If you want to sell your left-hand-drive vehicles in a country that drives on the left, you’re going to have to figure out a way to make them right-hand drive. Usually, automakers do it from the factory, but that’s expensive, which means a lot of vehicles never make it to those countries. But Ram’s taking a different approach with Australia: Just shipping left-hand-drive trucks over and having a local company convert them.
Speaking to Australia’s CarSales, Bob Graczyk, head of Ram Trucks International, said the American automaker sees no reason to invest in building its own right-hand-drive trucks to sell in Australia because Walkinshaw Automotive does the conversions locally just fine. If the quality’s there, and it’s more cost-effective to let Walkinshaw handle it, why not?
As Graczyk put it:
We will always, every new generation, take a look at it. But, the [full-size pick-up] volume would have to be pretty substantial to do a right-hand drive and so sometimes it just doesn’t make business sense.
I think there’s going to be cases where we’re always going to need a partner to help us to reach certain markets. And you know, this has been such a great experience for us in RAM in what we’ve been able to do – we have the confidence that we can do this going forward, if necessary too.
I don’t see that we’re going to package-protect for a right-hand-drive in everything and so there will always be a need for this kind of a set-up.
While most readers in the U.S. are probably more familiar with Walkinshaw’s tuned Holdens, this isn’t its first venture into building factory-approved right-hand-drive conversions. It’s been converting vehicles for GM and even some for Volkswagen to sell in Australia for years. And they seem to do pretty good work:
We have full confidence in the Melbourne manufacturing organisation here to protect our brand and protect our truck. If there was any reason why there might be any concern, first of all, I know that Melbourne would stop it because that’s just who they are. And secondly, we would stop it as well.
I was just in our plant in Sterling Heights about two weeks ago. The truck that’s coming off the line here in Australia is as good, or better, than what’s coming out of our main plant.
That said, the production numbers aren’t exactly huge by American truck-sales standards. This year, it’s reportedly shooting for between 7,000 and 8,000 sales in Australia.