Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Millcreek native debuts new Dodge Ram design

Erie native Scott Krugger is a senior
designer in the Advanced Exterior
Studio at Chrysler. He designed the
exterior of the 2009 Dodge Ram.
He's shown here at the 2008 Auto
Show in Detroit.
(Contributed photo)


The Matchbox kid did this.

Scott Krugger, a 30-year-old who grew up in Millcreek Township, a car buff who used study halls to draw trucks, just got his ticket to the big time: The 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"It's really been fun," he said, passing the dune-buggied Jeep Renegade, a two-seater with an electric engine. "This is the Super Bowl of car design. You really do get excited for it."

He brought a project of his own: The 2009 Dodge Ram, a crew-cab pickup with a 5.7-liter Hemi engine and 380 horsepower.

Krugger, a senior designer in Chrysler's Advanced Exterior Studio, fit the truck with a new look. He put a forward lean on the grille, cribbing a bit from the Dodge Charger's shark-nosed profile. He tucked dual exhaust pipes under the rear bumper. And he stamped it with a big Ram logo.

"That's in your face," he said. "That and the grille get you to look at it. But along with making that big first-look statement, we want to have a lot of secondary reads. So we really brought up the attention to detail."

The new Ram has a heated steering wheel, back-seat DVD screens and insulated floor compartments that double as drink coolers.

The new RamBox storage opens the truck's bedrail wide enough for a golf bag.

The critics were quick to weigh in.

"The subtle angling forward of the grille, coupled with the ridges built into the hood, give the redesigned Ram a sense of muscular motion, a sportiness that its predecessor lacked," Sven Gustafson, an auto writer for the Oakland Business Review, said. "It also brings the truck more into line stylistically with its design-forward Dodge brethren, such as the Charger and Avenger."

(Chris Sigmund / Erie Times-News)

The base price will be about $22,000.

Krugger, a 2001 graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, worked two years on the truck. He led a design team that produced three full-size clay molds.

"We do kind of a sketch-off, where everybody puts all their ideas up on a wall," he said. "We look at a series of sketches, and we select a theme."

From there, the team ordered 3/8th-scale models. Three full-size models followed, in clay and then in fiberglass.

For Krugger, whose prior work had centered on concept cars, the Ram brought a new set of challenges.

"Concept cars are kind of a snapshot in time," he said. "The timing is a lot faster with them. With a production vehicle, you have to resolve and work out every little detail."

Some touches were still coming together when the truck launched. Dodge unveiled the new Ram with a bit of Old West stagecraft. Two trucks appeared in a parade of 120 Texas Longhorns. They crowded a Detroit street.

Krugger kept his attention on the truck.

"For me, this was very much about keeping the history of what Ram is," he said. "The Ram is an icon vehicle. It has that semi-truck look that people always notice. And we really tried to honor that."

ROBB FREDERICK can be reached at 870-1733 or by e-mail.

About Scott Krugger
Scott Krugger, the son of George and Karen Krugger of Millcreek Township, designed the exterior of the new 2009 Dodge Ram. He signed on with Chrysler six years ago, and has worked on that company's PT Cruiser. Krugger drives a Chrysler Crossfire.

What Critics Say
"The 'big-rig' front end has been refreshed, capped by a bulging aluminum hood. Not to be outdone by Cadillac, Ford and other companies who are supersizing the badges on their big trucks, the ram on the Ram's tailgate has grown by 250 percent. Ooooh. Aaaaaah."

-- Rusty Blackwell, Automobile Magazine

"The current Ram is one of the more aggressively styled pickups on the market, and the redesigned 2009 model looks even tougher, thanks to its new grille. The dual tailpipes poking out from beneath the rear bumper are an unusual styling element for the truck segment."

-- Mike Hanley, Kicking Tires blog

"There's no other way to describe the prow other than 'grille forward,' and the power bulge in the hood is pretty hard to miss. Twenty-inch wheels and tires give the truck an aggressive stance."

-- Paul Lienert, Edmunds Inside Line

"The new Ram is, as expected, a monster, with the kind of grille that can take on full-grown steers. The 2009 Ram is even more aggressive than the current model, with a huge forward-leaning grille akin to that on the Dodge Charger and a more exaggerated hood dome."

-- Mark Gillies, Car and Driver

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