Chrysler's Ram Brand Lukewarm On A Future Compact Pickup

With the announcement that General Motors will introduce new versions of its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon small pickup trucks, we're once again reminded that the other two big Detroit automakers have killed off their compact trucks. Ford Ranger production ended in December, and the Dodge/Ram Dakota died in August 2011. Will either of those models return to the U.S. market? In the case of Ram, it sounds like the answer is no.

While Chrysler's Ram division has often talked about the possibility of a small unibody truck, officials tell us such a model would be a difficult proposition. The 2013 Ram 1500 is so fuel efficient and so affordable, that a smaller truck would need to meet incredibly high targets in order to make sense in the brand's lineup. The 2013 Ram 1500 returns as much as 18/25 mpg (city/highway) in its new HFE configuration, and the cheapest model starts at just $23,585 after destination.

That means a smaller Ram pickup would have to exceed 25 mpg and cost less than $20,000 in order to remain relevant -- ambitious goals, to say the least.

That's not to say Ram is totally opposed to building a new compact truck. Officials tell us that such a vehicle is never off the table, and the company has repeatedly hinted it would build a new version of the Dakota. But rather than a traditional truck, we're told the new model could be more of a "lifestyle" vehicle designed to give truck design and practicality, without the attendant weight and capabilities of a mid- or full-size model.

In January, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested that Ram could build a new Dakota pickup truck powered by a diesel engine. Then in July, we heard another set of rumors about Ram building a unibody lifestyle compact pickup -- it wouldn't have the towing or hauling capabilities of bigger trucks, but it would introduce young buyers to the brand. On the other hand, last fall we were told the next Dakota would be a global model engineered for export to other parts of the world.

There's plenty of precedence for Ram to build a new compact truck -- witness the hearty reactions to the company's old Rampage and M80 concepts (pictured), and the excitement from rumors of a new Jeep Wrangler-based pickup truck.

It's also an important business decision. Ford hoped that after it discontinued the Ranger, loyal buyers would instead buy the larger F-150. But reports show that customers still wanted a compact pickup and instead bought Toyota Tacomas. Ford has introduced an all-new global Ranger model, but the truck won't be sold in the U.S. market.

With fresh competition on the scene from the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, now seems like the perfect time for Ram to introduce a compact pickup truck. Doing so would help Ram grab some of the sales currently enjoyed by the GM pickup twins, as well as the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma.

But for now, Ram officials claim the brand is lukewarm on the idea of a compact truck.

Robb Lincoln
I believe any compact pickup will have to fill the shoes of the Fiat Strada first and foremost.  M80 might have the macho looks the US market wants, but other markets prefer to have a lower bed for easy loading and a "faster", swept back profile to the cab.  Also keep in mind Dodge will be merging its product line with that of Fiats commercial trucks.  The future is very much up in the air when it comes to the compact pickup market.
Totally agree! The first pickup I drove (on my uncle's farm) was a 1956 Ford which was probably not much bigger (if at all) of what a modern compact truck would be. It was handy loaded up what I needed. I would buy a compact pickup as today's pickups to me seem gargantuan and difficult to maneuver in the close confines I find my self working.
If Chrysler built a compact pickup truck worth buying at a reasonable price, then people would buy them. As this article points out, a compact pickup would have to be priced below $20K and get +35mpg to be viable. For most light duty users, unibody or body on frame construction isn't the real issue. The real issue is whether or not it can get the job done at a good price. I think a compact pickup truck at a good price, good mpg, with good crash test results, with RWD or AWD, and could haul a 4 x 8 sheet would sell well. OEMs need to stop blaming the market for poor compact truck sales and start using their heads to build a compact truck that buyer would want and the profits would follow.
Small pickup buyers are different from big ones. For one thing, a big truck uses too much gas, is overkill for the purposes, doesn't handle as well, and is a PITA for maneuverability and parking. There is an alternative though. Take some 4-door car designs (or w/rear suicide doors) and instead of a trunk, build it with a trunk below and a small, not so deep mini-pickup bed on TOP of the trunk. So you can either put things IN the trunk....or ON it. Your choice. A pickup/sedan crossover. Blam. Instant sales. Also, the Dodge Caliber would have COOL in a small pickup version. In all other parts of the world, small car based pickups are the rage. Go to Mexico and they're everywhere.
Pyngewer is spot on! Make the 4 cylinder at least a 2.5 liter and you are going to sell a lot of them. Maybe add a turbo as an option.
Build the M8 with a four banger gas to get about 20 mpg city/ 26 hwy and a diesel that gets 22/ 30. And keep it basic. Put he base truck at 18K and the top end truck at 25K. This is for the family that needs a small truck to do things around the house. Heck it could even have the Abarth engine in it. Doesn't need to be a speed demon just be able to pick up that load of crap you got at the Home Depot or Lowe;s and that couch your wife bought for the family room.

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles