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Dodge Dealers Would Prefer to Dodge This Bullet

Dodge dealers say DC’s Sterling Truck, by trying to expand its market presence with the new Bullet, has taken the competition in-house.

Some Dodge dealers worry they may be competing against what they see as a rebadged Dodge Ram 4500 truck introduced by a corporate cousin, Sterling Truck Corp.

Sterling, a subsidiary of Freightliner LLC, which, like Chrysler Group’s Dodge Div., is part of DaimlerChrysler AG, debuted its new chassis-cab Bullet at a March truck show in Indianapolis.

It will be available at select Sterling dealerships in late fall. The new truck expands Sterling’s lineup into Class 4 and 5 mid-duty trucks.

"We gave this truck the tagline, ‘Nothing Stops the Bullet,’ because there isn't an application this truck can't tackle,” says Matthew Stevenson, Sterling’s director of light commercial vehicles.

But Dodge dealers say they are struck by the Bullet’s similarity to the Ram 4500, including a Cummins 6.7L diesel engine under the hood. They say Sterling, by trying to expand its market presence, has taken the competition in-house.

Freightliner President and CEO Chris Patterson says the Bullet and the redone ’08 Ram 4500/5500 chassis cab, introduced at February’s Chicago auto show, result from a Sterling-Dodge collaboration and “together represent the best of the commercial vehicle and automotive worlds.”

Some Dodge dealers, who decline to be identified, say it appears DC is either ratcheting up its North American truck presence or attempting to follow General Motors Corp.’s model of offering companion truck lineups through Chevrolet and GMC.

Chrysler dealer relations were strained last year when retailers complained the auto maker forced excess inventory on them. Then came news in February that DC is putting the Chrysler unit up for sale. Now this, say Dodge dealers who sell Class 4 Rams.

One veteran Dodge dealer says of the upcoming Bullet: “We didn’t want or expect it.”

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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