Why Ram Sells Both the New 1500 and the Ram Classic

Why does Ram Trucks build an all-new pickup and its previous version, now called Ram Classic, at the same time? This idea was originally started to allow Ram time to ramp up production of its all-new Ram 1500, known as “DT” internally. But that was back in 2018 when the DT was just starting production. 

The original plan was to only build the older “DS” for maybe a year before it slowly faded away. But the Ram Classic is now back for 2020 in four versions; Tradesman, Express, Big Horn, and Laramie. There have also been two special editions; the “Classic Warlock” and “Classic Ignition Orange” packages. It appears that DS production will continue into the immediate future. So, why does Ram build two different pickups?

2020 Ram Classic Crew Cab Dually | FCA
2020 Ram Classic Crew Cab Dually | FCA

Three Plants, Two Full-Size Pickups

The DS is built at FCA’s Warren Truck plant, which is the oldest and most outdated plant in FCA’s portfolio. Warren Truck was cranking out DS trucks at full capacity and not able to keep up with demand. When plans were made for the DT the Sterling Heights plant was chosen as it has the ability to produce more trucks than Warren Truck. 

There is also a third truck plant in Saltillo, Mexico, that builds regular cab and heavy-duty Ram trucks. There was no need to change over either Saltillo or Warren to build the DT as would be the case with most model changeovers at assembly plants because Sterling Heights was a dedicated DT plant.

Where’s The Single Cab Pickup?

2020 Ram Single Cab | FCA

The DS is the only Ram truck to have a single cab. The DT is only available as an extended cab or crew cab. The plan was to start production of a single-cab DT in 2020, leaving the DS to satisfy single cab demand until then. But that is still in the works and the single cab DT is still absent.

Ram builds two different pickups because it sees the DS as an entry-level truck for budget-minded customers, as well as fleet buyers. It is priced accordingly at around $27,000 with the base DT going for above $32,000. Potential DS customers don’t need the latest and greatest. But they might need a regular cab fleet truck to adapt outside bodies like tow trucks or box trucks. So FCA sees the DS as having a specific purpose and doing it very well.

Ram also doesn’t currently offer a midsize truck, though it is working on a new Dakota. So the DS fills the void as it’s priced similar to a midsize pickup but is better because it’s a full-size truck. Again, FCA slots the DS for a very specific purpose that does not crowd the DT. 

A 2019 Dodge Ram pickup truck on display at an auto event.
2019 Dodge Ram DT | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

With the DS first appearing in 2008 as a 2009 model, then receiving a major update in 2013, it has been around for a long time. That means development and tooling costs were amortized a long time ago, making these extremely profitable for FCA.

Many Advantages Building Different Pickups

Another advantage is that combined sales of the DS and DT have skyrocketed Ram sales figures allowing it to overtake GM for second place in truck sales. Already 2019 sales are better than in 2018 and the year is not over. So, producing two full-size trucks has had unintended benefits for Ram. 

When will Ram stop building two different pickups? FCA does not reveal product info beyond its current model year so no one is saying. But don’t look for it to be killed at least until a single cab DT body and new midsize Dakota arrive. That looks to be maybe 2021. But, if it is still selling as well as it has so far, who knows when Ram will stop production?