DETROIT — When FCA US abandoned mainstream compact and midsize sedans in 2016 to focus its limited resources on more profitable utility vehicles and pickups, analysts viewed the shift from cars as risky.
But the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 — bowing Monday at the Detroit auto show — appears to be a major beneficiary of the strategy, sporting a long list of engineering, safety, performance and functional improvements.
The Ram pickup is the automaker’s best-selling vehicle and the third-best-selling vehicle in the U.S. behind the Ford F series and Chevrolet Silverado.
Even as it nears the end of its current product cycle, the outgoing Ram managed to chalk up a U.S. sales gain in 2017, topping 500,000 for the first time ever, including the decades when the Ram was part of the Dodge brand.
With the redesigned Ram 1500 going into production this month — along with the previous model, which will continue to be produced for up to a year — FCA officials believe the Ram has a shot to knock the Silverado out of second place.
Chevrolet plans a major redesign of the Silverado that is also on display in Detroit and will hit showrooms in the fall. But the new Ram bows in showrooms in the first half of 2017, giving FCA a chance to narrow GM’s 85,000 unit sales lead with both a new and outgoing Ram.
The 2019 Ram 1500 is bigger than the previous model, with overall length growing by 9 inches, including 4 additional inches to the cab. The added cab space enables the second-row seats to recline up to 8 degrees.