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2009 Dodge Ram: Timing Is Everything

In recent weeks, sales data show pickups have fallen from about 11 percent of the U.S. motor vehicle market to just 9 percent, and there’s little chance of a recovery, certainly anytime soon. That’s too bad, as the new Ram has a lot going for it, from the new design to its first true Crew Cab model. The big, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 has been improved, delivering 380 horsepower and a boggling 404 pounds of cargo-hauling torque – yet fuel economy is up about 5 percent. A coil spring rear suspension improves the ride significantly, and there are literally dozens of new storage bins and hidey-holes all over the vehicle, including a lockable hold built into the rear fenders.

“This is the best Ram Dodge has ever built,” insists Mike Accavitti, the director of the Dodge brand.

From everything I can see, he’s right. And that’s likely to win over some followers who’re not wedded to the better-known offerings in the segment, namely the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150. But, as I said, timing is everything. If the crisis in the overall truck market isn’t bad enough, remember that Ford is readying an all-new version of that powerhouse F-Series, and there’s a lot of great things to say about that truck, as well.

Chrysler can’t afford to have anything less than a hit on its hands, not considering its current financial shape. But the automaker has long depended on light trucks – which account for roughly two-thirds of its total volume. And with pickups and SUVs, in particular, slumping, it’s no surprise the automaker’s market share is off about a point so far this year.

The new 2009 Dodge Ram has been designed to carry a heavy load, but whether it can carry Chrysler itself is a question buyers will be asked to answer.

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