Pickup trucks where once just a bed with 4 wheels. They were large tools with strictly utilitarian applications. Workhorses of the farm and mules of the construction zone, trucks belonged there and only there.
There was always a downfall with trucks of yesteryear. Limited seating, poor fuel economy, dismal ride, and nonexistent luxury.
Growing up, my father had a pickup but we never took it on longer trips. Our minivan and family car received that distinction. Mom pointed out, on occasion, the truck lacked legroom and was uncomfortable.
“I don’t think a lot of people outside the pickup truck business think about things this way but trucks were traditionally rejected for all the sacrifices you had to make to own one.” ~ Kevin Metz, Head of Ram Brand Marketing.
Winds of change swept through the pickup truck business. They were no longer lumbering giants as aerodynamic, performance, and luxury refinements came. Trucks were now more family practical with the arrival of crew cab configurations.
Higher trim levels provided creature comforts like heated leather and navigation.
Pickup trucks, throughout the 2000’s, continued this trend, incorporating elements not typically seen in their history. Purposeful utility still remained but the truck image was different.
Then winds of change swept through again . . .
The American automotive industry took a hit as did the most prolific city in the United States. The reset button was thrown and when the power came back on, it was fair to say, a certain amount of disarray, anger, and sadness loomed.
When dust settles after moments like this, the inevitable “what now” anxiety rises.
The evolution of the pickup truck was still there, despite the fallout. That continuing trend was waiting, not just to be restarted, but reclaimed. And if a particular manufacturer could get that trend moving again, they just might be able to redefine it.
That’s exactly what Ram Trucks did.
It took getting back to the basics of the pickup truck, back to good old fashioned functionality.
“Quality, durability, and reliability – that’s what our customers want in pickup trucks. People are buying them for towing and hauling and so they need them to be reliable and durable. It’s critical.” ~ Kevin Metz
Ensuring such functionality, day in and day out, year round, in all types of climates and conditions takes unparalleled commitment. To reinvent a segment, specifically trucks, quality, durability, and reliability must be more than plain text in a product brochure.
“We have a tried and proven pickup because before we put the vehicle on the road, we make sure it meets all of our standards.” ~ Kevin Metz
Rigorous, repetitive testing is done in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the home of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Ram trucks then run prominent FCA proving grounds elsewhere in Michigan and Arizona.
Ram visits a multitude of sites all over the nation too, each with their own naturally occurring obstacles and environments.
Ram is faced with some of the harshest testing in the world known as 95th percentile. Severe and extreme “driving profiles” are created and combined together in one cycle to ensure Ram’s quality, durability, and reliability.
This past winter, Ram Heavy Duty traveled to Houghton, Michigan, an ideal location for 95th percentile testing.
Aggressive 95th percentile protocols allow Ram to maintain a utilitarian nature, yet bend an evolving truck trend in their favor, for a best of all worlds approach.
“When you look at Ram today, you see a truck that sits 6 passengers comfortably; that handles and rides like a large sedan and performs as good or better than any other vehicle out there. And it can tow 10,000 lbs. and haul a load of dirt. There is no sacrifice anymore.” ~ Kevin Metz
The truck segment is similar to sports. Competition is fierce, people are cheering for one particular team, and certain trophies are deemed special. Those trophies, when hoisted high, represent victory.
For truck manufactures and owners, the coveted titles are things like towing, payload, and fuel efficiency. All the 95th Percentile testing has worked – Ram leads and innovates in every title important to buyers in the pickup segment and customers have taken notice.
“More people are switching over to Ram Trucks then ever before. We did 61 consecutive months of year over year sales growth and almost doubled our share of the pickup business since 2009. We have the best-in-class fuel economy with light duty pickups with 29 miles to the gallon. We have the best towing capability in class for both 2500 and 3500. You can’t have that streak of 5 years unless you are doing things right and producing high quality products. Ram consistently breaks through the clutter and wins awards. There is no better feeling.” ~ Kevin Metz
Ram representatives spend time with customers too, speaking with them and gathering insights.
I tell people all the time: I can’t imagine a better brand to work for because we build products that appeal to such a broad base of customers. And my favorite part of the job is interacting with them, be it at rodeos and trade shows or on the ranches or oil rigs. It’s all based on listening to what our customers have to say and having a truck that meets their needs.” ~ Kevin Metz
Thousands of dedicated FCA employees, between Warren, Michigan and Saltillo, Mexico manufacture Ram.
They are every bit as proud to work on this product given the success it has had. It is important to them that they do the work absolutely right – that every nut, bolt, screw, and drop of paint comes together properly. That’s being done successfully and I know there is a tremendous amount of pride in our workforce. ~ Kevin Metz
Last year, I was driving a Ram EcoDiesel with a 16 foot trailer attached. I was infinitely taken by the September sun reflecting off the Granite Crystal Metallic.
While traveling uphill, on the interstate, I encountered a slower car.
I checked the big tow mirrors and upon seeing a clear path, I signaled into the left lane and hit the accelerator.
The EcoDiesel echoed a dignified yet aggressive sound. I checked my mirrors again to see the rear wheels igniting the pavement with a certain confidence – faster and faster they turned, unaffected by the hill or 5,700 lbs. trailer.
The 20 inch wheels now reflected the same September sun.
As I passed the car, the driver was staring directly at me.
He adjusted his black rimmed glasses and gave me a thumbs up. A sign of approval for sure and perhaps a subtle communication saying he would rather be driving the Ram.
As I moved around him and returned to the right lane, my own realization about the brand came. I crested the hill and felt on top of the world. Yet, I saw much road left on my journey.
The Ram Brand feels a similar way.
“We own the claims that are important in the pickup business but we are going to continue to innovate. We are not stopping.” ~ Kevin Metz
Photos: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles