By Jeff Gilbert

CHELSEA (WWJ) – Chrysler’s Ram Brand will become the first to offer a diesel engine in its more mass market “light duty” Ram 1500 pickup.

Diesels have been popular choices in heavy-duty pickups for many years, as they last longer and get better fuel economy. But, the concern had been the technology was too expensive for a smaller pickup. But Ram Brand CEO Reid Bigland says the world has changed.

“We’re all racing towards Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and CO2 standards,” he said. “It’s also a significant ‘good guy’ from a CO2 perspective with respect to the diesel engine.”

The diesel version of the Ram 1500 will cost about $2850 more than the version with a V-8 Hemi. Bigland said with fuel savings, that extra cost should pay for itself in about three years. The average pickup now on the road is about 12 years old.

Diesels should make up about ten percent of light duty Ram sales, said Bigland. He said Chrysler can adjust production to meet demand.

While diesels are very popular in Europe, their appeal in the United States has been fairly limited. Car companies have been slowly expanding their offerings, including a diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee that will launch soon.

Bigland sees this vehicle as the next logical step.

“When you look at the psyche of the pickup truck owner, who is a little bit more familiar with the benefits of a diesel vs. that of passenger car customer, I think we’ve got something on paper that looks very intriguing.”

Chrysler made the announcement at its annual “What’s New” event, where journalists are allowed to drive the company’s vehicles at the Chelsea proving grounds. Chrysler also announced a more powerful 410 horsepower, 6.4 liter V-8 for its heavy-duty pickup trucks.

In addition to leading the Ram Brand, Bigland is also Chrysler’s Vice President for sales. He confirmed that June will be the company’s 39th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases.

While higher interest rates have some executive concerned about a slowdown in sales, Bigland said there are too many other factors that point to sales growth continuing.

“Even if interest rates go up a little bit, they are still at historic lows,” he said. “Pent up demand is still there. These cars on the road aren’t getting any younger.”

Car companies will release their June sales numbers next Tuesday.

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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