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Dodge has set the option price on its RamBox lockable storage feature at $1,895, said John Heebner, senior manager of product marketing for the Dodge Ram.

Heebner said Dodge expects about 20 percent of buyers of the 2009 Ram 1500 crew cab to order the RamBox. The storage feature has three elements:

1. A lockable box on each side of the truck bed capable of storing anything from shovels to 240 12-ounce beverage cans, with enough ice to keep them ready for a party.

2. A bed divider.

3. A bed extender.

The RamBox will not be available on the first 2009 Rams but will arrive in dealerships around Nov. 1, Heebner said. The RamBox is available only on trucks made at Chrysler LLC's St. Louis North truck plant, the second plant to ramp up for production of the Ram.

The official production launch at the first plant, in Warren, Mich., was Sept. 12.

Some dealers, who think the RamBox will be more popular than Dodge anticipates, had complained that the RamBox should have been available from the start.

Heebner said there is a good reason the RamBox is late: It was no simple task to get the first-in-segment feature from the drawing board to the production line.

In late 2006, Chrysler--then part of DaimlerChrysler--put the idea of a lockable storage box out for bid. One supplier was chosen from three bidders, Heebner said.

The supplier experimented with configurations for lockable storage boxes. One proposal was a sideview concept similar to cargo doors that open upward from the side of a bus, Heebner said.

But the supplier was unable to get the cost down to a feasible level. Heebner would not reveal the supplier.

So Tom LaSorda, then CEO of the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler and now Chrysler co-president, decided to bring the project in-house. LaSorda has been the primary champion of the RamBox, which was going to be called the LifeBox before copyright problems killed that name, Heebner said.

"Bringing it in-house cut cost virtually in half," Heebner said. And that was enough to sell it to the DaimlerChrysler board in Stuttgart.

But the RamBox's odyssey wasn't over. Once Cerberus Capital Management LP took majority ownership of Chrysler in August 2007, LaSorda had to defend his idea all over again to his company's new owners.

Since Chrysler was retooling the St. Louis North body shop, LaSorda decided that was the plant to build trucks with the RamBox.

Heebner said Dodge took a "walk before you run" approach on the RamBox because of Chrysler's financial struggles.

Said Heebner: "If it proves to be a hit, we'll take it to other-size boxes and then to our heavy-duty trucks."

Picture LINK:Dodge RamBox cost: $1,895 - AutoWeek Magazine
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