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2018 Detroit Motor Show: Fiat Chrysler weighs up one-tonne ute

By Daniel Gardner, 17 Jan 2018 Events

2016 Fiat Fullback one tonner wide

Outgoing FCA boss Sergio Marchionne would like a Ram-badged one-tonner as parting shot at GM and Ford

FIAT Chysler Automobile’s outspoken chief executive Sergio Marchionne has shown interest in adding a Ram-badged one-tonne trade ute to his company’s growing global portfolio.

Detailing his strategy for the global car giant as he prepares to retire at a yet-to-be-confirmed point this year, Marchionne revealed the US and European car making giant was developing a product strategy that could herald a smaller Ram-branded ute.

Marchionne took on the leadership position as the company’s constituent parts teetered on the brink of collapse. He has since reversed the group’s fortunes with an expanding model portfolio and a return to profitability, but 15 years since he was appointed to the top job, Marchionne is not winding back.

Fiat FullbackFiat Chrysler Automobiles will soon release a second five-year plan documenting the company’s strategic operations up to 2022, with a Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux competitor expected to feature.

Speaking at this week's Detroit Motor Show, Marchionne all but confirmed that Dodge was gearing up for a new smaller model to take on the world’s snowballing one-tonne truck competitors.

“We need a metric tonne truck for global use,” he said. “It will be a Ram, I hope. It may be a Fiat in some jurisdictions but a majority of it will be Ram.”

An announcement of other products that will roll out in the second five-year forecast will have to wait until the report is officially released later this year.

One-tonne trade utes are a growing market globally, with the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger dominating the market locally.

Fiat FullbackEven luxury brand Mercedes-Benz will soon get in on the act, launching a refettled version of the Nissan Navara to create the X-Class, a single- and dual-cab one-tonner range that will feature twin-turbo four-cylinder and V6 diesel engines under their bonnets.

FCA’s entry to the Australian one-tonne crew-cab and pick-up market could be a good move for the brand; sales in the more profitable 4x4 sector were up 12.8 percent in 2017 after a stellar pre-Christmas rush from buyers pushed the segment 24.3 percent higher than December 2016.

Sales of 4x4 models alone accounted for more than one in every 10 new-car sales in Australia in 2017 – combined overall sales of almost 1.19 million last year pegged yet another record for the industry.

The demise of the Australian car industry, which includes the loss of the passenger car-based Falcon and Commodore utes, have left buyers seeking a weekday workhorse and a weekend escape vehicle little choice when it comes to replacing their trade vehicles.