Picking the Brain of Mike Koval Jr. Head of Ram Brand, After Another MotorTrend Truck of the Year Win

Mike Koval Jr. is now king of the three-peat. The Ram 1500 TRX is the 2021 MotorTrend Truck of the Year, following the Ram Heavy Duty win in 2020 and the Ram 1500 beginning the roll because the 2019 Truck of the Year. Discuss being in the proper job on the proper time. Koval Jr. has been with FCA since 2002, the final 5 with the Ram model the place he was made head of the model in July 2020.

Congratulations on the three-peat win as MotorTrend Truck of the 12 months for the Ram 1500 TRX. What’s your secret for achievement? To start with, thanks very a lot. As soon as once more as a model we discover ourselves humbled and honored for the popularity and the key is nice folks inventing nice product. And I believe that since Ram turned a standalone model again in 2009, we’ve had the aggressive benefit actually of focusing readability in our mission and that’s as the one devoted truck and business van model we’re absolutely and completely dedicated to understanding and delivering on the distinctive wants of our clients as a truck model.



How do you observe this up? What’s subsequent? Effectively that’s an awesome query and one actually we’re not going to relaxation on our laurels. I believe an award of this magnitude is de facto validation within the consideration to element that we’ve put into our mild and heavy-duty vans. As you recognize since 2009, we’ve really claimed MotorTrend Truck of the 12 months six instances which is one thing we’re terribly pleased with and this most up-to-date award I believe will simply assist propel us to do even higher issues sooner or later.

Are you discovering the Ram identify comes tripping off the tongue for consumers in a approach that for a few years Ram fought so arduous to do? Sure. In reality, I believe once more it goes again to having the aggressive benefit of being the one devoted truck model within the trade and we talked to truck clients day-after-day throughout the nation to know their desires and wishes. And I’ll let you know from its very infancy, the all new Ram 1500 was designed and engineered to be the no-compromise benchmark when it comes to energy, sturdiness, innovation and know-how. Take for instance the section disrupting 12-inch touchscreen that we have now within the pickup truck. It’s been actually a sport changer not just for Ram 1500 and now after I ran Heavy Obligation fashions as you recognize however actually for the model total. And we’re seeing folks come to our model which have by no means thought-about us earlier than. And I believe as soon as they step contained in the cabin of our truck the very first thing they discover is how snug and the way quiet. How spacious it’s. The eye to element. We now have backseats that do entrance seat issues, which can be heated. They’re cool. They recline. And at Ram we’re actually starting to alter the best way folks take into consideration what a pickup truck will be.

Are you shocked in an trade the place no person actually lets anybody get an enormous leg up, that Ram has continued to up the bar and the competitors nonetheless retains falling quick? Effectively it’s hyper aggressive for certain. And I believe that Ram is starting to obtain credit score within the market for being a pacesetter and an innovator. For instance, we had been the primary to introduce a contemporary diesel within the half-ton pickup truck section again in 2013. We had been additionally the primary to introduce delicate hybridization powertrains as customary gear on the all new Ram 1500. After which after all we simply touched on the 12-inch touchscreen which was a section first. I believe Ram has demonstrated its dedication to be a pacesetter within the section each within the mild obligation in addition to within the heavy-duty section.

We’re nonetheless ready for a smaller midsize pickup. The place are we within the plan for that? I don’t have something new to report right here as we speak however what I can let you know and I believe we’ve been fairly clear that for certain it’s the most important alternative for our model and never even simply within the U.S. however globally as effectively. It’s an amazing white house alternative for us. We’re actively wanting into issues for certain. And on the acceptable time we’ll have extra to share however there’s nothing new to let you know at this cut-off date aside from we completely acknowledge what an necessary alternative it’s for our model when it comes to future development.

You will have stated by 2022, however is there an opportunity we’ll see it earlier than that? I don’t have something new to share with you as we speak. It’s an ongoing dialog internally for certain. I wouldn’t anticipate something actually this yr. I do know we stated by 2022. That clearly stays to be seen however once more on the acceptable time we’ll actually be comfortable to share extra with you.

Have you ever settled on a platform for it? No. Not essentially. I believe we’re actually each platform that we have now accessible to us as we speak however we’re contemplating others as effectively. I wouldn’t say definitively that that’s been outlined.

Have you ever at the very least whittled it right down to physique on body versus unibody way of life truck which has been the talk you’ve had for a few years? I believe the query remains to be open. I believe we’re monitoring not solely the aggressive panorama as we speak however most significantly we’re futuring what the section may appear to be within the years to return to assist drive us to an final determination. However we haven’t stated for certain, not determined internally for certain if and when if the time comes which approach we’ll go.

You’re going to need to nail that down fairly quickly. Yeah. For certain we perceive that point is ticking on that timeframe that I believe we specified by our five-year plan. And once more it’s one thing that we’re actively and I’m personally concerned in as effectively. Once more, on the acceptable time I believe there’s nonetheless so much to be realized and so much to resolve however we’ll actually be comfortable to share that as we get nearer and on the extra acceptable time.

Ought to we anticipate the Dakota identify to return again or will there be a brand new identify? Clearly we perceive the heritage of the identify and it runs deeply in our firm and regardless that Ram remains to be a comparatively younger model once more as we turned a standalone model in 2009, the identify Dakota runs deep in our heritage. And so actually we honor that and we all know that it’s a particular identify for our clients and followers alike however but no determination has been made on what will probably be known as if and when that point comes.

Was there ever speak about ProMasters staying with the Dodge model and never Ram? Why hold it Ram?  The choice actually goes again to Ram changing into a standalone model in 2009 and we’ve clearly had companions previously beneath completely different naming conventions. However I believe once we speak about Ram and our efficiency within the market, I believe all of us may agree Ram has numerous momentum total. We now have the very best conquest (the defection ratio in each mild and heavy-duty segments). Merely put extra individuals are switching to Ram than ever earlier than. We now have the very best proprietor loyalty in each the sunshine obligation in addition to the heavy-duty segments. I believe our sellers are doing a beautiful job not solely caring for, and retaining our personal clients, however we’re bringing extra folks into the model. However what we don’t discuss usually sufficient about is Ram’s business division. And we have now some particular merchandise whether or not it’s the Ram ProMaster giant van, ProMaster Metropolis small van and naturally the Chassis Cab lineup as effectively. And we have now some class unique options which can be actually necessary to us, however our business model is de facto in its infancy levels. We speak about Ram being a younger model however our business division throughout the Ram model itself can also be terribly younger. And I’ll let you know we consider within the worth of arduous work and I believe that goes hand in hand with model business. We sweat the main points. We push past expectations. And from my view when others shrink back, we’re those which can be prepared to go in and tackle the subsequent massive problem. And that’s actually who we’re as a model. I believe that’s who we’re. That’s who our clients are. And I believe there’s a robust connection between the business section and the Ram model. I believe it was an excellent determination to maintain ProMaster in Ram and we’re carving our personal approach within the market. And Dodge simply form of moved into extra of a efficiency house with the muscle vehicles and so forth. We’re going to proceed to develop our model and our business model inside that.

There may be critical revenue to be made in business automobiles. They’re not horny however each auto maker will let you know that that’s a gold mine. Yeah. For certain. Individuals want their vans or their business vans for his or her livelihood and we don’t take that without any consideration. We do that as a result of our house owners rely upon us. And we all know that for them it’s far more than a truck or a business van; it’s their livelihood and it’s their fame. Which is why at Ram we consider in dedication and we all know once you make a dedication you stand by it and also you honor it.

Are there gaps within the Ram lineup (past the mid-size pickup) that you simply nonetheless wish to see stuffed? As a model I believe we’re all the time searching for new areas of the market to develop. In fact firstly we wish to shield our core viewers however we proceed to increase for instance the sunshine obligation lineup with the introduction of the all-new 2021 Ram TRX, which is the quickest, quickest, and strongest manufacturing truck on the earth. And I believe the enlargement of the sunshine obligation lineup with the TRX as our halo product we’ll proceed to herald new consumers and customers into our model total. I believe, sure, we’re going to proceed to guard our core. We proceed to search for alternatives for development throughout the lineup. I believe the mid-sized pickup truck for certain is the most important alternative for our model and that’s how we’re going ahead.

What’s your electrification technique? Are you leaning extra to plug-in and delicate hybrids than full battery electrical automobiles? I wouldn’t say that’s true. I believe that particularly for the model and clearly for different manufacturers inside FCA, particularly Jeep, we’re coming to market clearly with PHEV and so forth and clearly we have now the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. When it comes to model, Ram is totally dedicated to an electrification technique. Our solely distinction between us and the competitors was adaptation timing. It’s as a result of when you concentrate on what the pickup truck purchaser historically makes use of their vans for. They use it to tow, they use it to haul, and to do the issues they wanted to do. Clearly, there’s some critical issues on the market I believe with regard to vary nervousness and total efficiency with pickup vans beneath a load. We’re completely dedicated. Ram was the primary to introduce the fashionable diesel within the half-ton pickup section. The primary to introduce customary delicate hybridization with the all-new Ram 1500; customary on the three.6 (liter) and non-obligatory on the 5.7 liter Hemi V-8. And we’re completely dedicated to an electrification technique going ahead. The one distinction being was the variation timing and when the market was prepared for a heavy electrified automobile. However as you recognize the market is… Every little thing is transferring very, in a short time. And I’d say Ram is transferring in a short time as effectively. As soon as once more when we have now extra to share with you on that entrance, we’ll actually be comfortable to take action.

Simply to make clear, it doesn’t imply that we’ll by no means see a pure electrical Ram pickup it’s simply that the timing of it may very well be additional out than a few of your competitors. I’d say sure, that’s appropriate. I’d say that it’s completely doable. And once more, it’s simply the timing is what we’re very fastidiously proper now could be as a result of every little thing from a aggressive panorama perspective is transferring in a short time. However sure. We’re absolutely dedicated to an electrification technique. It may embody a number of options, as effectively.

Does the GMC Hummer put stress on you or does it not hold you from staying your individual course? I believe numerous the claims are spectacular. I believe the fascinating factor is that none of this has been confirmed in actual world utility but. I believe that’s fascinating. I believe it’s clever for any model to constantly monitor the aggressive atmosphere, however I believe that we’re going to remain on our course and I’m assured within the plan that we have now to fulfill and delight the expectations of our clients now and sooner or later.

Does the position of Ram change in any respect beneath Stellantis? I believe that beneath Stellantis, the overwhelming majority of the quantity that Ram does as we speak is in North America: 97, 98 p.c of our international purchaser. We’re rising however we’re very small outdoors of North America. And I believe that the wants and the desires of the truck and business van buyer right here within the U.S. are distinctive in some ways. And so I believe that our position, our model determination will largely keep the identical beneath Stellantis. In fact, time will inform however standing right here as we speak I believe that our focus stays intact and that’s to proceed to fulfill and delight our clients. I don’t suppose something in our plan goes to alter within the close to time period.

The two-Three p.c that’s international, is that largely business vans and ultimately a smaller pickup? That’s our present steady of merchandise as we speak. That may be mild obligation, heavy obligation after which the business vans as effectively in order that’s complete Ram model quantity that exists in our portfolio as we speak.

There are full dimension and heavy duties on the market? Full dimension vans there are. Sure.

However Heavy Duties might be a bridge too far? Heavy Obligation and Chassis cabs are just about steady right here in North America however actually in different elements of the world: South America, the Center East, Australia, New Zealand. And our footprint is rising. We even have a really sturdy plan easy methods to develop our worldwide footprint and reception. Frankly, we noticed numerous this following the TRX reveal again in August. It actually raised the profile of Ram on a worldwide foundation. We obtained notes from around the globe inquiring about TRX. I believe the profile of Ram goes to do nothing however develop. However I can let you know actually in South America, Center East, the demand for our merchandise really exceeds our capacity to produce the capability. And that’s so true that the demand right here in North America particularly within the U.S. is so sturdy that it’s been a problem to fulfill the demand in different markets.

The Center East does like their massive vans. The vans for certain. They usually love the efficiency. {The marketplace} generally loves the efficiency of the TRX at 702 horsepower, 650 pound-feet of torque, engineered bolt by bolt to considerably outperform each different truck. It’s completely the benchmark for excessive off-road efficiency and this truck can zip throughout sand dunes at 100 miles an hour. There’s numerous curiosity in what this truck is able to doing but in addition we carry out very effectively on the higher finish of the worth paid distribution. Our Restricted trim mannequin, specifically, does very effectively within the Center East.

Is being a largely regional model a bonus or drawback? Within the rapid time period that is clearly crucial marketplace for us proper right here within the U.S. after all, and that is the place we promote the overwhelming majority of our quantity and the place the overwhelming majority of our revenue comes from. We have to be sure that we shield and develop within the U.S. marketplace for certain. Nevertheless, I’m very optimistic and enthusiastic about our international development as effectively. However firstly, the precedence is to guard it to develop right here after which clearly search for alternatives elsewhere around the globe.

Does including the Jeep Gladiator pickup assist or harm Ram pickup gross sales? I believe there’s two completely completely different consumers. We watched that very intently once we first introduced Gladiator to {the marketplace} however analysis has confirmed that the cross store could be very low. I believe it’s two completely completely different consumers. I believe they’ve complimented one another effectively total on the showroom ground.

Gladiator primarily is available in one configuration, whereas when you’ve got a Ram of comparable dimension is it going to have the standard selections of beds and cabs and configurations that Ram is understood for? Actually. And I believe that’s the Gladiator positioning. The Jeep model is a spirit. It’s a sense. It’s a lifestyle. I believe the Gladiator embodies numerous that keenness, that way of life mentality. And Ram has a few of that for certain in addition to we modernize our model with merchandise like Restricted and introducing the 12-inch touchscreen and so forth. However I believe that basically the consumers are completely different and once you want the potential, the ability and the efficiency of a full-size pickup truck that’s clearly the place we distinguish ourselves. Not solely with what sort of showroom however in opposition to the competitors as effectively.

Effectively it has been a bit been a wierd yr and clearly my predecessor Reid Bigland determined to retire earlier in 2020. And we clearly all miss Reid tremendously and hope he’s doing effectively in retirement, however issues have been transferring shortly. I’ve really been with the model now happening 5 years and been with the corporate since 2002. However most particularly with the model for 5 and on this position since July of 2020. One final thing I’d say simply on life generally. The segments during which we take part have held up remarkably effectively listed to different mainstream segments all through 2020 and, pun supposed, I believe our segments to an excellent diploma have an immunity to troublesome instances. It may very well be to pure disasters or different influences in the marketplace as a result of folks nonetheless want their vans and their business vans to tow, to haul and to do the issues they wanted to do for his or her livelihoods so our segments have held up remarkably effectively.

That is the one section that’s simply been on hearth. We’ve been clearly pleasantly shocked. Popping out of the COVID downtime when the meeting vegetation had been down earlier this yr, we’ve been pleasantly shocked with the resiliency of our clients and the section total, however it’s been throughout mild obligation and throughout the heavy-duty section as effectively. Heavy-duty section, actually over the past 30 days, primarily based on our estimates is operating at all-time excessive ranges when it comes to its proportion of the overall retail trade, simply underscoring the energy of the section total. So, we’ve been more than happy and pleasantly shocked with the bounce again in demand total.

So that you’re in the proper job on the proper time. Effectively, it solely will get tougher from right here. The segments, the truck segments specifically, are hyper-competitive. And so I believe it’s actually necessary for our model to remain out in entrance and to proceed to lean on the notion of innovation. Once more, our strategy is de facto to redefine what a truck will be by pushing these limits of functionality, of consolation. Then clearly, utilizing our place as America’s most loyal pickup truck house owners to proceed to get our message throughout within the market. When you get pleasure from a check drive of a Ram truck, hopefully we are able to hold you within the portfolio for a very long time.

You’ve continued to blow us away with the truck. We’re very proud, after all. Then, geez, I sound like a damaged document, however actually humbled and honored for the popularity and numerous hardworking women and men at Ram. I actually recognize the eye to element, the no-compromise perspective that we had once we introduced the brand new Ram 1500 into {the marketplace}. Now that’s, after all, made its approach into the heavy-duty pickup vans, after which clearly manifested itself right here most not too long ago with the launch of the Ram 1500 TRX. We glance to maintain that momentum going.

It has you tapping into your scrappy aspect once more. When Ram was a smaller participant, it was simpler to experiment and take dangers. Once you change into mainstream, it turns into far more troublesome. However there’s all the time been a cowboy spirit to Ram that TRX reveals us. I’d agree, and we completely view ourselves that approach. We’re a scrappy truck maker. We’re, in our view, the underdog. Perhaps not actually, however figuratively. It’s that philosophy. It’s that mind-set. It’s being humble in our strategy. It’s being true to who we’re. It’s being an genuine model and resonating with our clients throughout this nation every day. However yeah, we’re agile. We are able to try this. Once more, as a model that’s solely targeted on vans and business vans, it affords us that flexibility and that latitude, and we had large assist. When you concentrate on every little thing from an engineering perspective that went into the TRX, for instance, there wasn’t a penny spared of funding. We knew that if we had been going to convey the apex predator of the truck world within the market, that it needed to dwell as much as that billing, and I believe it actually has. Nevertheless it’s been numerous enjoyable. We’ve acquired numerous momentum total within the market proper now, and more than happy with the trajectory of the model.

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