Everybody loves pickups. Everybody loves horsepower. Everybody loves muscle. Put the three together and BOOM! Profits for car companies and happy truck owners everywhere.
Ford has figured this out with the SVT Raptor, a monster of a hauler that's fast-becoming the halo of the entire F-Series fleet. While Ford has a wide range of trims, powertrains and price levels for all of its pickups, the Raptor is the one that's getting all the attention in Dearborn for its unusually high sales records.
These days, no car company wants to tarnish its pickup truck branding with gaudy add-ons alone. Just because it looks good doesn't mean it's just a looker. The Raptor comes equipped with a 6.2L V8, so you could pull a stump if you wanted to.
So since the Raptor's been on the market for a few years, why hasn't any other auto maker stepped to the plate with a challenger?
I've asked this question to Chrysler officials, which seem the be the most primed to fight the Raptor with a beastly Ram spinoff. Here's why.
1. Chrysler's engine stable lends to a powerful application in a potential Raptor-esque vehicle. In Auburn Hills, they've got a new 6.4L HEMI, an existing 6.4L HEMI used in the SRT Charger and 300, the reliable 5.7L V8 and, of course, the V10 used in the Viper. Any of these could go against the 6.2L in the Raptor with some fine-tuning.
2. Trim levels and appearance are paramount to Chrysler. In some circles, the Raptor might be considered a "lifestyle" vehicle, meaning that it's bought for show and not for its capability. But a sale is a sale, right? Chrysler heavily emphasizes its Mopar parts division can dress up even the most entry-level of vehicles (blacked-out wheels for your Jeep Patriot? You've got it!) and, based on what designers have crafted for Jeep vehicles at SEMA, we know they're capable of coming up with something that can look like a Raptor.
3. It doesn't hurt for Chrysler to have another halo vehicle. GM considers the Corvette its halo vehicle. Some would consider the Camaro to be an aspirational vehicle as well. And maybe there's still a small population that considers the Escalade to be the angel of the fleet. Chrysler's halo vehicle is obviously the SRT Viper. But what if they had something else that says "look at this badass Ram!" and then end up walking out of the dealership with a Dart instead?
I've asked folks at Chrysler on several occasions why hasn't a Raptor plan been put in action. Here's what I've heard.
1. It's difficult to make a "Raptor" alongside the everyday 1500. Here's where Ford has the edge over Chrysler: The Raptor is built in the very same plant as the F-150, wheels and all. Chrysler is pumping out 1500s at breakneck speed to keep up with volume demands. To integrate a truck that would need a separate powertrain and exterior applications would slow down the line. When the line slows down, trucks don't get out to dealers. When dealers don't have stock, customers move to the Chevy dealership.
But how can Chrysler solve that problem? Their suggestion is to price and build a Ram Runner with Mopar parts. The problem with that is that it can be time-consuming and expensive.
My suggestion was that they should bite the bullet and try ready-built Ram Runners or something similar anyway. Surely the sales of Ram's answer to Raptor would make up for whatever was lost on the 1500. After suggesting that, I was told this.
2. No one is asking for Ram to make a Raptor fighter. Automakers are all about following the market. When I told Chrysler that, from my view, people would actually buy one of these things, I was asked "would they?" A few people at Ram said they've received no input from customers about making something with that kind of capability.
My first thought: Really? Dive into the #MoparMonday chats every once in a while on Twitter, and you'll see people clamoring for an SRT Ram of some sort. Secondly, let's say Chrysler (I'm not sure if they do, but most car companies do) takes input from the dealer level about what customers want. Since Chrysler has nothing on their showroom floor that looks like a Raptor, customers don't know that they actually want one. Ford puts this behemoth on the floor, well of course everyone turns into a six-year-old again playing with Tonka trucks. Except now they're adults with bigger wallets.
Even then, here's a third reason why I was told that Ram going after Ford in this arena is low-priority.
3. The engine application has to fire on all cylinders, literally. In an ideal world, I was told, a true high-performance pickup would have the horsepower and torque to match. While the Raptor has a lot of horsepower, I was told (I haven't driven one) that the torque is not becoming of a true pickup. This would be bad news for any automaker who prides itself on pickups that deliver big torque numbers, and Chrysler is one of such automakers.
Either way, let's make one thing clear: This entire rambling is not made to tease or call out Chrysler for not making a Raptor. You could easily sub in General Motors or Toyota in that headline as well. But the case has been made time and time again for someone to step to the challenge. Chrysler seems to be the most viable option.
And let's be honest, it's fun to see slapfights among the automakers. It makes things fun. It makes engineers try to one-up each other. It makes the CEOs make snarky remarks at press conferences that all us auto journalists love.
For what it's worth, I did hear there was lots of great response to the Rumble Bee concept pictured above. I was told "stay tuned" if that would become a trim package or not (put it this way, I wasn't told "no, it wouldn't be a trim package"), but I'm not sure that'll be enough to go up against the Raptor.