Dodge Ram 1500 Diesel – Big Deal to Toyota?
By now most everyone has heard that Dodge is going to release a diesel version of the Ram 1500. While this news has the potential to shake up the automotive world, is it that big of a deal to Toyota?
For years, full-size light-duty truck buyers have been clamoring for a diesel. They point out new diesel technologies that is rated to get higher MPGs, more torque and purported to have a longer life thanks to many factors including lower RPMs. The truth though is that the diesel concerns are the same: increased equipment costs to meet EPA regulations, higher maintenance costs and lately higher diesel fuel costs.
Manufactures have long responded to questions about diesels by saying that the package upgrade is too high for the light-duty truck buyer. Essentially, they did the cost/benefit analysis and decided you wouldn’t want it. Why then would Chrysler/Fiat decide to offer a diesel? Simple: market share.
It is no big secret that Chrysler/Fiat hasn’t been the most profitable company over the last decade and they are throwing out all the stops to increase their market share. Take for example, the active grille shutters and air suspension systems. They are trying to through every gizmo and gadget out there to attract attention. The problem with these systems are about long-term durability. This is something that arguably Chrysler/Fiat isn’t concerned with. They NEED to sell trucks right now, who cares what happens to them down the road.
Most publications are hailing the Dodge Ram 1500 diesel as the spark that will ignite a whole range of light-duty diesel options. Could that happen? Sure. It would take a lot of factors to make that happen though. First, Dodge needs to find a way to offer the diesel package at a price where it isn’t outrageous. Second, diesel fuel prices would either need to hold steady or not increase that much. While, most truck buyers don’t care too much about MPGs with regards to their work trucks, Dodge needs to sell a lot of Ram pickups to buyers who want the premium packages (the big, profit makers). If only work truck buyers bought the Ram 1500 diesel, Chrysler/Fiat would be hard pressed to keep offering its product.
Where does this leave Toyota? In an interesting position actually. Yes, it seems diesel offerings are really expanding (Chevy Cruze, Jeep Cherokee, Ram 1500) and yet Toyota doesn’t seem well prepared to quickly respond as Ford or Chevy say they are. Toyota simply doesn’t have the infrastructure in the U.S. to bring a diesel engine to market quickly. Yes, they could find a way to build a smaller Hino motor or they could import their popular diesel engines used worldwide. Neither of which are quick, easy solutions.
In the end, the Dodge Ram 1500 is a litmus test of the U.S. light-duty truck market. If it takes off, you can surely expect others to respond. If it dies, then it could be another 20 years before another automaker tries to build one.
What do you think? Could a Dodge Ram 1500 sell enough units to force the competition to respond?
Filed Under: Auto News