The full-size SUV segment is steadily shrinking, but body-on-frame behemoths aren’t dead yet. Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced that the next generation of the Ram pickup truck could spawn a full-size family hauler aimed squarely at the Chevrolet Suburban, the GMC Yukon XL, and the Ford Expedition EL.
Machionne warns that the yet-unnamed SUV isn’t even at the embryonic stage of development; at this point, it’s little more than a vague idea that periodically gets discussed during meetings. However, the executive explains that Ram has enough room on its production lines to add more models to its lineup, and the next 1500 will be capable of spawning additional variants and body styles because it will feature a much more modular design.
Sister company Jeep is also developing its own full-size SUV, but Marchionne isn’t worried about the two models overlapping. If approved for production, Ram’s SUV will be aimed largely at middle class buyers with a big family or a lot of gear to haul. Jeep’s three-row truck is being designed as a more upscale offering that will carry a much higher base price.
“I don’t think anybody who buys a large SUV is confusing it with a Range Rover,” pointed out Marchionne during a conference call.
If everything goes according to plan, adding a large SUV to the Ram lineup will help parent company Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) post higher profit margins. The segment is relatively small, but large SUVs are highly lucrative models because they are relatively affordable to design and build.
Ram has plenty of time to decide on whether launching a large SUV is the right move. The 1500 pickup isn’t scheduled to be replaced until 2019 at the very earliest, meaning it will land in showrooms as a 2020 model. With that time frame in mind, the SUV might not arrive until the 2021 model year.