After booming popularity in America in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Americans fell out of love with smaller pickups. The Japanese brands nevertheless soldiered on in the market, as GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler eventually withdrew their offerings by the early 2010s. Around 2015, the mid-size pickup market saw a revival with the introduction of the second-generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Ford then reintroduced the Ranger to the US market in 2019. That leaves only one of America’s great truck brands – Ram – without a smaller pickup on offer.
On April 29, 2020, FCA filed to trademark the “Dakota” name for “parts for vehicles, namely, automotive exterior decorative trim.” Most trademark filings for a vehicle name specify “motor vehicles” or “land vehicles” with patents for vehicle names, not “parts for vehicle.” Therefore, “Dakota” is sounding more like badging to us.
This could mean “Dakota” will be a trim level, or attached to the main name of the truck.
Whatever FCA ends up officially calling its next truck, there is certainly a market for it. Dealerships have even been pressuring Ram to deliver on a mid-size truck, while rumors have also begun to swirl of an even smaller truck. Ford is looking to enter this space first with the upcoming Maverick compact pickup. FCA has a similar entry en route to Latin American markets. In Brazil it will be called the Fiat Strada, while in Mexico it will be branded as the Ram 700.
“Ram 700 ‘Dakota’?” Perhaps. Or perhaps the trim will go on a mid-size truck.
While it’s true that the Jeep Gladiator fills the size bracket of a mid-size pickup, it serves a purpose that is a little too niche and expensive for something that would effectively compete for the hard earned money of a customer eyeing a Ford Ranger or Chevrolet Colorado. Most Gladiator models are high spec Rubicon models, and start at over $40,000. It’s not exactly the cost-effective work truck that fleet companies and tradesmen may be looking for. Ram also sells the Ram 1500 Classic that’s similarly priced to other mid-size pickups, but considering its full-sized stature, it just may be too much truck for some.
It’s presumed that a Ram mid-size pickup would utilize a variant of the body-on-frame JT platform, which underpins the Gladiator. This will allow for faster and less expensive development for the new model. However, the live front axle setup that the architecture utilizes may not be suitable for a mass market midsize truck. Other pickups in the segment incorporate an independent front suspension for better on-road ride and handling dynamics.
Regardless of where things go, it’s been well documented that dealers have otherwise been fairly vocal about the need for their showrooms to offer a smaller truck. Whether that means FCA will first expand with a mid-sized entry, or jump right into white space with a compact pickup truck remains to be seen.
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