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In new ads, Ram truck stands alone

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In new ads, Ram truck stands alone

Bradford Wernle

Automotive News -- March 29, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

DETROIT -- A new advertising campaign this spring for the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty pickup features the deep, resonant voice of actor Sam Elliott and celebrates the Dodge-like manly American pickup virtues of toughness, utility and durability.

But nowhere in the campaign is the word "Dodge" to be found.

That's just as Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne wants it. Marchionne is trying to rebuild Chrysler Group around strong brand identities. Last year he decreed that the Ram brand would be separate from Dodge in the same way Fiat and Fiat Professional are separate brands in Europe.

Marchionne said the change will give Dodge more room to establish an identity as a car, minivan and crossover brand while the Ram brand can increase its recreational and commercial truck business.

Skeptics have argued that Chrysler is weakening an icon by divorcing Dodge and the Ram pickup. American truck buyers long have chosen among Ford, Chevy and Dodge, they argue, and Chrysler is throwing away decades of brand equity.

Falling sales

Ram marketers have their work cut out for them. Ram brand sales dropped 31 percent in February compared with February 2009. The full-sized pickup segment rose 7 percent in February. Also, Chrysler is dialing back incentives that were as high as $3,000 per heavy-duty pickup a year ago. A $1,000 rebate is available through April on the heavy-duty Ram 2500.

The ad campaign was created by Ram's new agency, the Richards Group in Dallas. A central element will be the Ram HD's most prized honor: the 2010 Motor Trend magazine Truck of the Year award.

The Richards Group filmed five TV brand spots with the truck showing off its capabilities under heavy loads and in heavy weather.

Fred Diaz, CEO of the Ram brand and also Chrysler Group's lead sales executive, said, "We'll spend the lion's share on media and advertising and a minimum on incentives."

The Ram brand, which now includes the Ram and Dakota pickups and the discontinued Dodge Sprinter, accounts for about a third of all Chrysler Group shipments and revenues, he said. "It is a mainstay of the corporation, and we will not back down."

Marissa Hunter, head of communications for the Ram brand, said Ram wants to improve its heavy-duty share in areas in which it has been weak, such as pickups with gasoline engines, for example. Ram also plans to add nameplates, some fashioned from Fiats.

Road trip

In addition to TV and print ads and a new Web site, Ram marketers are taking their heavy-duty pickup to 33 venues.

Diaz said separating the brands gives Dodge "space to play."

Those buyers who still want to call their trucks Dodge can be proud to do so, Diaz said. "This Ram truck is always going to be a Dodge," he said. Each truck will carry a Dodge vehicle identification number.

"But you will never see it marketed as a Dodge Ram."

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100329/RETAIL03/303299951/1432#ixzz0jZSLontG

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