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Ram a potential Ford rival

The top end of the working ute business has been barren since Ford ran out of F-Series trucks, following the end of right-hand drive production in South America, which has created an opportunity for Chrysler.

The American company is now mounting a detailed investigation into the potential for the Ram in Australia, as it prepares for the next all-new model, and the chance of right-hand drive trucks for overseas sales.

"There’s an opportunity with the Ram. I think it's worth investigating," Chrysler's senior manager for international product, Kevin Tourneur, says.

He attended the Australian press preview of the new Jeep Patriot and Dodge Avenger in New Zealand last week and now has a strong understanding of the opportunityl for the Ram.

“We don’t know if the time is right yet to bring it in, but this would be the time to start thinking about it. It's a matter of working with the markets," Tourneur says.

He believes Australia's traditional support for both commercial and sports utes, over more than 40 years, points to the potential with Chrysler's long-running rival to Ford's F-Series, which is the world's favourite truck.

"But you need to have sustainable demand, because the Ram is not right-hand drive and was not developed with right-hand drive in mind, so there would be a lot of engineering work," he says.

Chrysler Group Australia’s managing director, Gerry Jenkins, believes the Ram has a place on our roads and is keen to see it here.

"We’d love to have Ram here . . . I’m really excited about the idea,” Jenkins says.

"It’s not entirely about the numbers, but there probably needs to be demand for about 10,000 a year right-hand drive in the international market before it’s viable."

"I think we could sell 3000 a year in Australia, especially with the Cummins diesel engine. There’s really nobody in that large ute market, there’s no competition.”

The commercial market has big potential for the Ram, according to Chrysler spokesman, David McCarthy.

"If we brought the Ram here, more than half would be cab-chassis for ambulance and food delivery use,” McCarthy says.

Jenkins says he has already had a stream of inquiries about the Ram from a mining company in Western Australia, and impressed by their persistence, eventually flew over and met with them.

"We’re going to supply some to them, but they will be left-hand drive," he says.

However, Jenkins says converting Rams to right-hand drive is not an option he wants to consider for the broader Australian market.

`"We’re not going to do conversions . . . we’re only interested in getting one that’s ADR compliant. People want the authentic product.”

Jenkins says the same approach would apply if there was a chance to bring the latest Dodge Charger here, which will be unlikely as long as demand for the left-hand drive version continues to outstrip supply.

"Could we sell it in Australia? Of course we could,” he says.

"I think it’s the best-looking car we have. But it’s not really a possibility right now.”

Tourneur says the strong American styling of Dodge vehicles, including the Ram and Charger, is the key to the brand's growing success.

There’s no point in us trying to follow European design. If people want European, they’ll buy European," he says.

"We need to stay true to the US style. That unique design, that’s what we can bring. People all over the world want to be different.

"The character about Dodge is DNA from the trucks and the 70s muscle car phase . . . strong emotions and passion. Every product has to have a certain `Dodgeness.’


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