RAM raid confirmed – but price still being sorted

Dodge’s mighty RAM truck is about to headbutt its way into the New Zealand utility scene.


CONFIRMATION that the biggest utility Dodge makes for North America is about to become available in New Zealand has come while the distributor’s boss is in Detroit trying to sort pricing.

Prospective buyers might be already be making sense of the dollars required to buy into the Dodge RAM, of course.

This big presence model starts at $139,500 and reaches up to $146,000 in Australia, the effective sourcing point for RAM because that’s where it is re-engineered into right-hand-drive by a factory-sanctioned Melbourne specialist.

However distributor Fiat Chrysler New Zealand, which plans to debut the RAM at Fieldays next week, says it doesn’t expect to be able to immediately disclose the local prices, the full model lineup or how many of its dealers will sell the gargantuan rig.

For now FCNZ is saying only that it expects the truck to be available across NZ.

When MotoringNetwork sought comment from FCNZ boss David Smitherman yesterday, it found him in Detroit and deep into negotiations.

He arranged for Edward Rowe, an automotive industry media and public relations consultant who is based in Sydney and has a long working association with FCNZ owner Ateco Automotive, to offer comment on behalf of the company.

Rowe explained Smitherman is in the US “finalising RAM pricing and specification in New Zealand – needless to say he is keen to get the best possible pricing and specification for New Zealand.”

Smitherman said he will be back in time for the Fieldays’ event, which Rowe described as being a preview occasion.

“As you could imagine, Fieldays is such a major event in the NZ business calendar it was too good to miss so close (sic) the NZ so David and his team pulled out the stops to get them there.”

Talk about RAM coming here has been brewing for some time; MotoringNetwork understands Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealers here were first canvassed about the idea two years ago. The concept of selling new XXL-sized American trucks is not wholly new; Ford had right-hand driver F-Series models, factory-built in South America, here from 2002 until around 2005.

RAM launched in Australia late last year with expectation of 30 dealers by mid-2016 and ultimately annual sales of 1000 units across the water.

The operation requires US-made trucks to be shipped to American Specialist Vehicles for conversion. AEV is a partnership between Ateco Automotive, the importer run by now Sydney-domiciled Kiwi entrepreneur Neville Crichton, and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group.

AEV reworks two variants, the RAM 2500 and the RAM 3500. Both are powered by a 6.7-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine producing 276kW and 1084Nm of torque,.

Information sent out by FCNZ says RAM is the fastest growing truck brand in the United States.

“Since its launch as a stand-alone division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2009, the RAM Truck brand has steadily emerged as an industry leader with US sales over 40,000 trucks per month.”

It says that, with RAM not being factory-build in right-hand-drive, AEV has undertaken to “completely remanufacture” vehicles to that configuration on a purpose-built production line in Melbourne.

It is not clear if the RAM hardware requires drivers to hold a Heavy Transport authorisation. They are certainly heavy duty.

Depending on the type of towing arrangement utilised, RAM Trucks feature an enormous towing capacity of up to 6989kg for the RAM 2500 and 6170kg for the RAM 3500. Payload is 913kg for the RAM 2500 and 1713kg for the RAM 3500.

All that power and weight is fed to the road via a 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission, which includes driver-adaptive shifting and three multiple clutch packs, dual filters on a dual stage pump and an independent lubrication cooler.

Equipment runs to leather trimmed seats, heated and ventilated in the front with 10-way power adjustment for the driver and six way adjustment for the front passenger. Then there’s a heated, leather bound steering wheel with integrated audio controls to turn the power steering, dual zone climate control, tinted power windows, a 20cm touchscreen display, a 17cm multi-view cluster, a nine speaker sound system with subwoofer, ports for mobile devices and a media hub with Bluetooth.

RAM trucks have multi-stage front airbags, front and rear seat curtain airbags, electronic stability control, rear park assist and rear view camera, an eye level brake light with cargo camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system and remote keyless entry.

John DiBerardino, joint chief operating officer of American Special Vehicles, says the conversion goal was “to produce a right hand drive RAM truck that meets the engineering standards, quality and refinement of the left hand drive product.

“We have spent tens of thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars to make sure we get this right. I believe that the RAM trucks engineered by American Special Vehicles have set a new benchmark - they are spot on.”

The American Special Vehicles’ trucks are covered by a three year, 100,000km warranty along with full parts and service support.