RAM Trucks wants a bigger piece of hot heavy-duty trucks with new Detroit debut

RAM Trucks has stolen the limelight with its 1500 pickup truck in the eyes of many auto industry watchers. Now it wants to spread a bit of that magic out to larger work pickups.

Fiat Chrysler released an updated lineup of heavy-duty pickups at the Detroit auto show on Monday.

With the new models, RAM is aiming at truck buyers who want to use the truck for work, but also want nice interiors and features that make the truck usable as a family or recreational vehicle on the weekend.

While the trucks have serious towing capability and payload capacity, RAM is also outfitting them with features designed to make the ride as pleasant as possible for drivers. Cabins are equipped with active noise cancellation, anti-vibration devices and acoustic glass.

The truck maker also says it has exclusive rear air suspension that has a special driver-activated Bed Lowering mode, a normal mode for driving with a payload in the bed and a Trailer-Tow Mode.

The introduction of the new vehicles is another shot fired in the ongoing battle between the three big American truck makers.

U.S. truck sales, especially full-size truck sales are dominated by the three American manufacturers: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. RAM has historically come in third place in sales, behind Ford and GM.

But bold design choices and upscale, feature-rich interiors have earned RAM’s light duty full-size line, the RAM 1500, has praise from critics and a jump in sales.

“It’s all part of the truck wars,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, a website that connects car buyers and sellers.

Commercial and work-focused trucks and vans were extremely good in 2018, she said. Sales defied Autotrader forecasts by rising instead of falling, in large part because tax reform provided a benefit for businesses to buy vehicles.

“If you looked at the commercial van segment, that was up,” she said. “Big trucks were up. Ford has done very well with its Super Duty trucks. So Ram is looking at doing just as well. And GM is coming out with a new Silverado medium duty and heavy duty this year. So it’s the war of the big trucks this year.”

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