A wide-ranging ride and drive event recently put on by Chrysler’s Ram Trucks division outside Thousand Oaks, CA, highlighted a broad-based effort by the group to show of current and upcoming developments for commercial-grade pickups and vans that Ram executives believe are key to winning more customers and thus more market share.

“In the full-size pickup category, ‘brand loyalty’ can often create a road block to growth, simply because customers are very loyal to their truck brands,” explained Dave Sowers, head of Ram Truck light and heavy duty marketing. “That’s why we’re bringing new features to our trucks and vans.”

In particular, Sowers pointed to the introduction of Ram’s new 3-liter EcoDiesel engine as one of many steps in this direction. “Our biggest priority is to improve light duty truck fuel economy. We can get up to 25 mpg with our new Pentastar V6 – that’s a 20% or 5 mpg improvement over our previous V6 model – and we expect the new EcoDiesel to take that even higher, with a four year ROI [return on investment] for customers.”

Kevin Mets, head of heavy duty pickup engineering for Ram Truck, noted that the EcoDiesel is based on a diesel platform developed by Fiat – Chrysler’s parent company – back in 1992 for the European market. With the EcoDiesel version tailored, in his words, to better fit the needs of the North American market, “we think we’ve got a real winner here.”

[Greg Corey, with Ram Truck powertrain engineering, provides more details on the inner workings of the new 3-liter EcoDiesel below.]

Sowers added that other upgrades being made to Ram’s heavy-duty pickup line are also expected to help the OEM win more customers. “For example, we’re now offering a rear-view cargo bed camera that fits in the third brake light, so customers can look down in the cargo bed to keep on eye on the security of the load or to help them with trailer hook up operations,” he said.

Factory-installed gooseneck and fifth wheel trailer options, higher towing capacities (up to 37,500 lbs GCWR in some cases), plus new 5-link coil and air ride suspensions packages, as well as new engine offerings are just some of the new goodies Ram hopes will increase the attractiveness of its lineup in the commercial light truck segment.

“For the 2014 model year it’s about the 6.4 liter gasoline engine we’re introducing,” Sowers said. “It shares about 70% of the components with our 5.7 liter, to give it repair and longevity advantages, yet provides more low-end torque that customers are looking for.”

He added that Ram is going to offer the 6.4-liter for its 4500 and 5500 chassis trucks as well, again as way to broaden the product options to win more commercial customers.

“Since we began our Ram Truck branding efforts in 2009, we’ve gained 8 points of market share and posted 40 consecutive months of sales growth in the truck segment,” Sowers stressed. “That shows real progress to us from a product standpoint.”