All American and ready to roll for lovers of Yankee Utes
If your decisions on what to buy next as your form of transport hinge on appearance over sophistication, then you can’t go far wrong if you consider a Dodge Ram parked in your driveway.
Well, whether it’s a Dodge Ram or just a RAM truck seems to be a matter of from whence you purchase your Yankee Ute.
While the Dodge Ram has been available in the Australian market with full right-hand-drive conversions completed in either Australia or New Zealand for years, this latest deal sees the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global head office award the exclusive rights to none other than ATECO, currently known for peddling Chinese budget-priced hatchbacks and low-cost utes from either China or South Korea.
As of 2010, the model range has been sold under the RAM Trucks brand name, with production taking place in Saltillo in Mexico, and Michigan in the United States.
Undoubtedly, some of the existing converters and importers will continue to offer the RAM brand in their product portfolios, but, for this slightly more official version, the conversion to right-hand-drive will be completed by American Special Vehicles (ASV), a venture comprised of ATECO Automotive and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group.
The RAM trucks are imported direct from the factory in left-hand-drive. The Walkinshaw Automotive Group under its new ASV banner then completely remanufactures the vehicles to right-hand-drive on a purpose-built production line in Melbourne.
This deal is slightly different from the restricted-number imports of previous converters in that imports of ASV RAM trucks are produced with full volume import approval, meaning they are fully compliant with Australian Design Rules and that ASV is the sole importer of RAM models covered by that approval.
As the first products to hit Aussie roads under this agreement, the ASV marketing team will be promoting the Ram 2500 and 3500 series trucks.
An ATECO spokesman claimed the RAM is currently the fastest growing truck brand in the United States.
“Since its launch as a stand-alone division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in 2009, the RAM Truck brand has steadily emerged as an industry leader with US sales over 40,000 trucks per month,” he said.
Powered by a 6.7-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine producing 276 kW and with a peak torque rating of 1084 Nm, it’s the tow vehicle of choice for just about anybody coupling up to a caravan or car trailer. Depending on the type of tow coupling selected, the RAM 2500 truck can offer a towing capacity of up to 6989 kg, beating its larger sibling, the 3500, at its own game that offers a tow package of 6170 kg. Payload figures are 913 kg for the RAM 2500 and 1713 kg for the RAM 3500.
In case you are wondering if you have read the towing limits correctly, yes, the 2500 can tow more than the 3500. It’s because of GCMs and driver licence requirements regulations that are unique to Australia and the intention to enable 2500 drivers to use just a car licence, thanks to its rating of 4490 kg, just under the light rigid weight limit.
Gone are the days of a three-speed auto sitting behind a big lazy lump of an engine. To match and disperse all that available torque, the RAM driver gets to play with a 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission. This ‘box includes driver-adaptive shifting and three multiple clutch packs, dual filters on a dual-stage pump and an independent lubrication cooler that delivers ample pressures under all loads and driving conditions.
With a chassis that resembles the Sydney Harbour Bridge, RAM engineers developed the 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty, 50-KSI steel frame, providing for more structural support than existed previously. Eight separate cross members, hydro formed frame rails and fully-boxed rear rails help add strength and stability, giving the 2500 and 3500 the support to tow bigger and work harder.
The RAM 2500 front suspension features a unique three-link coil spring arrangement. The rear suspension boasts a class exclusive five-link coil spring suspension featuring unique multi-rate coil springs and heavy-duty fixed displacement twin tube shock absorbers, both of which are placed in an outboard position that optimises performance and minimises noise and vibration.
The 3500 features Hotchkiss rear leaf spring suspension, with a significantly larger stabiliser bar that generates higher roll stiffness than past models to improve on-road and off-road stability. The advanced three-link front suspension on RAM 3500 increases roll stiffness and supports its increased towing capacity.
The BorgWarner BW 44-46 transfer case for high and low ratio features responsive electronic shift-on-the-fly engineering with three operating ranges plus neutral. The low-range reduction ratio is 2.64:1, meaning that after comparing the chassis with the Harbour Bridge, you can probably drive your 3500 up the sails of the Opera House.
The spec’ falls a long way from anything resembling utilitarian. Start with leather trimmed seats, heated and ventilated in the front with ten-way power adjustment for the driver and six-way adjustment for the front passenger. There’s a heated, leather-bound steering wheel with integrated audio controls to turn the power steering, dual zone climate control, tinted power windows, a 20 cm touchscreen display, a 17 cm multi-view cluster, a nine-speaker sound system with subwoofer, ports for mobile devices and a media hub, Bluetooth and more.
America has caught up with the concept of designing in safety features and these days actually use inclusions such as seat belts, the wearing of which for a long period of time was not even a legal requirement.
Today’s RAM Trucks match high levels of safety and security, featuring advanced, multi-stage front airbags, front and rear seat curtain airbags, electronic stability control, rear park assist and rear-view camera, an eye level brake light with cargo camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system and remote keyless entry.
John DiBerardino is a long-time member of the Walkinshaw Automotive Group and joint chief operating officer of American Special Vehicles, with overall responsibility for the right-hand-drive re-engineering and after sales support.
“Our engineers and manufacturing teams have risen to the challenge of implementing a completely unique build process for the right-hand-drive Ram,” he said, “while simultaneously designing, sourcing and cataloguing hundreds of original equipment quality parts.
“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. I believe that the Ram trucks engineered by American Special Vehicles have set a new benchmark – they are spot on,” he said.
Peter McGeown is the joint chief operating officer of American Special Vehicles with overall responsibility for import, distribution, network, sales and marketing.
“There is a significant opportunity to fill the pent up demand for an OEM quality vehicle of this type,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Prices start at $139,500 for a RAM 2500 and $146,500 for a RAM 3500. Right-hand-drive RAM trucks engineered by American Special Vehicles are covered by a comprehensive three-year/100,000 km warranty along with full parts and service support.