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What Ram’s Australian Debut Means for the Brand

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Ram Trucks will soon be seen everywhere in the land down under, as the pickups are set to make their debut in Australia. While this may seem like relatively insignificant news over in the United States, the move will actually have a significant impact on the brand (and perhaps their product).

We don’t mean to make you worried. Expanding a model for a global market is always a positive, and having more individuals focused on producing the vehicle will assure that the customers will always be receiving an excellent, thoughtful product.

We’re not going to see a whole lot of Ram 1500 dealers in Australia, but continue reading to see what kind of impact the 2500 and 3500 pickups will have on the country’s automotive market, as well as the brand in general…

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Ram Trucks are set to release their Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 heavy-duty pickups for the Australian market, but the vehicles aren’t going to be produced through the Fiat-Chrysler group. Instead, Ram has teamed up with the Walkinshaw Automotive Group (well known for the popular Commodores and corresponding racing team) to produce and re-engineer their pickups at the new Melbourne assembly line. The vehicles will also be purchased from FCA’s Saltillo plant in Mexico.

As Mike Sotello of CarAdvice.com writes, the entire project is being run by American Special Vehicles, a new distribution joint-venture between Ateco Automotive (which imports Maserati, Lotus and Chinese cars LDV and Foton) and Walkinshaw Automotive. This could lead to quite the interesting relationship, as the writer notes that the distributor has previously said that they stand “apart from existing businesses that already offer converted right-hand-drive full-size pick-ups such as the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado.” This would seemingly contradict the working relationship.

The vehicle made its media debut yesterday as part of the brand’s national rollout, according to Sotello. The vehicles will initially be sold at the current 20 dealers throughout the continent, but the company is hoping to boost that number to 30 dealers as more potential customers pick up on the expected popularity.

The entry Ram 2500 (featuring a “greater volume”) will start off at $139,500, with the Ram 3500 coming in at $146,500. The writer notes that this is nearly double the price of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, but it’s generally on pace with many of the brand’s rival companies, like Performax. The weakened Australian dollar meant that American Special Vehicles had to adjust the prices higher than they originally planned. Still, there has been strong interest among both potential customers and dealers.

The writer notes that American Special Vehicles has “full-volume import approval” and exclusive licensing rights on the trucks, meaning they can bring over as many Rams as they desire and set them for essentially whatever price they want.

Production of the vehicle is not completely finished, Sotello writes. The trucks will undergo additional crash testing in Melbourne next week, assuring that all the equipment and features are working properly. However, the writer believes the heavy-duty trucks won’t go through the Australasian New Car Assessment Program test because of the vehicle’s mass.

As we previously mentioned, the vehicles are purchased from Mexico and brought to Melbourne to be properly adjusted for the Australian market. The new plant will eliminate the ladder frame’s cab, and the steering wheel will understandably be switched to the right side of the cabin. This requires the engineers to add a new steering box, sway bar and injection molding.

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The plan has resulted in the employment of 15 new workers, and the full-time assembly line has totaled nearly 30,000 hours of “validation testing.” The intended end result of the multi-million-dollar project is the production of 500 Rams (Sotello says 90-percent of the produced units will be the 2500) over the next year. This is a very reasonable goal, as the writer notes that an individual re-engineering project takes around only 20 hours.

Of course, the engineers are also intent on make the Rams as powerful and dependable as their North America counterparts. Both of the trucks will feature the popular 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel engine with the six-speed automatic transmission (featuring three clutch packs). This should result in the equivalent of 370 horsepower and nearly 800 ft-lbs of torque.

“Our engineers and manufacturing teams have risen to the challenge of implementing a completely unique build process for the right-hand-drive Ram, while simultaneously designing, sourcing and cataloging hundreds of original equipment quality parts,” said American Special Vehicles’ joint chief operating officer and Walkinshaw engineer John DiBerardino.

“Our goal was to produce a right-hand-drive Ram truck that meets the engineering standards, quality and refinement of the left-hand-drive product. We have spent tens of thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars to make sure we get this right.”

Furthermore, the writer expects the 2500 to be able to tow more than 15,000 pounds (double the capacity of the Ranger or HiLux), while the 3500 should be able to lug an equally-impressive 13,602 pounds (perhaps explaining why you’d need a truck license to operate the two vehicles). However, these numbers decrease drastically when the payload is flipped, as the “coil-sprung” 2500 should deliver just over a 2,000-pound towing capacity, while the 3500 should tow 3,776-pounds.

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Other special mechanical features include the addition of the 50-KSI steel frame, which features “eight separate cross-members, hydro-formed frame rails and fully boxed rear rails.” Furthermore, the Borg Warner transfer car will allow the driver to electronically shift with three operating ranges (plus neutral).

Head to the interior, and you’ll find a six-seat cabin that features heated and ventilated leather seats with 10-way power adjustment for the driver and six-way adjustment for the front passenger. The steering wheel is also heated and covered in leather, and you can use the wheel to access a number of technological features, including climate control, the tinted power windows, the eight-inch touchscreen display, the nine-speaker audio system (with accompanying subwoofer) and USB/Bluetooth compatibility.

For safety, there’s six airbags (with full-length curtains), an electronic stability control system, rear park assist mode, a reverse-view camera, an eye-level brake light (with cargo camera), a tire-pressure monitoring system and remote keyless entry. The Rams will truly feature all of the most popular technological features.

“There is a significant opportunity to fill the pent-up demand for an OEM quality vehicle of this type,” said ASV’s other joint chief operating officer, with overall responsibility for import, distribution, network, sales and marketing, Peter McGeown.

“Not just the quality of the vehicle either, though that is significant, we will offer a nation-wide dealer network with sales, parts and service support commensurate with a brand of this standing.

“We want people to be confident when buying a Ram truck, assured they are getting value for their money and certain that we will be there to support their vehicle when necessary. The quality of dealer we have been able to recruit to form our Ram Truck network has convinced me that we will meet that challenge.”

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