The 2010 Ram Heavy Duty was named Motor Trend magazine's truck of the year on Thursday, beating out contenders from Ford and Toyota in the closely watched competition.
The award is a welcome piece of good news for Chrysler Group LLC, which has seen its sales continue to lag even as competitors rebound. The Ram Heavy Duty beat out three other competitors: The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, the Ford Transit Connect van and the Toyota Tundra 4.6-liter work truck.
The vehicle of the year designation is important to automakers, who often use Motor Trend's endorsement in their advertising. Chrysler last won truck of the year in 2003 with the Ram Heavy Duty. Last year, Ford Motor Co.'s F-150 truck took the prize, while in November the 2010 Ford Fusion was named car of the year.
Motor Trend praised the Ram Heavy duty for its powerful yet clean engine and its quiet comfortable ride. The magazine also said the truck's 17,500-pound towing capacity beats out rivals, while the platform received significant upgrades that improve ride, handling and noise compared with the previous model.
"The 2010 Ram Heavy Duty absolutely nailed the award in terms of our criteria, from the attractive exterior styling, to the plush and quiet cabins, to the tough and capable powertrains," said Angus MacKenzie, editor in chief of Motor Trend, in a statement.
The 2010 Ram Heavy Duty is available in five trim models and sports suspension and brake improvements that are designed to help in carrying heavy loads. The truck starts at $28,165 for a regular cab model, $36,865 for crew cab models and $36,865 for Mega Cab models. It is slated to arrive in dealerships before the end of the year.
Motor Trend said it has refocused the prize this year to reward trucks with greater utility, as leisure truck buyers have largely deserted the market. The magazine said the new focus is reflected in the choice of finalists, like the Ford Transit Connect, a cargo van.
The accolade comes at a time when Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler continues to suffer from poor sales as the broader industry is recovering. Sales at Chrysler, which merged with Italy's Fiat Group SPA earlier this year, fell 25 percent in November. Industrywide sales were flat during the same month.
The Ram truck is the best-selling vehicle in Chrysler's lineup, though sales fell 37 percent to 9,787 in November.