Chrysler Group LLC announced that it will offer a diesel in the standard-duty Ram 1500 pickup in the third quarter this year, making it the first modern half-ton pickup in the U.S. market with a diesel power option.
According to a report in USA Today, that should attract a significant number of buyers, because while a diesel typically costs more than a gasoline engine up front, it uses less fuel, has greater pulling power, often lasts longer and has higher resale value — dollars-and-cents issues important to business users who account for many pickup sales.
Ram’s internal studies show that “customers have been emphatically asking for this, thirsting for it, craving it,” said Fred Diaz, CEO of Chrysler’s Ram brand in a phone interview from Mexico (Diaz is also CEO of Chrysler de Mexico).
He wouldn’t forecast sales, but said, “The business case (for Ram) is a positive one. This isn’t just a little side note. We plan to do good business with the diesel.”
That’s because he thinks the pool of half-ton diesel buyers is deep. “This isn’t a one-and-done or a fad,” he said.
Diesels have been limited for decades to heavy-duty pickups, the so-called three-quarter-ton and higher-duty models, which are more expensive than standard-duty trucks — even before adding the $8,000 or so price premium for the heavy-duty diesel option. And those trucks are larger, making them more cumbersome to drive and maneuver.
Being first with a standard-duty diesel pickup could attract 10,000 additional buyers the first year, more after that — if the price is right — predicts Jesse Toprak, veteran industry watcher at TrueCar.com.
He thinks Chrysler should “make a big noise” by offering the diesel at little or no price premium vs. gasoline engines.
That would be unheard of in the truck business — and unlikely in this case. “We think customers will be satisfied with the value proposition” after considering price, mileage and towing and hauling capacities, Diaz said.
He wouldn’t comment on pricing, though, or give power and mileage ratings for the diesel. The engine will be a 3-liter turbo V-6 from Italy’s VM Motori, which has supplied diesels to Chrysler since 1992. It’s the same engine that Chrysler had said it would offer in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, starting in May.