Ram, Rival automakers keep on truckin’ at auto show

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 22, 2018

 A Ram pickup truck sits on display Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.

A Ram pickup truck sits on display Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Photo by Eric Czarnik

 Components of the Ram 1500 are shown to highlight the vehicle’s ride quality.

Components of the Ram 1500 are shown to highlight the vehicle’s ride quality.

Photo by Eric Czarnik

DETROIT — Automakers with historical ties to Detroit put their newest truck models into the spotlight at the 2018 North American International Auto Show during a Jan. 15 press preview day, and in one particular case, the ripple effects reached Sterling Heights.

At the auto show, which is being held until Jan. 28 at Cobo Center in Detroit, Ram Trucks showed off a few variants of its 2019 Ram 1500 pickup truck.

After the presentation, Ram spokesman Nick Cappa said the new Ram vehicle is a “no-compromise pickup truck.”

“The idea was to build a truck for every customer,” Cappa said.

Jim Morrison, vice president and head of Ram North America, said the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, along Van Dyke Avenue in Sterling Heights, is producing the new Ram trucks already.

That was done after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ram’s parent company, announced in 2016 that it would be investing more than $1.4 billion into that plant to get it ready to produce the next-generation Ram truck.

“I think adapting the new architecture is such a dramatic change for the new truck,” Morrison said. “We installed all of that into our state-of-the-art assembly plant with a great workforce, and we’re really happy to bring the new state-of-the-art truck to the world right here in Detroit.”

Mike Raymond, chief engineer for the Ram 1500, said engineers were tasked with making the vehicle lighter while also redesigning the front suspension.

“So we’ve taken 100 pounds out of the frame,” he said. “We have not compromised the overall chassis performance when it comes to steering and handling and basically the comfort of the ride.”


The city reacts

Throughout January, Sterling Heights city officials have called attention to the city’s affiliation with the Ram’s production.

During a Jan. 16 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool commented on the Ram 1500 unveiling.

“It really looks spectacular,” he said. “It’s so exciting to know that this incredibly popular vehicle will be produced right here in Sterling Heights. And there will be over 300,000 of these units that roll off the assembly line at SHAP.

“But it not only preserves SHAP long term, it helps create hundreds of new jobs while also preserving the thousands that are already at SHAP, not to mention the thousands that are at the Sterling Heights Stamping Plant facility as well, just to the south.”

According to Vanderpool, Ram 1500 production has already begun at a limited level and will be ramping up in the first quarter of this year.

During a Jan. 3 City Council meeting, Vanderpool gave a short presentation that discussed FCA’s investments into SHAP, adding that “over 1,000 new jobs are being created” as a result, when including auto suppliers.

He said the Ram’s production has also created activity for businesses with new locations in Sterling Heights. This is particularly true at Sterling Enterprise Park, near 17 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue, he said.

Over there, Mitchell Plastics has opened to produce interior vehicle compartments for the Ram, Vanderpool said. Nearby, another supplier, Metalsa, is also ready to start producing parts for the truck.

“So the entire Enterprise Park will be filling up over the next few years, and we have a good start with these major FCA suppliers,” Vanderpool said.

On Metropolitan Parkway, between Mound Road and Van Dyke Avenue, another business is under construction that will also be a supplier for the Ram truck, he added.


Other trucks earn auto show spotlight

Besides the Ram, other automakers also presented trucks at the auto show.

Scott Damman, lead development engineer for the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado, said the 2019 Silverado was developed with customer feedback and input in mind. He said the engineers were able to make the vehicle 450 pounds lighter without sacrificing any capability — partly by taking 80 pounds out of the frame alone.

“As we know, the truck market does really well as far as numbers go,” Damman said. “At Chevrolet, we’re still seeing a trend of buying trucks. But one thing that we do well for Chevrolet is we’re going to have eight different trim levels.”  

Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said the new Ford Ranger is tough and durable, with steel bumpers that are mounted to the frame in the front and back. He said the Ranger also brings the performance of a V-6 engine with the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine.

“Trucks really do continue to grow and are very popular in the U.S. market,” Eckert said. “The mid-sized pickup segment has grown significantly since 2014. And obviously, we do extremely well in the full-sized pickup segment.”

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489. Learn more about Ram Trucks by visiting www.ramtrucks.com. To find out more about the North American International Auto Show, which runs until Jan. 28, visit www.naias.com.