Have you ever tried to juggle? Unless you’re a professional juggler (hats off to you), you likely cringe at the thought of keeping track of multiple objects flying around your head. After all, some of us have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. But what does juggling have to do with the automotive industry? Trust me; it’s a juggling act turned amicable split turned widespread success that you can see when you visit the Ram or Dodge dealer near you.
Automotive groups or conglomerates are professional jugglers and multitaskers. For example, General Motors juggles sub-brands like Cadillac, Buick, GMC, and Chevrolet, each carving a niche and meeting the demands of a specific demographic of drivers. The same is said for Stellantis, which runs Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and many others. But what happens when juggling is no longer profitable? What happens when multitasking no longer works and the message or result gets too watered down?
The industry saw this firsthand in 2009 when Chrysler announced the most astonishing divorce in automotive history––the split between Dodge and Ram. For years, Dodge Ram helped lead the industry in truck sales, but it wasn’t enough to keep Chrysler out of bankruptcy or financial decline. The juggling was too much, leading to the most amicable divorce the world has ever seen. Why? Because it allowed Dodge and Ram to stop multitasking, honing their focus on what each brand did best. The result is phenomenal.
The Road Paved With Good Intentions
The 2009 Dodge-Ram split shocked automotive enthusiasts who couldn’t fathom a divorce between the popular brands. How could you have a Ram truck without Dodge? It seemed nearly impossible, but Fred M. Diaz, Ram’s CEO at the time, explained the company’s intentions behind pivoting its focus. “We have the equity in the truck market now to do it,” he said. “This gives Dodge the space to develop its own identity outside the Ram brand.” People thought Chrysler had lost its mind, and for a good reason, since the company was reemerging out of the depths of bankruptcy at the time.
Ironically, the rising sales of Dodge Ram trucks and Dodge minivans padded Chrysler’s pockets for years, making up over 70% of the company’s revenue. However, it wasn’t enough. The split seemed counterintuitive to many but proved profitable in the long run and is responsible for giving us some of the best and most capable Dodge models ever made. How so? By allowing Dodge to focus on its strengths, eliminating the need to juggle or multitask to satisfy a broad demographic of drivers.
The Proof Is in the Numbers
In the years following the split, Ram skyrocketed as the fastest-growing truck brand in the industry and nearly doubled its market share in the truck market by 2014, giving Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC a run for their money. Dodge accomplished a similar feat, enjoying incredible growth with its lineup keenly focused on performance and speed. “Separating the Ram and Dodge brands has resulted in the best outcome for both,” Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis told The Detroit News in 2014. “It’s allowed Ram to focus on the commercial market. And it’s allowed Dodge to focus on being a performance brand.”
That focus led to massive success, as Dodge sales increased 41% between 2009 and 2014. During this time, the brand rekindled its relationship with the SRT high-performance division and turned even more of its attention to building iconic speed demons. Today, car enthusiasts continue to reap the benefits of that focus, which gave Dodge a solid platform to return to the drawing board to satiate our ever-growing need for speed.
The Proof Is in the Lineup
The numbers don’t lie, and neither do the Dodge and Ram lineups. The Dodge-Ram split forced the brands to focus on their strengths, allowing Ram to build capable workhorses and Dodge to deliver top-performing speed demons. The result is incredible, as we see with models like the Ram Heavy Duty and the Dodge Challenger SRT.
Ram Heavy Duty
Ram sealed its fate as a pioneer in the truck segment with the 2016 Ram Heavy Duty and its best-in-class capability. The heavy-duty workhorse featured a 6.7L Cummins diesel under its hood that delivered a best-in-class 900 lb-ft of torque, the most from a mass-production model. But the accomplishments didn’t stop there as the 2016 Ram Heavy Duty led the segment with a best-in-class payload of 7,390 pounds, a best-in-class gross combined weight rating of 3,100 pounds, and a best-in-class three-quarter-ton maximum at 17,980 pounds.
Today, the 2022 Ram Heavy Duty continues its remarkable feat, setting new benchmarks of performance, capability, luxury, innovation, and technology. It’s the most powerful and capable truck in the segment, with a towing capacity of 37,090 pounds and a maximum payload of 7,680 pounds. Ram’s focus on improving performance is responsible for the Heavy Duty’s latest accomplishment of being the first to offer 1,000 lb-ft of torque with its Cummins Turbo Diesel. That output has only improved, with the 2022 model delivering 1,075 lb-ft of torque for incredible off-the-line acceleration and low-end power that gives the Heavy Duty its name.
Dodge Challenger SRT
Without the Dodge-Ram split, there’s no question the Challenger SRT Hellcat would be vastly different. The separation allowed Dodge to focus on power and performance, debuting years of hard work and innovation on the 2016 Challenger SRT Hellcat. The Hellcat’s 707-horsepower engine made it the fastest and most powerful muscle car ever made, forever sealing Dodge’s fate as an automotive pioneer with a penchant for speed.
The Challenger SRT Hellcat shared the stage with the Challenger SRT 392 and its best-in-class 485 horsepower engine. Dodge improved the Challenger further, adding the segment’s first-ever eight-speed automatic transmission to the lineup by pairing it with the award-winning Pentastar V6 engine. The combination delivered world-class precision in the Challenger, with paddle shifters that gave the driver a physical connection to the muscle car and a say in its performance and handling.
Today, the 2023 Challenger lives up to its heritage and ends its 18-year tenure at the top of the Dodge lineup. Dodge is releasing the Challenger in seven special-edition models to celebrate the muscle car’s incredible success. The models include the Shaker, Jailbreak, Scat Pack, Demon, Hellcat, and Redeye. The 707-horsepower Hellcat of years past makes way for the 840-horsepower Challenger Demon, a reflection of Dodge’s exceptional progression since its split from Ram and its keen focus on taking its icons to new levels of power and capability.
Since its 2009 split with Ram, Dodge has maintained tunnel vision, which has allowed the automaker to focus on carving a niche in the vast landscape of America’s automotive industry. This tunnel vision has paid off tenfold, rekindling Dodge’s partnership with SRT and giving the brand a solid footing to establish itself as a performance-oriented automaker. While tunnel vision isn’t always good, Dodge is the exception.
Without the Dodge-Ram split, car enthusiasts wouldn’t have beloved icons like the Challenger SRT Hellcat, nor would truck fans have capable workhorses like the Ram Heavy Duty. The progression of these models over the years proves that Dodge’s divorce from Ram is easily the most beneficial split in automotive history. The proof is right in front of us, with Dodge renowned for building the fastest and most powerful models in America that are a pleasure to drive, and that’s putting it mildly.