Chrysler Ramming into heavy-duty truck market?

DETROIT — Chrysler is reportedly mulling over the option of getting into the heavy-duty class 8 businesses.

According to company officials, the classes 3-5 chassis Ram trucks will now be branded separately from Dodge. Under that umbrella, the company is considering expanding its focus on commercial vehicle offerings, which could include the possibility of adding a class 8 truck to its portfolio.

"We’re giving serious consideration to entering the heavy truck segment, which includes the 18-wheelers you see out on the road today,” Fred Diaz Jr., CEO of Ram, said recently at a press conference to detail the company’s five-year restructuring plan.

According to Diaz, the company is also considering building a new commercial van, which would displace the Daimler-built Sprinter van, currently marketed by Dodge.

Considering the unprecedented weakness of the current general freight economy, it’s unlikely we’ll see such a truck in the immediate future. But the company could tie the truck’s release to an expected recovery beyond 2011.

Chrysler was revived when the U.S. federal government gave it more than $7 billion and Italian car and truck maker Fiat SpA acquired a 35 percent stake in the company for no money down. Led by Italian-Canadian Sergio Marchionne, Fiat has also taken over the day-to-day management of Chrysler.

It’s quite possible that any class 8 truck from Chrysler would be based on the platform of Fiat’s Iveco truck lineup, which is popular in Europe and Australia.

The one drawback is Iveco, like most European models, are cabovers, which have all but disappeared from the North American landscape except for some urban, short-haul applications.

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