Rugged Ram Taking Laid-Back Los Angeles by Storm

IHS data shows registrations of Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 trucks in California soared 86.3% in the first seven months of 2014 to 12,477 units. In the Los Angeles area, which accounted for nearly 40% of the total, registrations spiked 84.1%.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

October 3, 2014

4 Min Read
Robust take rate for toplevel Laramie Longhorn trim in SoCal
Robust take rate for top-level Laramie Longhorn trim in SoCal.

LOS ANGELES – George Travanti, general sales manager at Hooman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Inglewood, CA, could have chosen any model on the lot when he started shopping for a new set of wheels. He chose a Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab pickup, his first time to own a truck.

“The reason I bought it is (that) the interior is amazing,” Travanti says. “It is nicer than a car.”

Southern California doesn’t seem like truck country. Don’t tell that to Chrysler’s Ram brand, however. Sales in the Los Angeles area have skyrocketed, with the rest of the state not far behind. Good marketing helps, but the product’s luxury interior and improved powertrain are behind the sales surge.

“They have designed a product that is, frankly, light years ahead of where they used to be,” says Tom Libby, manager of loyalty solutions and industry analysis at IHS Automotive.

According to IHS, registrations of Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 trucks in California soared 86.3% in the first seven months of 2014 to 12,477 units. In the Los Angeles area, which accounted for nearly 40% of the total, registrations spiked 84.1%.

To be sure, Ram trucks still account for less than 1% of light-vehicle sales in California. Still, says Libby, Ram has gone “from being way back in the pack and really not even noticed, to being right there” with perennial frontrunners Ford and Chevrolet.

This is SoCal so it should come as no surprise that luxury models such as the Laramie, with a starting price of $38,775, are big sellers. In the Los Angeles marketing area, which includes Orange County and San Diego, premium trims represent more than 25% of all sales, says Dave Sowers, head of Ram truck marketing at Chrysler Group.

Even in the Central Valley, California’s agricultural heartland, premium trims account for more than 20% of sales, he says.  “We are having a hard time finding the top end of the luxury market.”

California is distinct from the rest of the country and Ram has tailored both its marketing and its products here in recognition of that fact. It has a marketing team focused on California to “try to match the lifestyle,” says Sowers.

Ram also has introduced special products to California. Sowers marks the start of the brand’s success here to the 2011 launch of the Ram 1500 Express. The entry-level truck was all black, right down to the wheel rims and the Ram badge on the grill. It came with standard 20-in. wheels, dual exhaust, a nice interior and good fuel economy. “That really started our sales,” says Sowers.

Not Just Another Pretty Fascia

Although good fuel economy doesn’t usually top a truck driver’s must-haves, the new Ram engines’ solid fuel ratings have helped sell the brand here. Ram identified fuel economy as a target area in which to lead the pickup segment during product planning, says Sowers. Today it has the best fuel economy for any light truck, he says.

Ram is the only brand to offer a diesel engine on a light-duty truck, the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6, which claims 20 mpg (11.8 L/100 km) in the city and 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) on the highway. Chrysler says it is raising diesels’ share of Ram 1500 production to 20%, up from the originally planned 10%.

That engine sells well at Shaver Automotive’s Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in the upscale Westlake Auto Mall in Thousand Oaks, CA, says Marc Antonucci, commercial-fleet manager. He allows that their best seller is the 5.7L Hemi V-8, which claims a respectable 15 mpg (15.7 L/100 km) city and 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) highway.

Though he has been in the car business more than 30 years, Antonucci has been working at Shaver less than a year. In that time he has seen Ram sales take off. Last November the dealership was selling nine or 10 a month but sold 26 in August. Many of those were luxury trims, with the Laramie probably the most popular.

Antonucci credits marketing – especially of the fact the Ram won Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year award in 2013 and 2014 – for boosting awareness and sales.

Inglewood, where Hooman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram is located, is not an upscale area; it is a gritty residential and industrial town adjacent to the Los Angeles Airport. Still, Travanti says, he gets customers from Beverly Hills and Bellaire who, as he did, buy the luxury trims.

Many of them are from the Los Angeles Persian community, and Hooman advertises in the Persian-language press.

The Ram is likely the buyer’s third or fourth car, says Travanti. “People go to Home Depot and they need a truck to put stuff in.”

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb

Contributor

Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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