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Chrysler's Ram tops Consumer Reports' pickup truck rankings

DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler's redesigned Ram 1500 has won the latest skirmish in the never-ending war for bragging rights in the lucrative full-size pickup truck sector as it was named the top pick in that segment for the first time ever by Consumer Reports.

The 2013 Ram truck garnered a higher rating than Toyota Motor Corp's <7203.T> Tundra and Ford Motor Co's F-150, the top-selling vehicle in the United States, according to the influential consumer magazine. Chrysler is majority owned by Italy's Fiat.

The victory was not complete, however, as Consumer Reports said it was still testing General Motors Co's redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado. Those results will be released later this summer and the magazine expects it to rival Chrysler's truck. In addition, Ford is scheduled to revamp the F-150 next year.

Surveys by Consumer Reports are seen as influential in shaping consumer perceptions.

The pickup truck segment is highly competitive, especially among the U.S. automakers, because it is so lucrative. The large pickups generate profits of $12,000 or more per vehicle and in an improving economy, truck sales are rising fast. Truck sales helped lift overall U.S. auto industry sales in June to its best month since 2007.

Full-size pickup truck sales in the United States are up 22 percent through the first half of this year, compared with an 8.4 percent gain by the industry overall. Ram's sales are up 23 percent and according to Autodata its share of the segment is up one-tenth of a point at 18.3 percent.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are constantly trying to one-up each other, with the latest models boasting the best towing capacity, highest fuel efficiency or most horsepower in the segment. GM just launched its national advertising campaign for the new Silverado.

Chrysler's 2013 Ram 1500 scored 78 out of a possible 100 points on Consumer Reports' road test, topping the Tundra's 69 points and F-150's 68 points. The previous Ram model scored 67 points.

The magazine said previous versions of the Ram have been so reliable that it is listing the current version as "Recommended," which means a vehicle must perform well in the magazine's tests, have average or better reliability and perform well in government and industry crash tests.

GM's Chevy Avalanche actually outscored Ram by two points, but its production ended after the 2013 model year.

"The Ram 1500 is surprisingly luxurious and refined, but still fully capable of doing hard work when needed," Jake Fisher, the head of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "Continued interior and powertrain improvements make the Ram a particularly well-rounded choice."

For the 2013 model, Ram got a lighter and stiffer frame, a roomier and quieter interior including a new infotainment system the magazine called one of the best in the industry, and updated powertrains. However, the magazine criticized the Chrysler truck for a step-up into the cab that is too high and a heavy tailgate.

Consumer Reports said it tested the Ram 1500 Crew Cab with the most popular engine option - the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 - and the new eight-speed automatic transmission. The Ram has a class-leading 15 miles-per-gallon fuel economy in the magazine's own testing.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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