Jeep is surely the biggest single feather left in the cap of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles portfolio. Under Sergio Marchionne’s leadership, Jeep went from fewer than 500,000 annual sales in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2016, and is on track for 2 million by 2018. Add in the brand’s legacy, status as one of the most recognizable nameplates in the world, and rabid fan base, and Jeep has extraordinary monetary value to its parent company.
Investors and analysts have certainly noticed Jeep’s inherent value. According to The Detroit Free Press, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas asked FCA chief Sergio Marchionne if he would ever consider spinning Jeep and Ram, FCA’s dedicated truck brand, into a separate corporate entity, and he responded with a simple “Yes.”
Jonas estimated Jeep’s worth in January of this year at $22 billion. Ram was valued at $11.2 billion.
Marchionne has a history of spinning off brands while keeping them part of FCA’s corporate umbrella. The most noteworthy example of this value maximization was with Ferrari, which now trades on the New York Stock Exchange and rakes in $3.4 billion in annual revenue and close to $435 million in net income, reports the Free Press. Marchionne still serves as chairman and CEO of Ferrari, and Fiat heir John Elkann owns 22 percent of the Italian marque’s shares.
Even if the offloading of Jeep and Ram into a separate entity would amount to little more than a profit-driven ownership change on paper, it would be huge news to the brands’ loyal fanbases. In any case, such a move would likely take years to actually happen and probably wouldn’t mean much at all to the products that Jeep and Ram produce. In other words, Jeep fans can keep the pitchforks in the shed … for now.
Are you frustrated that the two-tone paint on your new pickup truck doesn’t match the RV that it’s hauling? We have good news for you. Today, at the Dallas Auto Show, Ram unveiled a new color for the 2017 Laramie Longhorn: the imaginatively named RV Match Brown. In Ram’s words, the “Luxurious two-tone premium model displays distinctive design cues” and is “designed to match or complement RV trailer graphics.”
The new color replaces White Gold in the two-tone lineup and is only available on the Laramie Longhorn trim. In addition to running the bottom length of the truck, the RC Match Brown paint covers the side steps and the spokes on the 20-inch aluminum wheels. All 1500 Laramie Longhorns come with 20-inch wheels, while the 2500 and single-wheel 3500 models come with 18s as standard and offer optional 20s. The color wasn’t designed to replicate one specific color, just that general shade of brown that seems to be ubiquitous in the RV industry. The RV Match Brown is available with nine exterior colors.
The Laramie Longhorn is the second highest trim level of the Ram 1500, slotting just below the Ram Limited. Features include items like laser-etched leather with complimenting walnut burl inserts. It’s no Rolls Royce, but it’s hard to find a more decked-out truck on the market.
Our intrepid spy photographers have once again captured an unusual test mule out in the wild. This time we have a Ram 1500 that looks a little lengthy in the middle.
We’re pretty certain this is a 1500 and not a heavy duty model judging from the grille and hood. That said, FCA clearly went to great lengths to hide the cab. It’s still clear that the rear section is longer than your typical quad cab, leading us to believe that the Mega Cab option will return to the 1500 line.
Other interesting details are the covered tailgate and the Chrysler steering wheel in the interior. We’re not entirely sure why it’s covered up, as it doesn’t appear to have a different function, but there could be some styling tweaks for a new trim level. The one part we can see is the tailgate handle, which may reveal some updated camera abilities as the normal location shows a differently shaped camera lens. There are also two small spots that could be cameras, but it’s tough to say for sure. Will we see 360-degree imaging on the next Ram?
The steering wheel is an unusual inclusion as well. Our photographer suggests that it could be necessary for using the latest UConnect infotainment system. Other than the wheel though, the interior looks identical to the current model.
This updated cab option also leaves us wondering about the future of the Ram line. We have documentation that shows FCA plans to launch some type of refreshed Ram for the 2018 model year. So it’s possible we’re looking at an early test mule for that updated model, and the new cab option could be launched at the same time. In many ways, this Ram brings up more questions than answers.
Thanks to a host of upgrades at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michgan, Ram Trucks is boosting production of the already strong-selling Ram 1500 to build 28,585 more of them a year. That works out roughly to five more per hour, or an additional 100 per day. The major key to the improvements was redesigning 353 assembly workstations to allow employees complete their tasks more efficiently. According to Ram, the expansion was done to meet growing demand for the pickup.
These kinds of comprehensive changes can’t happen over night, obviously. From the end of 2013 through the summer shutdown in August, the Warren Truck plant received automation tweaks in the body shop and upgrades to the color booths in the paint shop.
However, the biggest shift was working with “UAW-represented team leaders and operators” to examine every workstation for efficiency improvements. In that analysis, the company identified and altered over 100 problems that could have caused an injury. What really helped to boost the production rate so significantly was moving about 300 parts, or grouping them into kits for better ergonomics, and eliminating walks to grab tools. Once everything was done, about 63 percent of workers at the factory got updated training.
Beyond just building more trucks, Ram is also partnering with the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, TX. During the State Fair of Texas, the automaker donated $100,000 to the organization to help “the preservation of the history of the renowned law-enforcement organization,” the company said in its release.
Trucks are king in Texas, so the annual Truck of Texas awarded by the Texas Auto Writers Associationgives automakers big bragging rights. This year’s Texas Truck Rodeo featured 63 trucks, crossover and SUVs, and the 2014 Ram 1500 took home the prestigious Truck of Texas, giving the pickup back-to-back wins for this award. The good news didn’t stop there for Chrysler Group, as Ram, Dodge and Jeepdominated most other categories, accounting for 15 of the possible 24 awards.
Ram also was named the Truck Line of Texas winning seven individual awards – including Best Powertrain with its 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, Best Technology with the new Heavy Duty rear coil suspension and Best Commercial Vehicle with the 2014 Ram Promaster. The Jeep Grand Cherokee won two individual awards to be named the SUV of Texas, while the Hyundai Santa Fe was named the Crossover of Texas, and Nissan picked up three awards, too.
Compact CUV: 2013 Nissan Juke Midsize CUV: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD Fullsize CUV: 2014 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4 Luxury CUV: 2014 Acura MDX Compact SUV: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Midsize SUV: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Diesel 4×4 Fullsize SUV: 2014 Dodge Durango Compact Luxury SUV: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali AWD Midsize Luxury SUV: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Diesel 4×4 Fullsize Luxury SUV: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Off-Road SUV: 2014 Jeep Wrangler Midsize Pickup Truck: 2013 Nissan Frontier Pro4X Fullsize Pickup Truck: 2014 Ram 1500 Luxury Pickup Truck: 2014 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Heavy Duty Pickup Truck: 2014 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Off-Road Pickup Truck: 2014 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Commercial Vehicle: Ram Promaster Best Powertrain: Ram/Jeep 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 Best Connectivity: Ram/Jeep/Dodge Uconnect Access Via Mobile Best Technology: Ram Five-link Coil Rear Suspension CUV of Texas: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV of Texas: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Truck of Texas: 2014 Ram 1500 Truck Line of Texas: Ram