Market Snapshot


The 2009 Dodge Ram pickup, expected at dealerships this fall, will get a 4% bump in fuel economy along with a 13% rise in horsepower, according to the Automotive News. The automaker announced the improvements to reporters at a preview of Chrysler’s 2009 lineup near Detroit.

Dodge engineers have rebuilt the Hemi engine, adding variable valve timing, bumping up compression, improving air and fuel flow efficiency, and tweaking the cylinder shutoff system to operate in a wider rpm range. Dodge designers have also improved the Ram’s aerodynamics as an additional fuel-saving measure.

The horsepower increase puts the Ram at 390, which Chrysler claims is best in class. Chrysler officials didn’t release mpg estimates. The 2008 Ram pickup, outfitted with 5.7L engine and automatic transmission, gets 13 mpg city/19 highway, according to EPA estimates.

Dodge also announced that a light-duty, Cummins diesel-powered pickup is scheduled to launch after the 2009 model year, with an expected 25% gain in fuel economy over a conventional gas engine. Chrysler says the Cummins V6 is clean enough for 50-state certification. The automaker also confirmed plans to launch a gas/electric hybrid Ram outfitted with a 5.7L Hemi V8 with cylinder cutoff. The Two Mode system is the fruit of collaboration with General Motors, BMW and Daimler engineers.

Popular with enthusiasts, a new Ram is always a story in the specialty-equipment market. According to SEMA's Automotive Lifestyles survey (data pooled from a wide range of niche enthusiasts), 6% of survey respondents owned a Dodge Ram. Additionally, 13% of light-truck owners, 18% of pickup owners and 42% of diesel pickup owners surveyed owned a Ram.

Any increase in fuel economy is good news for truck enthusiasts who have turned to the specialty-equipment market to find efficiency gains. Exhaust, high-flow air filters and air intakes in particular have shown small increases in fuel economy, a development that has not gone unnoticed by enthusiasts. A recent SEMA survey, in which truck owners comprised 47% of the sample, reveals that the parts enthusiasts most plan to buy in the next three months are intake (11%; includes performance air filter replacements) and exhaust (10%) components.

"I had a client with a 2005 Dodge Ram Hemi—lifted, 35-inch tires, intake, exhaust—at the SEMA Spring Expo/OFFROAD Show who said he picked up 3 mpg after modifications," says Lawson Mollica, vice president of business development at KTC Media Group, a marketing agency that represents several specialty-equipment clients, including air intake manufacturer AEM.

After adding an intake to his own truck, Mollica picked up an average of 1.5 mpg over several tankfuls ("until I got bored with tracking it," he says).

"An intake is an efficiency adder," Mollica notes. "It's non-mechanically driven and if tuned properly, allows you to create more power with less effort. If all things remain constant—driving style, route, etc.—there's no reason why you shouldn't see mpg improvement."

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