AUBURN HILLS, MI – A little more than three years ago, Chrysler gambled with the integrity of its stalwart Ram pickups and gave them touches of elegance.
The task was to create a truck that would pamper drivers but still haul tons of cargo. The target customer may not mind getting his hands dirty, but his snakeskin cowboy boots are another thing.
From that mentality, the Laramie Longhorn was born. It topped Chrysler’s existing Laramie trim and fell in line Ford’s King Ranch edition of its F-Series pickups, which proved a marketplace winner after the auto maker stumbled earlier with a Lincoln-badged luxury pickup.
The Laramie Longhorn, and another spin-off, the Laramie Limited, are available on the 1500 light-duty pickup and the 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty models.
“We started to look twice in ’09 with the refresh of the truck,” Ryan Nagode, Chrysler chief interior designer-Ram Truck, tells WardsAuto. “Truck customers sit in the driver’s seat the most. We really saw what the appetite was when we launched the Longhorn in 2011.”
The Laramie Longhorn targets “the owner of the ranch,” Nagode says, with leather bucket seats instead of the traditional bench seat. Rubber-backed floor mats have pull-out carpet inserts for easy cleaning, and other luxurious appointments such as heated seats and soft-touch instrumentation are found.
Critics initially snickered at the prospect of a luxury pickup, but the gamble appears to have paid off. In 2010, only 9% of pickups sold cost more than $40,000. That figure grew to 13% in 2012. The Laramie Longhorn starts at $43,275, compared with the base SLT at $26,650.
On the heavy-duty side, the average suggested retail price for a Laramie Longhorn is $61,000 in a segment where 29% of all trucks sold for more than $50,000.
From 2007 to 2012, Chrysler says take rates on luxury packages grew from 6% to 14% on the 1500, from 14% to 36% on the 2500 and from 14% to 50% on the 3500.
The auto maker in recent months has been touting the success of more tailor-made vehicles with specific trims and special edition packages. After the Laramie Longhorn was introduced, Nagode says the design team had more room to play around with lower-level trims and bring other perks to those models.
“One of the nicest things about our lineup is that we have such a breadth of trims,” he says. “A pretty good heart of our sales is SLT. It’s still something that you’re proud to own.”
With the newer trims, Nagode says Ram is able to venture into new customer bases.
“Splitting Dodge and Ram apart has helped us listen to the customer,” Nagode says, adding that conversations with dealers and customers alike spawned the Limited trim – a middle ground between the Laramie Longhorn and SLT.