It’s the toughest recession in decades. Many companies find themselves consolidating or shrinking to save money, but Chrysler is trying to grow by splitting Dodge cars from trucks to create the new Ram brand just for pickups and commercial vans. Here are five reasons why it’s wrong to divorce Ram trucks from the Dodge brand:
1.) Dodge Ram pickup truck owners say they drive a “Dodge Ram.”
Most of the owners we talk to automatically say they drive a Dodge Ram when we ask them what they drive. Isn’t the customer always right? How long is it going to take Dodge Ram owners to drop the Dodge from their vocabulary, especially if they’ve owned two or more Dodge Ram pickups? And what about the Dodge Dakota? It’s scheduled to end production by 2011. Will it be called the Ram Dakota for the rest of its short life? Ten years from now, will Ram trucks be able to connect with new customers by recalling their historic Dodge ancestors from the 20th century? Dropping the Dodge name leaves a huge void in front of Ram trucks.
2.) A high-mileage, unibody Dakota replacement could weaken the new Ram brand
Fred Diaz, the new Ram brand president and CEO, says that Chrysler is exploring building a unibody pickup, possibly based on a Fiat platform. If the Ram brand is going to emphasize tough trucks for tough truckers, how will a unibody pickup that’s focused on high MPG instead of hauling high lbs. fit within the Ram brand’s hard-working image? The Honda Ridgeline has already proven – painfully -- that traditional truck buyers are highly unlikely to purchase a less-capable pickup. The “image” small-pickup buyers from the 1990s and early 2000s seem to be gone for good.
3.) Ram pickups are the best-selling Chrysler vehicle
Ram pickups are the best-selling vehicles in Chrysler’s portfolio and pickup trucks and commercial vans make up just under 40 percent of 2009 year-to-date Dodge car and truck sales. Why force the best-performing vehicle to undergo such a dramatic change to its identity? Diaz says it’s to get the cars out from underneath the Dodge Ram’s shadow, so they can start to grow. Wouldn’t it be smarter to do this the other way around?
4.) Dodge cars and Ram trucks will still be sold under one roof
After all of the effort to create a distinct new identity for Ram trucks, you’ll still need to go to a consolidated Dodge-Ram-Jeep-Chrysler dealer to buy a Ram truck. If you’re going to the same place to buy, then don’t change the name. Good luck to those Ram dealers who are going to have to start marketing 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups. Boy, those names stir the soul, don’t they?
5.) Dodge truck owners are more passionate than Dodge car owners
Dodge Ram truck owners are passionate about their pickups. They’ll defend their pickup to other truck owners. Aside from the few Challenger and Viper owners, would a Caravan or Caliber owner do the same? It’s unlikely. If Ram owners are passionate sales people for the truck, why let the less loyal Dodge owners drive away with the brand?
Bottom line: We like the new Ram trucks -- particularly the 2010 Heavy Duty pickups -- and having just heard Chrysler’s 2010-14 business plan presentation, we know Chrysler’s executives still love these hard working rigs too. But divorcing Ram from Dodge could end up angering many of Chrysler’s most loyal customers. What’s the benefit in that?