RAM set to wham into ute sector

The ‘baby’ RAM pick-up is coming to butt heads with high-end one-tonne utes.


INCOMING top-shelf one-tonne utes from Mercedes Benz, Ford, Holden Special Vehicles and Volkswagen are likely to face a challenge from an American heavy-hitter, with confirmation that the entry RAM pick-up is set to enter the market from mid-year.

While importer Ateco Group has yet to announce pricing for the RAM 1500 – a baby brother to the extra-large RAM 2500 and 3500 editions it has been shipping in for around 18 months – conjecture is that the model will be the first full-size pick-up to be offered in New Zealand for around the same price as a top-shelf mid-size ute.

The chief competitors could well therefore be the new Mercedes Benz X-Class in V6 format, HSV’s edition of the Holden Colorado, the impending Ford Ranger Raptor and a 190kW edition of the VW Amarok. All are coming in over the next few months and have priced – or are expected to sit – in the same $85k-plus zone that the big Yank will likely occupy.


Ateco’s plan to deliver the 1500 have been an open secret for some months. Today it confirmed the process will involved four-door crew-cab and double-cab forms, in two trim levels and with five or six seats.

The sole powertrain is a 5.7-litre V8 HEMI petrol engine, but there is talk that a diesel might still be on the cards.

The model that arrives around June is not the 2019 edition unveiled at last month’s Detroit motor show, but is instead the fourth-generation vehicle that Americans and Canadians are now farewelling from their markets.

MotoringNZ.com understands the new MY19 model – pictured below - is still not being excluded from Ateco’s thoughts – the reason why it cannot be sourced now seems to be because Fiat Chrysler is looking into the potential of undertaking a re-engineering exercise that would allow it to be factory-built it as a right-hand-drive product.


If given the big tick, that would be a massive breakthrough: For now, RAM product is only produced in left-hand-drive.

They are shipped to Australia in that state then converted to RHD by American Special Vehicles (ASV), a joint-venture between HSV’s parent company and Ateco based in Melbourne.

The MY19 RAM would be a fully modern addition as it has significant technology improvements over the gen four edition – including more driver and safety assists (including adaptive cruise-control, forward-collision warning, trailer-sway damping control, lane-departure warning and parking assist) plus a massive central 12-inch portrait infotainment screen - and a mild hybrid boost of the engine to take the edge off its thirst and also presents a more modern styling, with two bold new front-end designs.

Even so, while the vehicle coming for now is far more old-school, when it comes to the main attractions of bulk, and brawn, it is fully on target.

Although its payloads will be similar to that of many existing ‘one-tonners’, the RAM 1500’s trump card will be towing capacity. While utes can carry ‘only’ around a tonne and tow 3500kg, the RAM 1500 can haul up to 5750kg. The appeal to the caravan, boating and equestrian sectors is therefore obvious.


As well, Ateco says the RAM 1500 will deliver class-leading power, cab size and cargo space, with a tub length of up to nearly two metres and options like the unique RamBox Cargo Management System.

Ateco says the conversion to RHD is a full remanufacturing process. 

The chassis and body are first separated before a re-engineered RHD specific steering system is fitted, then a new dashboard which was designed, developed and produced in Australia is installed along with a RHD-specific heating and ventilation system before the body and chassis are re-married to produce the final product.

The work is so substantial that it requires production line levels of quality, fit and finish, and a height of engineering excellence that means it is officially classed as a remanufactured vehicle, not a conversion.

The vehicles are then sent to New Zealand for to be sold through a nationwide RAM dealer network and backed by a comprehensive three year/100,000 km warranty.

“The RAM range is remanufactured to meet New Zealand market demands,” says NZ boss David Smitherman.

“This means that the RAM 2500 and 3500 now and from mid-year the 1500, offer a range of unique abilities, be it the towing capacity, the size of the tray or space in the cab and much more that cannot be matched by their rivals and which make them ideal for both business and leisure use in New Zealand.

“The 2500 and 3500 has introduced RAM to New Zealand; the 1500 will take RAM to a whole new level.”