recently unveiled and revised Ram ProMaster van. The Ram ProMaster has continued to grow in popularity. With the ever-growing “van life” segment, Ford is looking at seizing on an off-road opportunity with the upcoming Transit Trail.
“Absolutely (opportunity in off-road vans),” Koval told MC&T. “We made it to Overland Expo West, with plans to go back this year, we’ve really cultivated a nice following in that space. Just in general, the demand for ProMaster large vans has been through the roof. I’m literally looking all over the planet to find more capacity for ProMaster large vans, we can’t build them fast enough.”
With that last comment, we recently talked about the possibility of Ram looking to expand production of the ProMaster by having some units assembled in Europe, alongside its Fiat Ducato, Citroën Jumper, Opel/Vauxhall Movano, and Peugeot Boxer, cousins.
Koval went on to say, “We actually kick off our electrified journey next year with a Ram ProMaster BEV that will build [at] Saltillo van (in Mexico). We’ve already announced that Amazon is our first large commercial customer, but there are many others. Very, very strong early demand in that space.”
Source: Muscle Cars & Trucks