Chrysler Group is boosting Ram pickup production dramatically at its Warren, Mich., plant, aiming to build more than 300,000 there this year, up from 227,000 last year.
It's a sign of how important pickups are to Detroit profits, and how aggressive the car companies intend to be with sales.
Chrysler had said in November it would add workers at Warren to meet growing demand for the Ram 1500, the standard-duty version of the truck. But only now is the scale of the production increase clear. The projections were outlined in a Jan. 24 memo obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
Chrysler wouldn't elaborate. "We don't ever confirm production volumes or plant capacity," said Jodi Tinson, spokeswoman for the company's manufacturing operations.
Chrysler also builds certain models of the Ram 1500 and the heavy-duty versions of Ram at Saltillo, Mexico.
Last year, Chrysler sold 293,363 Ram pickups, up 19.9% from 2011, according to Autodata. If the mix of trucks coming from Warren and Saltillo stays the same as last year, that could mean close to 390,000 Rams this year.
That's no threat to Ford Motor and General Motors. Ford sold 645,316 F-Series trucks last year, according to Autodata, and GM sold 575,497 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups combined. GM begins selling redesigned, 2014 pickups next quarter.
But Ram's aggressive new production plan will keep it in the top tier and well ahead of Toyota, even if the redesigned 2014 Tundra full-size pickup is a hit.
Automakers foresee growth in pickups as the economy strengthens, providing work for tradesmen who are a big portion of buyers, and giving others confidence to buy gentrified pickups that can run to $60,000.
"The whole environment of pent-up demand is becoming a real factor," says industry expert Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com.
Young buyers, women like Chevrolet Spark
Chevrolet Spark is General Motors' smallest, cheapest car, and as one might expect, it's being snapped up by a disproportionately young crowd.
GM says its profile of the Sparks sold so far show 29% of buyers are under 35 and most are women.
Data from more than 12,000 Spark sales -- it went on sale last summer -- also show that more than half of buyers are new to Chevrolet. That's a big deal for Chevy, because if it can make them happy, they're likely to keep coming back.
The research also shows that most Spark buyers care most about overall value. Fuel economy was the next-highest consideration.
And almost one out of four Sparks sold are red -- Salsa Red, to be exact. Green and blue are second and third.
Fiat 500 output moving from Mexico to Poland?
The U.S.-model Fiat 500 has been an Italian car made in Mexico and sold to Americans.
No more. Fiat, which runs Chrysler Group, plans to move all production of the little 500 from Toluca, Mexico, back to Europe, according to Automotive News, quoting three unnamed sources.
The 500 would be built at a plant in Tychy, Poland, in time for the all-new 2015 model. Officials of Chrysler Group, which handles distribution of the Fiat brand here, are mum.
"We are not commenting on the reports out of Turin regarding 500 production," spokeswoman Jodi Tinson says.
Shifting production away from Mexico will free up the plant to make more Chrysler vehicles, the News says. At present, the plant makes the 500 for North and South America, with a smattering of vehicles going to China.
(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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