Trucks

2019 Ram 1500 pickup is in its own 'production hell'

FCA's main profit center, the Ram 1500, is behind schedule and it's costing the company hundreds of millions.

Ram

While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' CEO Sergio Marchionne isn't bedding down on the factory floor like Tesla's Elon Musk, the company's pivotal new 2019 Ram 1500 pickup is encountering its own brand of production hell. ("You need to be Elon's age to do that. I'm too old for that crap," Marchionne said on last week's media conference call).

According to Automotive News, the new Ram is encountering some costly roadblocks on its production ramp up. The full-size pickup's Sterling Heights Assembly plant in metro Detroit is "probably running today at 60 percent of cycle," says Marchionne. 

The facility is reportedly churning out around 1,000 trucks each day and presently trending toward 1,400 units, but it's well behind schedule. The plant is running seven days a week with a pair of 10-hour shifts each day, and the company expects to keep the factory lines humming through every weekend and holiday through Labor Day. This, for a model that was already delayed for a couple of years while FCA focused on other programs.

In order to quench demand for its trucks, Ram is continuing to assemble the outgoing fourth-generation Ram 1500 at its Warren Truck Assembly facility, and plans to do so for at least the rest of this calendar year.

According to the report, there are a number of reasons for the slow rate of 2019 model deliveries, including supplier difficulties trying to adapt to producing parts for two different Ram 1500 generations, as well as an alleged electrical problem with some 2,500 new models.

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To this point, shipments of 2019 Ram 1500s seem to be limited to 5.7-liter V8-powered trucks. Models equipped with the company's segment-first mild hybrid system, dubbed E-Torque, have been conspicuously absent from plant output. At the truck's reveal at January's Detroit Auto Show, the company made a big deal about the 48-volt system that's standard on the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and optional on the 5.7-liter V8, but thus far, those models don't seem to be in production.

So far, fixes for the model's production are estimated at some $300 million. That's a huge financial setback for the already-struggling automaker, but given the outsized amount that this single model contributes to FCA's bottom line, the company likely can't cut checks quickly enough to get its factory's output on track.