The No. 1 complaint among owners of full-size pickup trucks is bad fuel economy, said Joe Veltri, director of product marketing for Dodge.
"We tell them we can fix that so they get better mileage, but that they'll lose some performance when we do, and then they all say, 'No, don't do that,'" he said.
At a showing of the redesigned 2009 Dodge Ram pickup that's coming this fall, Veltri said that while all owners want better mileage, 62% of Ram buyers opt for the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine in their pickup, and another 3% take the 4.7-liter V-8. That means 65% of all buyers go for a V-8 instead of a V-6.
The 5.7-liter Hemi in the 2009 Ram will be tweaked to deliver 380 hp and 404 pounds-feet of torque this fall, up from 345 hp and 375 pounds-feet in the 2008 model.
All that said, though, thanks to different valve timing, dual exhausts, a higher compression ratio and the engine's ability to shut off four cylinders when they're not needed, the '09 Ram will get 5% better gas mileage than the '08, Veltri said. The outgoing, 2008 model is rated at 13/17 mpg city/highway with 2WD and 12/16 with 4WD.
Veltri said mileage will get even better after 2009, when Dodge offers a new Cummins diesel in the Ram. Veltri won't talk engine specifics, but said it promises 30% better mileage than the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
For 2010, the Ram will get a gas/electric hybrid version of the 5.7 liter Hemi — the same dual-mode system that will be offered later this spring in the Dodge Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs.
The system, developed in cooperation with GM, promises 40% better city mileage and 25% better combined city/highway mileage.
As dual-mode hybrids, the SUVs can travel at low speeds in battery mode only and use a battery boost when needed to help pass. The Hemi will also incorporate cylinder deactivation technology. Maybe that will finally provide a solution for those green Hemi buyers.