Ram pickups are taking food out of Ford and GM's mouths

The rise of the Ram pickup truck
The rise of the Ram pickup truck

Ram has gone from a third-place also-ran in America's truck wars to a serious challenger.

The Ram Heavy Duty pickup snatched industry publication MotorTrend's 2020 Truck of the Year award on Tuesday, giving Fiat Chrysler's pickup brand yet another award to add to its growing trophy collection. The smaller full-size Ram 1500 pickup won the same award for 2019.

It is a dramatic rise for a brand that many in the industry thought Fiat Chrysler was mistaken in creating in the first place. After the Italian automaker Fiat merged with Chrysler in 2009, management decided to spin Ram out of Dodge, allowing the former to focus on trucks and Dodge to focus on performance cars and a few other models with solid customer bases.

The move seemed dubious at a time as cross-town rival General Motors ditched some of its own brands. But Ram has roughly tripled sales over the last decade and appears to be taking market share away from rivals.

It has done so by giving up on going toe-to-toe with Ford and GM on towing and capability numbers and instead offering buyers a solid all-around truck with a plush interior and a lot of highly visible technology in the cabin. The move might have seemed like a risk of its own: truck buyers have traditionally been considered practical customers who often purchase their vehicles for work or other specific uses.

But the bet seems to have paid off both in critical praise and growing market share. Now analysts say GM and Ford are taking notice and may be making similar tweaks to their own lineups.

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