The ute market in Australia is now so huge that some of the biggest pick-ups in the world are about to hit our roads.
Super-sized Dodge Ram pick-ups are coming to Australia in a top-secret deal that will see experts from Holden Special Vehicles complete the conversion from left to right-hand-drive.
It's the first time a full-size US pick-up will be sold in Australia with manufacturer backing since the iconic Ford F-Series pick-up was dropped locally in 2007.
Ram pick-ups will go on sale in Australia and New Zealand by the end of this year
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' global head office has awarded exclusive rights to a local distributor who will convert Dodge Ram pick-ups for Australia.
Industry sources say the parent company of Holden Special Vehicles, the Walkinshaw Group, which can undertake contract work outside of General Motors, has been closely involved in the engineering process.
"We will not confirm or deny any other partners other than Fiat Chrysler Group globally," said Clyde Campbell, the former boss of Fiat Chrysler Australia who is now the distributor for Fiat and Chysler vehicles in New Zealand and is heading up the Dodge Ram deal.
Mr Campbell said his company had chosen "a conversion and engineering partner who provides unrivalled engineering excellence to world-class standards" and who have "an impeccable reputation on a global level in both the motor racing and automotive industries."
The vehicles are expected to start from $120,000
Mr Campbell confirmed Ram pick-ups will go on sale in Australia and New Zealand by the end of this year.
Price and details are yet to be announced but the vehicles are expected to start from $120,000, before more affordable models follow.
The biggest of the Dodge Ram pick-ups coming to Australia can carry more than 3 tonnes in the ute tub (versus the current category maximum of 1 tonne) and tow more than 7 tonnes (versus the current category maximum of 3.5 tonnes).
Mr Campbell said the vehicles will meet "all government requirements for full volume certification".
Translated, that means the vehicles will meet the same standards as mass production vehicles; most vehicles converted by smaller operators locally do not meet these mass production standards.
Clearly there is demand for this type of vehicle, both in private and fleet sales
Utes are now the third biggest category in Australia and four of the Top 10 vehicles are workhorses.
The Toyota HiLux has been our top-selling vehicle outright more than a dozen months since April 2008.
"Clearly there is demand for this type of vehicle, both in private and fleet sales," said Mr Campbell.
Dodge Ram is expected to target the mining industry, which needs heavy duty utes, and grey nomads, who want to tow large caravans.
"Until now, the only way to own one of these vehicles in Australia was through a low volume aftermarket conversion," said Mr Campbell.
"Our vehicles are being developed with the full blessing of Ram and the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles global group."
Mr Campbell said his company had been working closely with engineers in the US to build a vehicle that is "as close to a factory right-hand-drive vehicle as it possibly can be without having run down the production line".