Ram is having a hell of a year. Sales of its leading 1500 pickup have been consistently posting double-digit sales growth each month year-over-year, and what used to be more of a backseat alternative to the Silverado and F-Series is now posing a viable threat, especially to the former (which it actually outsold for at least one month this year).
Spearheading Ram’s solid growth is the new Ram EcoDiesel, the first truck in its segment to feature a diesel powertrain that allows it to achieve nearly 30 miles per gallon on the highway and over 20 around town. If that doesn’t strike you, consider that that’s the range where most midsize sedans fell a few years ago. Yet now the same scale is being applied to a full-size pickup truck, which can travel over 730 miles on a single tank by Ram’s estimates.
Customers are responding, too. So well, in fact, that Ram is talking about changing up its product mix to the point where the EcoDiesel 1500 accounts for 20 percent of the 1500’s annual production float, up from the 10 percent where it is now. That would equal out to about 70,000 units on an equalized basis, as the Automotive News Data Center estimates that Chrysler’s Warren, Michigan plant will yield about 335,000 Ram 1500s this year, up 17 percent from 2013.
The swell in EcoDiesel production should be completed by the end of November, at the Warren facility as well as a smaller one in Mexico where a small handful of the trucks are made.
Diesels have resonated with American consumers as automakers have been able to find ways to circumvent the stringent emissions standards on traditional diesel engines. Volkswagen, a notable purveyor of diesel vehicles, is coming off one of its best years ever for its TDI technology, and it has plans to expand its oil-burning offerings in the future.
Chrysler spokesperson Nick Cappa told Automotive News that Ram worked with VM Motori (the Italian firm that actually builds the 3.0 liter diesel V6 units) to obtain more diesel engines specifically for the Ram 1500, and that production of the Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel (which uses the same power plant) would be unaffected.
Given the success of the unit, it wouldn’t be surprising if other automakers followed. GM has been noticeably more welcoming of them, and has a diesel engine planned for the new Colorado and Canyon small pickups, which will become available in diesel trim next year. Speculations indicate that Nissan will be using a diesel in its next Titan, and Toyota might be too, though Ford has been notably resistant to bringing one into its F-150 line, instead relying on the weight savings of aluminum as a means to cut fuel consumption.
Diesels don’t come cheap, though, as the base version of the 1500 EcoDiesel begins at over $36,000, and the popular Crew Cab starts at over $37,000. However, as trucks move more upmarket, those are the kinds of sticker prices that consumers will be more used to in the near future.