Chrysler’s Ram truck division has announced that it will launch a diesel version of its popular Ram 1500 pickup later this year. The truck will be the first half-ton, standard-duty pickup available. Until now, automakers have only offered the diesel option on heavy-duty, three-quarter-ton pickups.
The news has taken many industry analysts by surprise. Most have speculated that Nissan or Toyota would be the first to market with a standard-duty diesel-powered pickup. While Toyota has given no indication that such an option is in its near-term future, Nissan’s standard-duty Titan may be available with a diesel, but not until next year at the earliest.
Neither Ford nor GM has indicated that they plan to offer a diesel half-ton pickup. In fact, GM has shifted much of its focus on compact pickups.
Ram CEO of Chrysler de Mexico Fred Diaz says the company’s research has shown that “customers have been emphatically asking for this, thirsting for it, craving it.” Some analysts have predicted first year sales of 10,000 units.
The diesel Ram 1500 will feature a 3-liter turbo V-6 produced by Italian engine maker VM Motori. The same engine will also be available in the Jeep Grand Cherokee starting this May. In the Grand Cherokee, the engine is rated at 240hp and 420 pounds feet of torque; better than the specs for Chrysler’s Hemi gasoline V-8.
VM Motori is jointly owned by Fiat S.p.A., which controls Chrysler, and GM and some have speculated that GM may indeed begin offering diesel versions of its standard-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra half-ton pickups if the Ram 1500 sells as well as expected.
Chrysler’s announcement of a diesel-powered half-ton pickup later this year has stolen the spotlight from the upcoming launch of the redesigned Silverado and Sierra pickups. GM had hoped that the redesigns might breathe new life into its sputtering truck sales.
Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell doesn’t expect the diesel Ram 1500 to capture much of GM’s share of the truck market because of the extremely high brand loyalty among truck owners. She does, however, admit that demand for diesel vehicles is high among U.S. consumers.
The Ram 1500 diesel option is expected to hit the market during the third quarter. Pricing has not yet been announced.