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Hopes rise for the red-hot Ram

The Dodge Ram is a symbol of Chrysler's resurgence.

After failing to bring the two previous models of the Dodge Ram here despite strong interest, it seems Chrysler isn't ruling out that theone unveiled this week could be released with right-hand drive.

“Everything's under consideration,” Chrysler president Jim Press says. But he won't comment on which of the Ram's powertrains may be considered suitable for Australia.

The Ram will launch in the US withthree engines: a 283kW/548Nm, 5.7-litre Hemi V8, a 231kW/447Nm, 4.7-litre V8 and a 160kW/319Nm, 3.7-litre V6.

Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and four- and five-speed automatics, with part-time and on-demand four-wheel-drive transfer cases in regular, crew and quad-cab bodies with three tray lengths.

The Ram's chances of finally gaining an Australian visa may be improved by the new Cerberus management team's focus on export markets.

“Global growth is an imperative for the new Chrysler,” chairman Bob Nardelli says.

Pointing out that the company sold almost 2.7 million cars last year, with sales outside the US up 15 per cent, Nardelli is confident the car-maker is on the right path.

“You do the maths: if you can grow 15 per cent a year, you can double the business every five years,” he says.

Nardelli says a lot of changes have been made on Cerberus's watch.

Decision-making is a lot swifter since the divorce from Daimler because the process doesn't have to detour through Germany, he says.

“We've demonstrated our ability with speed and decisiveness.

“We've already approved 200 changes to our existing portfolio, and those changes will move to product that's on the drawing board.

“We've made some tough decisions. We don't have a lot of fat; we've got muscle now. There's a strong heartbeat in Chrysler.”

Part of what has kept that organ beating over the past few years has been Chrysler's adventurous approach to vehicle design -and that's something the new management is intent on continuing.

Asked whether the company can afford to keep producing risk-taking styling, Jim Press replies that it will have to, in order to survive.

“I don't see it as risk-taking design so much as great design,” Press says.

“We need to continue to have an understanding of what customers want.

“And that's not an appliance — it's a visceral experience, a passionate one.”