The Ram 1500 has been named the 2015 Fleet Truck of the year. The Ram 1500, which was last named Fleet Truck of the year in 2012, beat out 40 trucks for the annual Automotive Fleet and Business Fleet award, racking up the most votes by fleet managers in an online ballot.
“This award validates the pieces that we put in place and resonates with the commercial fleets and it cascades all the way down to the end user,” said Bob Hegbloom, head of the Ram Truck brand. “As you know, there are so many different applications that we have to address. Receiving the Fleet Truck of the Year award, is validation we’re doing the right thing. At the end of the day, it has got to be genuine from the standpoint of what we deliver all the way through the chain to the end user and what that customer is expecting on the job site. Our trucks deliver on what we promise.”
The Ram 1500 is available with three engines: a 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6, a 3.6L Pentastar V-6, or a 5.7L HEMI V-8.
The 3.0L EcoDiesel produces 240 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque while delivering 29 mpg. The 3.6L Pentastar produces 305 hp and 269 lb.-ft. of torque while getting 25 mpg. The 5.7L HEMI, which comes standard on the Ram 1500, delivers both horsepower and torque, producing 395 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque.
When equipped with the 3.0L EcoDiesel, the Ram 1500 has a towing capability of up to 9,200 pounds.
The three engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic TorqueFlite transmission. Other fuel-saving technologies include a thermal management system, pulse-width modulation (PWM), and active aerodynamics with grille shutters and air suspension.
Hegbloom said that it’s the capabilities coupled with the fuel economy that has resonated most with fleet managers.
“We focus first on delivering fuel economy, which drives right into the cost of ownership equation,” Hegbloom said. “The other side is how we package and put these products in place. It needs to follow what the customer is asking for. An example of this was in 2012. Ram revealed a Tradesman series of products. We start all of our trucks with the Tradesman value package whether it’s a pickup truck or a van. The true commercial customer who is using their vehicle day in and day out on the job site or as a delivery vehicle knows this is a product that was developed for them.”
Hegbloom pointed in particular to the Ram Box option — one of his personal favorites — that is available directly from Ram, and part of an array of options that are available on the entry-level Tradesman as being of particular value for fleet and commercial customers.
“The beauty in our products is the class-exclusive features — we have Ram Box, which offers a secure place to put tools or equipment, also a link coil suspension with an optional four corner air suspension. We then tailor packages to the specific customer needs, like our Tradesmen trim, with spray-in bed liner, four- and seven-pin trailer connecter, and a tow hitch all standard — we put together a nice package of content that the customer is looking for,” he said.
The Ram 1500 features a five-year/100,000 mile warranty on the diesel engine and a five-year/60,000 mile warranty on the gasoline engine.
Resonating with Fleets
There are a number of vocational and commercial segments where the Ram 1500 has found a home. Hegbloom points to the resurgent housing sector as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Ram 1500’s capabilities.
“You can see a direct correlation when looking at the housing upstarts and we still haven’t seen it peak yet. We’re somewhat bullish going forward,” he said.
In addition to traditional construction, other tangential vocations from HVAC to plumbing to painting to electrical to general carpentry operators have found a use for the Ram 1500, according to Hegbloom.
“You’ll see the 1500 in small businesses and in the larger operations as well. For anyone who has a need to haul loads or tow something, we deliver the best of both words,” Hegbloom observed. “Even in vocations such as catering services —they can haul a trailer and use a crew cab to haul people or equipment in the truck.”
Living in a Light-Duty Renaissance?
Does Hegbloom see the light-duty market entering a new renaissance?
“Absolutely! The first thing is an increase in crew cabs within the segment — crew cabs now represent 70-80 percent of the overall build. These are four-door pickups. Not only do we see them on the job site, but they’re used for family transportation,” Hegbloom said. “And, you can step back and look at all of the features and appointments — in late 2008 and 2009 when the truck market dipped, many believed it was because trucks are big, fuel prices are up, so people don’t have a need for pickup trucks.The market it very different today — you see trucks used for family transportation. Ram offers incredible fuel economy, great ride and handling, and a long list of features. There’s nothing a luxury car has over a Ram truck.”
Hegbloom noted how the trucks themselves are evolving from purely utilitarian vehicles to well-equipped vehicles with such luxury appointments as heated seats and steering wheels.
“If you consider the appointments in our trucks today, we’ve never offered anything like it and the content continues to grow. The transformation in the market comes back to the product and Ram is delivering. We like to say there’s no compromising. You don’t have to sacrifice anything by buying pickup truck any longer,” he said.
Looking ahead, Hegbloom observed that, while fleets may continue to ask for scaled-down, utilitarian products, the market will demand in parallel more of these luxury appointments. Technology may be the biggest catalyst transforming light-duty pickups and truck market as a whole.
“I think people will continue to look for technology and advanced features. In the past, it was such that a truck didn’t need elaborate content found in luxury vehicles. Now, truck customers want all we have to offer,” he said.
For its part, the Ram 1500 features a new center console design and Bluetooth connectivity on entry-level radios.