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WE ASK RAM BOSS JIM MORRISON 10 QUESTIONS ABOUT THE 2019 RAM 1500
Frank Markus Words February 9, 2018
At the new 2019 Ram 1500’s second auto-show outing, we sat down with Ram brand boss Jim Morrison to talk about how he thinks his new baby stacks up against its freshly introduced competition.
Now that you’ve really had a chance to check out the new Silverado, are you refocusing your marketing message at all?
We have continued to reinforce some of our unique selling propositions—RamBox for example. We launched that idea, it’s accessible from the outside versus having to climb in; the fact that you can actually use the RamBox when the bed is full of stuff, etc.
How can we expect your Hemi eight-speed with 48-volt mild-hybridization to stack up against GM’s seven-cylinder shutoff/10-speed automatic combo in the fuel economy race?
We still have cylinder deactivation technology that takes it down to four cylinders, but we’re taking it to the next level. We’ve got active noise cancellation in the trucks to help us go deeper into the four-cylinder phase and a new frame-shaker to counter vibrations. These new technologies allow us to enhance our existing cylinder-deactivation technology to continue to drive efficiency gains. We’re expecting somewhere in the 10 percent fuel economy improvement with the eTorque technology.
Why is eTorque mild hybridization optional on the V-8, when it’s standard on the V-6?
You know, the V-8 is kind of our proven powertrain—our volume runner—and some of our customers don’t want us to mess with it. They want a straight-up V-8. I think we’ll see the eTorque technology grow over time and maybe someday be standard, but I think it’s best to offer the choice now.
How about versus the closest EcoBoost price competitor from Ford, now with port/direct injection and a 10-speed?
We’ve got a really nice sweet spot with our power and efficiency of our V-8s and now even more efficiency and more power with our V-6s as well. What our customers really like about our powertrains today is that not only are they very proven and reliable, but they also provide a great balance of power and efficiency. And when you work the engines hard with a load or with a trailer, you’re not exponentially decreasing their efficiency as happens with some other technologies. When you’re always working a turbo or you put five guys in the cab or a thousand pounds in the bed, our trucks are happy to work.
EcoDiesel blazed the light-duty diesel trail, and now you’re about to have competition from both Ford and Chevy. How will Ram’s EcoDiesel stack up against this new competition?
I know you’re not quite ready to divulge specs on the EcoDiesel, but as Ford and Chevy ready light diesels of their own, what do you perceive to be the most important customer attribute in this diesel market—EPA ratings? Tow/haul capacities? Overall operating costs?
Overall operating costs, power and durability—sometimes in different order depending on the duty cycle. But I would say that the majority of our diesel customers say operating costs or fuel efficiency is top of mind. I’ve had a million conversations with guys who’ll say ‘I just got 700 miles from the tank’ or ‘I got well into 30 mpg on my road trip.’
Chevy now offers a power tailgate. Will that become a feature Ford and Ram need to replicate/buy patent rights to?
You know, I’ve been driving these trucks home and this is nice [indicates tailgate power release button on overhead console]. We do it on the keyfob too. Power up technology is new, and that’s great, but when I’m walking up with a bag of grain and lower the gate and throw the grain in, then my arms are empty.
Ford and Chevy are apparently reluctant to copy Ram’s good idea about coil or air sprung rear suspension. Can you imagine ever “copying” Ford’s aluminum body construction technology?
We did a lot of research with customers and asked what they want their bed made out of and they came back loud and clear and said steel, so we went with high-strength steel. We use it in the bed and around the people for safety. We have used lightweight aluminum in the tailgate and hood. But we made sure that the bed—nobody will be making that ad about our bed. And hopefully nobody else will adopt our coil-sprung suspension. I have NO idea why they haven’t. I don’t see any downside. This truck will do 12,760 pounds of towing with our eTorque Hemi—that’s well into ¾-ton territory. And 2,300 pounds of payload—if you’re more than that you shouldn’t be driving a light-duty truck. We do all of that with our coil springs. The overall ride comfort as well as confidence when towing is impressive. I just know that, spending every day in a pickup truck, I’m glad we have it.
We tend to attribute Ram’s market-share gains to luring first-time pickup-truck buyers with those smooth-riding coils. When we put this question to Chevy, asking if they considered coils, they posited that it was aggressive pricing that was attracting share. How do Ram’s average transaction prices compare with those of Ford and Chevy?
We are a little bit under Ford and right on Chevy. We were the only domestic that grew pickup truck share last year. It’s a good formula that is working. One of the things I’m proudest of is that we have the highest owner loyalty in the segment. We’ve earned that award two years in a row.
Is this Limited trim level going to be fancy enough?
We are certainly pushing the limits with this guy, and when you compare it with the best the other guys have, you know we have more real wood, more real leather, we have heated and cooled reclining rear seats, the 12-inch screen—all of that stuff takes the luxury segment to the next level. We use real, authentic materials. Even the volume Big Horn model—I’m happy to go toe-to-toe with anybody else’s truck.