In 2011 Mopar enlisted Baja champion Kent Kroeker to help them create the Ram Runner; Chrysler's off-road upgrade kit that made the outgoing Ram into something of a Raptor competitor. Ram says they couldn't make a business case for a dedicated dirt machine, Kroeker thinks they're a bunch of pussies.
Mr. Kroeker is a formerly active Marine, successful off-road racer, and all-around badass.
He also isn't known for mincing words, but I was still surprised to see him write; "encouraging Chrysler to butch up and do it right was like asking a group of mouth-breathing DMV employees to stay 30 seconds after coffee break starts" on the Race-Dezert forum while Mopar apparently remains proud to associate with him. As of this writing, Kroeker is cited in the first sentence of Mopar's official Ram Runner page.
And am I the only one who thinks he looks like Luke Wilson?
Kroeker lent his opinion to Race-Dezert as the age-old "Ram Runner vs. Ford Raptor" debate was being re-hashed. Having extensive experience modifying Rams at his own shop KORE, not to mention the official affiliation with Mopar in building the Ram Runner, he has a more informed perspective on the matter than most:
The Ram is a great platform, but Chrysler would rather spend their government money jargoneering than invest in off road racing and vehicle development like Ford has done.
Getting in the arena takes strong leaders who are willing to take risks. I had a bunch of meetings in Detroit about production Ramrunner possibilities and all the Head Shed kept asking was, "couldn't we get away with a moderate shock and sticker package?"
Encouraging Chrysler to butch up and do it right was like asking a group of mouth-breathing DMV employees to stay 30 seconds after coffee break starts.
This sharply contrasts Ford's people - people who refused government money, released the expensive, gas-guzzling Raptor in a faltering economy, and still hit it out of the park. This is Corporate Ballsack we hardly see any more in America.
At this point, comparing a stock Raptor to a Ramrunner isn't valid. One is stock, one is aftermarket. With some extra money you can modify a Raptor to handle like a Ramrunner, but you can't purchase a new Ram truck with the word, "Ramrunner" on the Monroney.
Raptor wins. Ford wins.
As you may remember, a Chrysler customer would create a "Ram Runner" by basically ordering everything on the Mopar "off-road parts" catalogue and having them installed at their dealership. But there was never an out-of-the-box extreme off-road version of the Ram put together at the factory like a Ford Raptor is.
Chrysler has passed on responding to Kroeker's comment for now, and their official statement they gave me on the Ram Runner was pretty shallow:
The kit was developed with Kent's expertise as a low volume package. Because of the high level of mechanical knowledge required for installation, we made the business decision to discontinue the kit in 2012 or would have faced a redesign due to an all-new 2013 Ram 1500 design. We choose instead to focus engineering efforts on parts and packages more in line with street-compliant vehicles.
They wouldn't disclose how many Ram Runners had actually been sold "for competitive reasons," but I'm gonna have to go ahead and guess the answer is "not that many." I've literally never seen one outside shows.
It sounds like the people who did order the Ram Runner kit were tying up Ram dealer service bays for too long while techs could have been working on more profitable repairs, so it's getting dropped for the new body style.
But what's up with that line about "focusing on street-compliant vehicles" as if they can't build something you can take off-road and also get a license plate on. Have they really not been looking at their blue-ovaled competition?
In most shootouts I've seen between the Ram Runner and the Raptor, the Ford has come out on top. But it's well worth noting the Ram Runner was victorious in PickupTrucks.com's test, which I'd like to think is one of the less biased sources on the subject.
Maybe Kroeker's right, and that's only because Chrysler refused to go full-bore and build a real off-road ass-kicking truck from the ground up like Ford did. I'm inclined to believe that may well be the case, but I also understand that Ram doesn't have the luxury of "room for experimenting" Ford does thanks to their ridiculous sales volume.
Think Ram would be well served by a legitimate Ford Raptor fighter, or did they make the right move throttling back on their off-road efforts?