Truck sales took a spectacular tumble when the economy crashed but with the housing market showing signs of revival pickups could be one of the year’s hot products — and Chrysler is ready to take advantage of the fact that it was recently named North American Truck of the Year.
The maker’s Ram brand will rapidly ramp up production of the Ram 1500 pickup truck at its Warren, Mich., from 227,000 in 2012 to more than 300,000 vehicles this year.
After winning North American Truck of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show last month, Chrysler is hoping to make some inroads in a segment long-dominated by Ford’s F-150 and, to a lesser degree, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups.
(Ram 1500 wins coveted North American Truck of the Year accolade. Click Here for the story.)
But the Detroit automakers aren’t the only ones looking to regain ground in what is traditionally their most profitable segment. Toyota unveiled an updated version of its big Tundra at the Chicago Auto Show last week while Nissan dropped hints about its next-generation Titan.
The Japanese makers have long lagged in the segment. Combined, they sell little more full-size pickups annually as Ford moved in less than three months — and barely half of what Chrysler sold with the Ram 1500 last year.
(Toyota unveils new 2014 Tundra pickup. Click Herefor the story.)
(Nissan drops broad hints about next-gen Titan. For more, Click Here.)
Chrysler was long an also-ran in the full-size segment but broke new ground and gained a strong following with its shift to more dramatic styling. Its latest incarnation of the Ram 1500 has continued to win kudos — and strong sales. In November, Chrysler announced that it would add workers at Warren Truck to accommodate growing demand for the revamped pickup truck.
But the company didn’t say at the time how much it planned to increase production.
Combined with Ram pickup trucks built at its plant in Saltillo, Mexico, Ram sold more than 293,000 vehicles last year. Assuming production remains stable at the Mexico plant, Chrysler could approach 400,000 Ram sales in 2013.
Chrysler outlined its production plans in a Jan. 24 memo to employees that was obtained by The Detroit Free Press. A Chrysler spokeswoman refused to confirm the company’s production plans.
Chrysler’s planned production increase coincides with an expected uptick in overall truck sales as the economy continues to rebound from the 2008 Great Recession. Experts expect truck owners to replace their aging trucks as the economy continues to improve. Many buyers could be influenced by their friends, neighbors and competitors replacing trucks in their fleets.
Even if Ram full-size pickup sales do crest 400,000, it will still be nowhere close to knocking no. 1 Ford or no. 2 GM from their places atop the pickup truck sales charts. Ford sold more than 645,000 F-Series trucks in 2012 and GM sold a combined 575,000 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras.
Still, Ram remains comfortably in the upper tier of truck makers, well ahead of Toyota’s Tundra.
Pickup trucks remain the most important segment for the Detroit Three because the trucks are huge profit makers.
Still, while the company is increasing production, not all is good news for the company. Workers will begin working four 10-hour shifts instead of five 8-hour days and will have to work more weekends. That will allow the company to increase production without paying overtime, but has caused some complaints from workers about working weekends.