As we touched on in our Detroit show coverage this week, those burly full-sized pick-up trucks that dominate the North American market are nothing more than a dream for South African bakkie fans, but that could all change if a rumour emanating from Australia is anything to go by.
Like our market, Australia’s is dominated by one-tonners, with Hilux and Ranger fighting for overall market leadership, but due to the right-hand-drive hurdle Australians simply can’t buy full-sized bakkies like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 unless they go for one of the expensive aftermarket conversions.
But that could be set to change, at least as far as Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand is concerned - and possibly even Ford's F-150 at a push.
At the 2018 Detroit Show, Ram boss Mike Manley told Australian website Motoring.com.au that right-hand-drive production of new Ram 1500 pick-up was under consideration and that South Africa could also be a factor in that decision.
He said that the company was working closely with its Australian counterparts to work out how feasible the project would be, while also throwing in this interesting little nugget:
“Because it’s not just Australia you know. [There’s] South Africa as well … some of the mines use right-hand drive too”.
Granted, it’s still a long shot, but a big bakkie like the Ram 1500 (if one could even call it a ‘bakkie’) would certainly add some spice to the local market, although pricing would almost certainly be on the steep side.
According to a contact at Fiat Chrysler SA, a local feasibility study for the Ram was done about five years ago and the volumes were considered too small. However, if Australia were to get it right in this latest attempt (as in justify right-hand-drive production) then South Africa would certainly consider bringing the relevant vehicles here, our contact added.
The redesigned Ram 1500 was unveiled at the Detroit show on Monday. It’s 100kg lighter than its predecessor and is packed with new high-end gadgets, including a 30cm dual-view touchscreen, adaptive cruise control and an available 900-watt Harman Kardon premium sound system.
But engines could prove a problem for markets such as Australia and South Africa, which prefer diesel. While the Ram’s US competitors, the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado, offer V6 diesel engine options, there is as yet no mention of an oil burner in the new Ram line-up - which for now only offers 3.6 V6 and 5.7 Hemi V8 petrol units.
What about the F-150?
But speaking of the Ford F-150 (shown above), a Ford exec recently told another Australian publication, CarAdvice, that the availability of a diesel variant would make the discussion around right-hand-drive feasibility a “less difficult” one, although he admitted that it was still a challenging conversation.
But do we really need bigger bakkies in our lives?
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