Ram is dipping its toe further into Australian waters next month by presenting a smaller truck at a Melbourne outdoor show, as an attempt to gauge public opinion.
The Ram 1500 Rebel – smaller sibling to the 2500 and 3500 already on sale locally – will expand sales for importer American Special Vehicles and move it directly into the V8-engined ute sector, partially left vacant by the Holden Commodore-based Ute and Ford ute models.
Drivetrain and body options for Australia are unknown at this stage, or if the 1500 Rebel will arrive in its planned 2019 model year form, which is set to be unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January next year.
ASV spokesman Edward Rowe said the 1500 will be shown at the 2017 National 4x4 Outdoors Show, Fishing & Boating Expo - on in Melbourne from August 18-20 - to assess public opinion.
"We have three body and three drivetrain choices, plus countless accessories and options available to us in the 1500 range," he said.
"The display vehicle is the flagship Rebel model. It will allow people to make decisions about what they would like to see in the new truck."
The truck to be displayed will have a 291kW 5.7-litre HEMI petrol V8 engine, though Ram can also supply the light-duty - as compared with the heavy-duty tag of the 2500 and 3500 - truck with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol and 3.0-litre turbo-diesel.
ASV - a joint venture between importers Ateco Automotive and Walkinshaw Automotive Group - re-engineers the Ram trucks for Australia, including changing them to right-hand drive, at its factory in Melbourne's Clayton South.
Unlike the bigger trucks, the 1500 looks different and even discards the traditional cross-hair grille design.
The 1500 will require extra work because in changing the steering position, ASV must adapt the new electric-assist steering system. The 2500 and 3500 have hydraulic-assist steering systems.
Unlike the bigger trucks, the 1500 looks different and even discards the traditional cross-hair grille design. It also has a blacked-out grille with the Ram name spelt out in chrome.
Ram general manager Alex Stewart said the 1500 will take the Ram brand in a new direction for Australia.
"That new grille, the powerhouse that is the HEMI V8 and a range of changes to the trim and equipment make it clear that this Ram is charging after a very different customer group than the 2500 and the 3500," he said.
The new truck is expected to be available in Australia in around mid-2018. There has been no announcement on price, though it will be cheaper than the 2500 and 3500 which are $139,500 and $146,500 (before on-roads) respectively.
"Anyone who thought the era of driving a thundering V8 powered ute in Australia was over had better head to Melbourne see the Ram 1500 Rebel," said Mr Stewart.