Ram grille change no big deal?

Opinion/Analysis:  it seems to me that the uproar over the new grilles on the Ram Laramie and Rebel is a classic case of making a mountain out of a molehill: a task made more difficult because it starts without a molehill.

Automotive News’ Larry Vellequette and Allpar’s Daniel Bennet have written about the change, saying it’s a sign that the Ram brand is suffering from an identity crisis. Their argument is that Ram trying to further distance itself from Dodge by moving away from the crosshair grille and the ram’s head badge.

The more likely reason for the change is to let buyers know this is a new Ram pickup [as alluded to by designer Greg Howell].

How long has the Ram pickup used the same general grille design with only very small changes that most consumers won’t even notice? Since Ram became a separate brand five years ago? In fact, the same general grille design was used on the last model year of the Dodge Ram pickup.

Maybe it’s time for a change?

The fact the new grille’s first appearance on a regular production truck came on the top-of-the-line Laramie is an indication that Ram is looking to persuade owners of earlier premium Ram pickups to trade their old truck by making the new truck visibly different.

When I was young, grille changes were an annual event, making each new model distinct from those that came before. Automakers don’t do that any more, but a change after six years seems reasonable.

The use of the prominent “RAM” on the Rebel’s grille is similar to what Ford has done on the Raptor, which has a big “FORD” on the grille instead of a blue oval. It sets the special truck apart from other models.

As for the large RAM on the tailgate, name a pickup brand that hasn’t done this at one time or another.

In short, there’s no identity crisis required to explain the change.

As far as establishing a brand identity, I would imagine that if you asked most male consumers to complete the phrase “Guts, Glory…”, most would say “Ram.” They might even try to sound like Sam Elliott. That’s successful branding.

Worries about losing the classic Ram logo would seem to be unfounded. A look at the interior shows the familiar shield is right in  the center of the steering wheel. Considering that it’s much less costly to change a small badge than it is to change a grille and tailgate, one would assume any effort to rebrand would include that change.

Consider the ProMaster City. While the big ProMaster was already in production, it would have been easy to change the small van’s grille and badging. Yet the ProMaster City has Ram shield badges front and rear.

Now consider at the two brands’ product lines: Ram has pickups, chassis-cabs and commercial vans (ProMaster City is clearly targeted at businesses). Dodge has passenger cars, family minivans and SUVs. The only Dodge fleet vehicles are special purpose, such as the Charger Pursuit and the Durango SSV. There isn’t any overlap, even in the same showroom.

It was Chrysler, not Fiat, that originally pushed for a retail network in which as many dealers as possible sold all the Chrysler brands.

If anyone is worried that Ram is phasing out the Ram logo, the first question that comes to mind is “Why would they?” The brand name is Ram; what else are they going to use?

It’s unlikely that Bob Hegbloom, Sergio Marchionne or Olivier Francois lose much sleep over whether dealers or consumers call the truck a Ram or a Dodge Ram. FCA US and people can call it anything they want as long as it changes hands from the first group to the second group in large quantities, and Ram U.S. sales last year were the best since the all-time record year of 2003 and missed setting a new all-time Graham/Dodge/Ram sales record by just 9,583 sales.

In the end, the grille change isn’t a quest for identity or an escape from the shadow of another brand. It is a relatively inexpensive styling change made by a brand that seems comfortable enough in its own skin to try something new.

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/03/relax-ram-grille-change-no-big-deal

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