After surviving bankruptcy during the last economic recession, Ram has stormed the pick-up truck market with a vengeance. Worried rivals Ford and GM tweak their lineup to better compete in the most profitable segment of automotive industry.
A little history
The brand name Ram was previously part of Dodge which first started assembling vehicles back in 1914. Dodge was founded as the Dodge Brothers Company and it was not an automaker, but a machine shop by brothers Horace Elgin Dodge and John Francis Dodge. During the early 1900s, the company was originally making parts for automakers based in Detroit.
The name Ram was first used on Dodge trucks made during 1932 to 1954. It was then used on the redesigned 1981 Ram and Power Ram after the retirement of Dodge D Series and B Series vans. They were later known as first generation of Ram trucks featuring Ram hood ornament, but the ornament was not on all trucks, they were mostly seen on 4×4 models.
Although these trucks were famous, they did not sell very well. They had mostly under 100,000 units sold per annum which was far lower number compared to Ford F-Series and Chevrolet C/K trucks. One of the main reason was due to the dated cab and chassis design which had been in production since 1972. There were other reasons too, like there was no powerful diesel or big-block gas V8 option until 1989. Also, there were not many updates to the interior since 1981.
The Dodge brand has been through multiple ownerships. It was under Chrysler from 1998 to 2009, then it was merged with Daimler-Benz AG from 1998 to 2007 which was short lived. It was later sold to Cerberus Capital Management, an American private equity firm, specializing in distressed investing. In 2009 chapter 11 bankruptcy was filed and it was bailed out by US government and acquired by Fiat, an Italian automobile manufacturer. Fiat formed a partnership with Chrysler under the supervision of Sergio Marchionne (an Italian-Canadian businessman), with the UAW, and the US Government to form Chrysler Group LLC, of which Dodge remained fully integrated.
The Rise of Ram
After the acquisition by Fiat, the new CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Michael Manley decided to split the Dodge name from Ram. He made his ambitions clear, that he wanted Ram to become one of the top selling pick-up truck in the US. Many in the industry thought the decision to split the name was foolish, but obviously they were proven wrong.
In 2010, GM and Ford had roughly the same pickup truck market share, Ford had 32.6% percent and GM had 32.2%. Ram only had 14.6% share or 199,652 units sold. Over the next 8 years Ram grew its market share to 22.2% while Ford lost 1% and GM lost about 5%. Ram is not only eating up the big two, Toyota also lost its share from 6.8% to 4.9% in 8 year. This year Ram has overtaken Chevrolet Silverado as the second best selling pick-up truck, Ford F-Series remain the first.
How they achieved this is by offering better technology, comfort and particularly interior design. If you look at today’s Ram, it has giant 12 inch screen fitted as infotainment system. Truck owners are now more accepting of technology than they ever have been. According to Ram, over 50% of their trucks sold are used as family trucks. Pickup-up truck owners are known to be the most brand loyal in the automotive market. Ford buyers generally don’t buy GM trucks, GM buyers don’t buy Ford trucks, but what’s surprising is both of them are willing to buy Ram trucks.