The Ram 3500 with the 6.7-liter turbodiesel I-6 is now on sale. We’ve driven and tested it and had time to process the numbers, but quite frankly we are still gobsmacked by that one insane four-digit number.
The Cummins diesel generates a mind-blowing 1,000 lb-ft of torque as well as 400 horsepower, allowing it to tow 35,100 pounds. (Chevy has since topped that with a Silverado HD that can tow 35,500 pounds.) So when we caught up with Jim Morrison, head of the Ram Brand in North America, we had to know the story behind hitting the big 1,000.
Did it start as a joke? A stretch goal to make engineers laugh and cry at the same time?
The story behind the story is marching orders to engineer the new heavy-duty to be the most capable in the marketplace in terms of payload, power, and torque, Morrison tells us. Torque was the biggie since it also affected payload.
Then something mathematical happened. “To drive the 35,100 pounds of trailer tow,” Morrison says, “when the guys did all the math, they came up with something in the high 900s. It was something like 980 or 985 or something like that. And then we were, ‘OK, we’re that close. We gotta be the first truck to get to 1,000.’”
Initially they thought it was a stretch target, but the team kept working. ‘That’s kind of our approach to life at Ram, just keep working until you get there,” Morrison says.
“It was a little bit of a ‘we made it’ moment when he heard back from the Cummins folks that they had dynoed the first one and we had got that,” Morrison says of the first 1,000 reading. “It was a heroic moment for the truck engineers,” and the proof was on a lot of peoples’ phones in Auburn Hills.
Morrison was as gobsmacked as anyone. “I remember these trucks in the ’80s having 400 lb-ft of torque with the first Cummins engines,” he says. “That was groundbreaking then. We’ve exponentially grown beyond that. We thought having one more digit on our torque was a good way to really emphasize the Cummins power. It was kind of fun to go all the way to 1,000.”
Today I did a burnout in a 2019 Ram 3500 dualie with 1,000 lb-ft of torque while in third gear with 14,900 lbs hooked to the truck via a gooseneck. How was your day?
— Joel Feder (@joelfeder) February 20, 2019
Ram is not the scrappy underdog anymore. Does that make you change your approach?
“We’re the same people, and we still have the same focus on the customer,” Morrison says. Being a truck-only brand helps focus on what buyers want. “Every conversation I have with a heavy-duty customer, somewhere comes up, ‘Yeah, I need more power.’ Whether you are towing a 20,000-pound something or 35,000, it’s nice to have more power.”
Is it harder to make radical changes and take risks now?
The competition didn’t prompt Ram to put a 12-inch screen in the truck, Morrison says, but customers did. They wanted more technology. These aren’t trucks that stay parked until the weekend. They have the technology, safety, and luxury to use every day. “When I started in this business, I used to joke that luxury was a seat belt in a heavy-duty truck. But now I’m talking to customers who say, ‘I have a $100,000 RV that’s got wood floors and granite countertops. Why can’t I have as nice a truck?’ We can do that.” An advanced navigation screen is offered across the lineup because it helps the cross-country trucker find a good meal and avoid traffic. Advanced safety tech when towing a 35,000-pound trailer can save his bacon.
What is next for the Ram 3500?
Ram is starting to sell the heavy-duties now, and the Ram 1500 has been out for a year. The next big thing will come from customers after they have spent some time in the new trucks, Morrison says. “That’s how we learned to get to this level.” Already customers are calling for continued safety, technology, and always more power and capability.
Truck customers traditionally have been fiercely loyal to their brand. Is that changing?
Pickup truck loyalty is hard to break, Morrison admits, but it’s almost politically correct to change brands now. “Everybody will flip cars for 10 cents and SUVs for $10 and trucks never. But now people are coming who want to drive the best truck.” Awards for the Ram 1500, the 2019 MotorTrend Truck of the Year, help. “Customers are paying attention to us at a higher rate than ever before.”
Morrison is encouraged that the Ram 1500 has the highest conquest-to-defection ratio among Ram pickups to date. The new truck is bringing new customers in and the features are keeping them around.
How long will Ram keep selling the Ram Classic?
There are no plans to stop selling the previous-gen Classic yet, and Ram still has a few tricks up its sleeve, like the addition of a $37,040 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a limited edition throwback that pays homage to the Dodge Warlock pickup of the late ’70s. The new Warlock sells at a popular price point, about $6,000 less than a new Ram, and has become important for government and fleet sales.
Is Ram working on an electric pickup?
Ram 1500 has standard eTorque on V-6s, and the mild hybrid tech is offered on one of the variants of the Hemi V-8, improving torque, increasing fuel efficiency by 2 mpg, and giving the truck 12,000 pounds of towing capability. As for a pure electric pickup? “I can’t talk about the future,” Morrison says.
How is development coming on a compact or midsize pickup?
A smaller pickup is in FCA’s five-year plan, but Morrison won’t spill any details. On the recent first-quarter earnings call, however, CEO Mike Manley stressed the importance of getting a midsize truck for the Ram brand. But as has been the refrain for the many years that FCA has tried to get a smaller truck on the market, the automaker is struggling with what platform to put it on. Although sharing with the Jeep Gladiator would seem logical, that is not necessarily the route Ram will take. “Being able to find a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market is what they’re struggling with at the moment,” Manley told analysts and media on the call.
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