Midsize Ram faces development hurdles; 'very different' than Gladiator

Executive comments suggest the company is still struggling to minimize production costs.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has shed light on development challenges that continue to stand in the way of a new midsize Ram pickup.

The company has just begun production of the new Jeep Gladiator, which fits the midsize segment but targets a narrower group of buyers than the company apparently believes it can engage with a similarly sized Ram model.

FCA chief Mike Manley outlined the situation in a recent earnings call, confirming the Ram team is "very focused on solving a metric-ton midsize truck solution" to fill out the company's portfolio and drive further growth.

"I want that problem solved frankly, because it's a clear hole in our portfolio," he added. "It will not be filled with Gladiator, because Gladiator has a very, very different mission. But trust me on that, they're focused on it."

The executive clarified that building a Ram-badged midsize pickup on the same line as the Gladiator may seem simple "on paper" but FCA is still struggling to find an acceptably "cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost."

The Gladiator starts around $33,500, nearly $8,000 above the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma. Unlike other mid- and full-size pickups, the Gladiator only has a single bed and cab configuration at launch. Comparing pricing to the Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado crew-cab variants, the Gladiator is still around $6,000 higher.

Manley's comments suggest FCA will attempt to position Ram's midsize offering within a more competitive price bracket against the Tacoma, Colorado, and Ford Ranger, which may require more extensive modification to the Gladiator platform. Previous reports have suggested the Dakota's spiritual successor would begin rolling off the Gladiator's assembly line by 2022, though the latest official information indicates FCA is exploring cheaper assembly sites.

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