There’s a simple answer to the question, “Which one is it: Dodge Ram or RAM?” Behind every simple answer in the automotive industry, there’s a complex history of business dealings and marketing maneuvers leading up to the conclusion. The question demands a detailed explanation, even before the answer is revealed.
The Dodge brand was founded in 1900 as “Dodge Brothers Company,” making it one of the oldest surviving American automotive brands. Dodge began producing trucks as early as 1914. In 1928, Walter P. Chrysler bought Dodge, merging it with his eponymous brand, while maintaining Dodge’s original brand identity. Dodge continued to produce cars, trucks and vans throughout the 20th century, with some successful models including the Power Wagon, Lil’ Red Express and Warlock.
In 1998, Chrysler Corporation merged with Daimler-Benz AG (Mercedes-Benz’s parent corporation). The resulting company, DaimlerChrysler, slotted Dodge in its entry-level brand. The merged corporation had mixed successes and failures. In 2007, Daimler-Benz AG spun off Chrysler to a private equity company, Cerberus Capital Management. The timing was good for Daimler-Benz AG, and terrible for Dodge. The economic crisis of 2008 forced Chrysler to file for bankruptcy in 2009. FIAT swooped in and bought Chrysler’s assets in partnership with the U.S. Government and the United Auto Workers, forming Chrysler Group LLC out of the ashes of bankruptcy. In 2014, the deal was restructured and loans repaid, and the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles emerged, including the Dodge brand.
Dodge Ram is Born
Let’s backtrack a little to the birth of “Dodge Ram.” The name was originally attached to Dodge’s full-size light-duty D Series pickup truck in 1981. At the time, the brand was “Dodge,” and the model was “Ram.” There was also a “Dodge Ramcharger” sport utility vehicle in the lineup at the time, as well as a Dodge Ram Van. In 1987, the Dodge Ram pickup was joined by the Dodge Dakota mid-size pickup truck.
Dodge Ram Becomes RAM
In late 2009, under the new auspices of FIAT, Chrysler Group LLC restructured the Dodge brand. Its cars and minivans retained the Dodge nameplate, while its trucks, the Dodge Ram and Dodge Dakota, became RAM trucks. The capitalization is a marketing stylization and is applied somewhat inconsistently by RAM itself. Grammatically, it’s incorrect — all caps indicates an acronym, like GM, BMW or FIAT. RAM became its own division within the corporation, with its own CEO (Fred Diaz). The trucks no longer bore the Dodge name from the 2010 model year on.
Current RAM Vehicles
The current RAM lineup is very straightforward. There’s the light-duty RAM 1500 full-size pickup; the heavy-duty RAM 2500 and 3500 full-size pickups; the RAM Chassis Cab; the RAM Promaster City light-duty van; and the RAM Promaster heavy-duty van. The heavy-duty trucks and vans are marketed under the subdivision of “RAM Commercial.”
The Final Answer — for Now
So, which one is it: Dodge Ram or RAM?
If you’re talking about the current lineup of new vehicles, since the 2010 model year the answer has been “RAM.”
If you’re talking about a Dodge full-size pickup truck from 1981 to 2009, that’s a “Dodge Ram.”
So, the answer is: it depends.
But the spirit of the answer is that Dodge and RAM are divisions of the same company, so the distinction is more about marketing than it is about anything else. If you refer to a new FCA pickup truck as a “Dodge Ram,” you’re technically incorrect, but you’re still communicating effectively. If you call it a RAM, you’re being accurate. FCA will be happy either way, as long as you’re considering their truck when it comes time to buy a new vehicle.