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Ram continuously finds itself on the top of the heap when it comes to truck ratings and reviews. While the bulk of the credit for this accomplishment has to go to the brand itself, who knows if it would have gone that far without the partnership of Cummins. The two companies have been working together for a quarter of a century, and along the way they have created some of the coolest and most innovative technology in the auto industry.
25 years of partnership with Cummins
When the duo initially teamed up 25 years ago, no one knew what the end result would bring. Yet, at this point in the relationship, they have achieved more best-in-class titles than any other pickup truck and continuously rank ahead of competitors in categories like quality and value.
"Ram and Cummins are names synonymous with power, quality and durability," said Reid Bigland, the president of Ram Truck. "We've enjoyed a successful relationship and remained leaders in the diesel pickup market for 25 years. The numbers don't lie."
Staying ahead of the game on quality
Debuting in 1989, the Dodge Ram 3500 with a 5.9-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine boasted 160 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque. Both companies have improved since then, and today's models of the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500, along with a few versions of the Chassis Cab trucks, feature up to 385 horsepower and 850 foot-pounds of torque. That is good enough to keep Ram near the forefront of the truck market, providing fans of off-roading with the vehicles they want.
"The Cummins and Ram Truck partnership has created a legendary package over the last 25 years, and we appreciate their continued loyalty to Cummins," said Dave Crompton, a Cummins vice president. "This commitment to our partnership allows us to focus on delivering best-in-class performance, reliability, and durability for the heavy-duty pickup market."
Much of this success can be attributed to Cummins. The company notes that it is the only engine also found in heavy-duty equipment, and it boasts an 85 percent take rate on Ram Heavy-Duty vehicles. To top it all off, the 6.7-liter engine installed in many Ram trucks has as much as 40 percent fewer moving components as its competitors - a factor that can lead to increased value and decreased maintenance.
Look to the future
In light of a recent movement that has emphasized fuel economy and eco-friendly practices, Ram and Cummins created the EcoDiesel engine. As a more green option than traditional vehicles, these trucks manage to blend increased power and range with the same rugged style off-road driving fans have come to expect.
One of the latest examples of this effort is the 2014 Ram 1500. With the help of its EcoDiesel engine, this Ram is capable of reaching 28 mpg, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That is the best highway-cycle test ever for a full-size pickup and even outpaces the ratings for small pickups. This catapults the truck to the top of the EPA's rankings - and it should entice drivers who want to get behind the wheel of a pickup but don't want to break the bank.
"The new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is truly in a class of it's own with 28 mpg and the ability to tow 9,200 pounds," Bigland said. "To put the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in context, it gets 6 mpg better fuel economy than the best F-150 EcoBoost. Overall, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has outstanding pick-up truck capability with compact car-like fuel economy."
If you're looking around for your next off-road vehicle or mulling over potential truck modifications, there's a good chance you might use your own personal opinions to influence your decision. Peer reviews, past experiences, media stories - all of these qualities may come together to impact what you think about a certain automaker. That perception has a major effect on the industry, so it is only logical that organizations would want to study it further.
Consumer Reports recently conducted a study on perception of auto brands. The publication asked the general public for opinions on different carmakers and then used the results to determine which companies stand out from the pack when it comes to perception.
"The key word is 'perception.' Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing and hands-on experience," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy automotive editor of Consumer Reports. "Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media."
People could have their opinions affected by major recalls, controversies, much-hyped new models or other events. Similarly, if there were big breakthroughs in technology or safety, it could have had a positive impact on how a brand was perceived. Ultimately, the opinion will largely be based on past driving experiences.
What drivers want
To complete the study, Consumer Reports focused on a few key areas that drivers deemed to be the most significant. At the top of the heap was quality, with 90 percent of respondents claiming it was in their top three most important factors. That narrowly edged out safety, which had 88 percent of the vote, and then performance, value and vehicle economy. Design and style, along with technology, were also key aspects, but didn't rank as highly as the others.
After all the votes were tallied, Consumer Reports found that Toyota took the No. 1 spot for most positive perception. It was considerably ahead of second-place Ford. Rounding out the top five were Honda, Chevrolet and Tesla.
While the results represent how people feel about cars in a wide variety of segments, it could extend to trucks and SUVs that are commonly used for off-roading. Ford has always been a favorite among adventurers, for example, which could be why its perception is so positive. On the other hand, Toyota has historically lagged behind its competitors with regard to truck sales, so some positive publicity could drum up interest in the vehicles.
There are many reasons why a driver may be eager to get behind the wheel of a pickup truck. From their incredible capabilities to the ability to go off-road driving, pickups are among the most popular choices for motorists in the U.S. However, there may be other reasons why these vehicles are a common choice among drivers, and it goes beyond what is happening under the hood.
Finding rides that attract others
A new study from Insure.com found that women tend to be more attracted to pickup trucks than any other type of car. Approximately 32 percent of respondents said that these trucks were the best option for men to drive, beating out sports cars and SUVs, which ended up in second and third, respectively.
The study didn't stop there. It also asked those women about the brands and colors that they found to be the most appealing. Ford ranked as the No. 1 choice among any type of automobile, garnering 16 percent of the vote. Chevrolet was second with 13 percent and Porsche was third with 11 percent. As for colors, basic black looks to be the way to go, as more than half of women said that was their top choice. Silver and red also got a fair number of votes.
On the flip side, the study found that men were most likely to be attracted to those who drove red BMW sports cars.
Why pickup trucks?
So what makes pickups stand out from the pack? For many experts, the answer may lie in the heavy-duty handling and intense capabilities offered by the automobiles.
"The findings strike me as accurate. Among the general public, a black pickup truck is a reflection of a masculine owner," said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com, to Insure.com. "A woman walks up to a black pickup truck and says to herself, 'Here's a guy who can help me move, bring me large gifts from Crate & Barrel and do repairs around my condo.'"
While that may not be exactly what some of the respondents had in mind, no one can deny that pickup trucks tend to have an air of ruggedness that is hard to match.
Pickup trucks may be the best choice for those who want to catch the eye of that special someone, but there are a number of other characteristics that could impact how others view a car. For example, the study noted that having a clean automobile - regardless of its type - is extremely important. About half of all respondents said that the car being clean was the most important quality it could have. Reliable vehicles also received a strong response from both men and women, although not as many were concerned about how new the vehicle was or the price tag.
Color can also be a factor. According to the study, red cars tend to be popular among drivers who want attention. With more red cars sold in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, it seems that many motorists want to be able to take their spin in the spotlight, making the hue one of the most attractive options on the market.
"Red has a visceral effect on the human body and psyche," Alexandra McGill, one of the lead color designers for BMW Group Designwork USA, told Insure.com. "Not only does red quickly catch the eye, it makes the pulse quicken, blood flow faster and increases adrenalin. Red is associated with athletics, energetic activities and fast speed."
Pickup trucks have been among the most popular vehicle types in the U.S. for years. However, for the most part, consumers have to choose from a range of full-size, heavy-duty automobiles. That is the perfect match for some, but the prospect of a smaller model pickup is often intriguing for a select group of drivers. These trucks can still be used for off-road driving or work-related tasks, but they also offer a number of benefits ranging from better fuel economy to different off-roading capabilities.
According to CBS Local News, the compact pickup truck market hit its peak in the mid-1980s, when as many as 1.4 million models were sold. That number dwindled to roughly 250,000 in recent years, as the majority of buyers gravitated toward full-size vehicles. Luckily for interested parties, that all could be changing soon.
More manufacturers taking notice
A number of automakers have begun turning their attention to the midsize truck segment. While models such as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have been on the market for some time, other manufacturers are returning to the stage after a prolonged absence. General Motors came onto the scene with a bang, showcasing models like the 2015 GMC Canyon and 2015 Chevrolet Colorado. Both of those pickups hope to allow drivers to complete whatever tasks they have in mind, whether it's hauling or camping.
GMC Vice President Tony DiSalle hopes that the added details included by the brand, which increase the overall comfort and driving experience, will be enough to set the trucks apart.
"Things like refinement. Things like materials, comfort, roominess, fuel economy. All of those elements have basically been dissatisfiers for years amongst consumers in midsize pickups," DiSalle told CBS Local News. "We see that as a real opportunity."
Focusing on fuel economy
While many factors influence what truck a driver will buy, regardless of its size or segment, fuel economy is one quality that will not be overlooked. This quality is one that has increased in importance in recent years, and today, the fuel economy of a vehicle is an aspect that can drastically sway a driver's opinion.
Automotive News reported that Ram and Ford may be ahead of the pack in this regard, as they frequently employ turbocharged technology, which can improve fuel economy. The rise of diesel engines has also increased the efficiency of trucks, making certain models more attractive than others.
What motivates a buyer to choose a certain vehicle when shopping around for a new investment? For some, it's the possibility for truck modifications or off-roading, while others may be more drawn to automobiles that offer excellent fuel economy and affordable maintenance. Regardless of what's at the top of your wish list, you've probably got a few ideas in mind, and that can even extend to the automaker you want to purchase from.
A major part of the decision-making process may be brand loyalty. There are many instances when a driver's past experiences with a certain vehicle affect their current opinion, and some of that could be rising out of affection for a given brand. To determine just how much of a role this plays, IHS Automotive unveiled its Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards, which examine how different brands and vehicles play on the emotions of drivers.
Chrysler earns accolades
Chrysler emerged as the big winner of the awards. The company won five of the accolades, including for potential off-road vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler. Jeep, which is owned by Chrysler, appears to inspire a fierce love and loyalty in its drivers, and that contributed to the brand dominating the SUV categories.
"Winning five Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards is proof-positive of Chrysler Group's drive to build the best vehicles on the market," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for the group. "Customers will only come back if they trust their vehicles to deliver flawless quality and reliability, and these awards speak volumes about Chrysler Group's extensive vehicle lineup."
It also helps that Jeep modifications are relatively easy to make. Motorists can take a vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler, which has been designed for a variety of situations, and customize it for a specific type of off-road driving.
Ford stays on top
Despite Chrysler's winning ways, Ford managed to retain its hold on the top spot. According to Automotive News, Ford was named as the car company with the most loyal customers for the fourth year in a row.
Loyalty is going up across the board - IHS Automotive found that it had risen as much as 51 percent in the past year, according to the news source - and that means there are plenty of drivers interested in what a brand has to offer.
Not everyone can afford a brand-new pickup truck. Fortunately for drivers, many of the most popular models have reached a high standard of quality and come equipped with an impressive bevy of features year after year, which makes it easy to find a passable off-road vehicle in a pre-owned model.
While this may relieve some of the stress on a budget, however, it doesn't mean the automobiles come cheap. In fact, some of these used models may still have a relatively high price tag, as the general cost of these vehicles has been rising steadily over the past several years.
Demand for pickups remains
According to the NADA Used Car Guide, pickup trucks remain one area where buyers cannot get enough. A combination of lower gas prices and a smaller supply of used pickups for sale caused the demand to jump, which in turn raised prices for these trucks.
"Demand for both new and used full-size pickups was extremely high last year," said Jonathan Banks, an analyst with the NADA Used Car Guide. "The segment is unique because it supports both consumer and commercial needs, and the fact that used full-size pickups lost about 8 percent of their value last year is clear evidence that America's love affair with the segment remains strong."
Prices increase all around
Continuing the trend set in the past several years, the average cost of used cars rose again in 2013. At the end of December, used cars cost about 0.4 percent more than they did at the same time in 2012. That is good news for sellers, as they can get a better return on their vehicles, and it partially comes about as a result of a slower rate of depreciation. According to the data, trade-in values of vehicles from 2006 to 2013 model years dropped by about 15.9 percent in 2013, which is an improvement from the 16.1 percent rate in 2012.
"A stronger economy, pent-up demand and favorable credit conditions underpinned used vehicle price strength in 2013," Banks said. "These positive factors helped to balance downward price pressure caused by an increase in the supply of late-model used vehicles, which began to grow again in 2013 following a five-year slide from a falloff in new vehicle sales and trade-ins during the recession."
For years, drivers have turned to Jeep vehicles when they were in search of a reliable automobile. The brand has a reputation for producing some of the most capable off-road driving options on the market, and many recreational users have spent their time and money making a number of Jeep modifications to upgrade their rides. Unfortunately for these drivers, there may be some problems on the horizon for Jeep, and a recall could even be in the cards for the oft-reliable brand.
AutoBlog reported that Chrysler, Jeep's parent company, has been in a battle with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the past several years. The safety organization claims that more than 3 million Jeeps are currently affected by a problem with the location of the gas tank in the lineup. According to the NHTSA, in a rear-end collision, the gas tank may be damaged, causing fires and injuries. Chrysler maintained that there was no such issue, but the company eventually agreed to join in a voluntary inspection of several Jeep models.
Now that this campaign is underway, Chrysler has agreed to recall more than 1.5 million vehicles, and as many as 2.7 million SUVs, including Grand Cherokees and Libertys, The Detroit News reported. To prevent further issues, the automaker will be installing special trailer hitches that add another layer of protection should an accident occur.
"Chrysler Group has finalized replacement part design and is initiating the tooling process to deliver the required volume," Chrysler said in a statement, as quoted by The New York Times. "Launching a safety recall demands complex engineering and close collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration well before we accumulate replacement parts. Chrysler Group takes seriously its commitment to customer safety."
The full recall has yet to go into effect, but drivers who own a Jeep vehicle may want to take a closer look at the safety features of their vehicle. A few simple changes can go a long way toward safety.
One of the only disadvantages of owning a pickup truck or Jeep is that, on average, these vehicles don't have fuel efficiency that is as good as smaller automobiles. While the numerous benefits typically outweigh that hiccup in the mind's of owners, and large vehicles are seeing efficiency improve, it can still be aggravating to have to make frequent trips to the gas station. Unfortunately, those visits may soon have to become more costly, as there could be an increase in the average fuel price beginning in 2014.
According to The Washington Post, Congress is planning on handling a drop in transportation funding by raising the federal gas tax. A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives Dec. 4, and it aimed to raise the tax by 15 cents per gallon. That price hike would help make up for the budget cuts, but it may leave come drivers reconsidering their road trips or off-roading adventures.
The increase would bring the total amount of federal tax up to 33.4 cents per gallon on gas and 42.8 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, the news source reported. Officials believe the jump is necessary, as the improving rates of efficiency mean drivers are making fewer stops at a gas station. That has left a hole in the budget that could be used to improve roads and similar infrastructure.
"Congress hasn't dealt seriously with the funding issue for 20 years," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told The Washington Post. "With inflation and increased fuel efficiency, especially for some types of vehicles, there is no longer a good relationship between what road users pay and how much they benefit. The average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993."
It remains to be seen if the tax hike will be approved, but the idea is something drivers will want to keep an eye on regardless.
In the past several months, the auto industry has welcomed several high-profile pickup trucks to the scene. From brand new models to completely redesigned editions, these rugged vehicles are giving drivers plenty of choices to consider as they shop around for a new ride. Fans of off-roading who are looking for a potential off-road vehicle may want to take a serious look at some of the most popular additions to the marketplace.
Detroit News reported that vehicle sales in November reached approximately 1.2 million. That success could mean record sales for the entire year, as the total number of new cars sold is expected to exceed 15.5 million units - about 1 million more than 2012.
The month of November saw impressive sales figures for all vehicles, but especially with regard to pickup trucks. While the entire year has boasted mostly positive numbers for automakers, pickup trucks continue to be one of the most sought-after vehicle types in the U.S.
"Certainly sales have come in far beyond our expectations," said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, as quoted by Detroit News. "... The level of sales volume in that last weekend was just very, very strong."
Some brands stand apart
Although the entire segment of pickup trucks experienced success, a few brands have more reasons to celebrate than others. Ford was at the front of the pack, selling more than 65,000 models of the F-Series. That is about 16 percent more than in November 2012, and the yearly sales are also posting big increases. Ford has sold approximately 688,000 versions of the F-Series so far in 2013, which is far and away the most of any automaker, PickupTrucks.com reported.
"November was fairly typical, producing a strong sales lift toward the end of the month around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend," Erich Merkle, an analyst for Ford, told Detroit News. "It should be noted the month continued to show a market that is experiencing a good deal of resilience, particularly as we compare to October."
In a distant second place was the Chevrolet Silverado. November sales for this vehicle jumped more than 12 percent to approximately 34,000 vehicles in the month compared to last year, and it has moved about 437,000 pickups in 2013. Shortly behind that was Ram Truck. Although the brand had a more than 20 percent increase in monthly sales from 2012, it still ended up in third place with 322,268 trucks sold in the year.