Ram May Build Unibody Compact Pickup Truck

Production of Ram’s current small pickup truck, the Dakota, ceases in 2011, and Ram may replace it with a smaller unibody compact pickup truck. For those of you following this saga since July 2008 when we first reported on this small, unibody “lifestyle” pickup, here’s the latest installment.

“We’re thinking of something that will separate itself from the full-sized truck more than what happens today, both in capability, price, and size,” Joe Veltri, vice president of Chrysler Group product planning, told Automotive News. “The Ram brand has room to expand into a compact-truck segment.”

Although Veltri did not give a timeline on production of the new pickup, he confirmed that Chrysler does not plan to build a mid-size truck based on a unibody platform. With no direct replacement for the Dakota planned for when production stops and likely a minimum of two years until the compact truck is ready, Chrysler may be without a truck smaller than its Ram 1500 for a period of time. Ram only sold 10,690 Dakotas in 2009.

Last year, small pickup sales were down 31 percent compared to 2008. With stricter fuel economy regulations on the way, smaller, more efficient pickup trucks could be on their way back to selling more like they did in the 1980s. Veltri says that the compact-pickup truck segment sold about 1.5 million units annually throughout the 1980s, more than full-sized pickups.

“But everybody started making these trucks bigger and bigger,” Veltri told Automotive News. “And pretty soon a guy goes into the showroom and says, ‘For X dollars more, I can get a Ram full-sized truck.’ If you look at Dakota today, it is large size-wise. It is very capable, can tow 7000 pounds, comes with a V-8 and a V-6. It is a mini full-sized truck. Everybody has gotten the formula wrong -- expensive, too capable.”

Veltri said that many buyers in the pickup truck market still want pickup truck functionality with better fuel economy, but not something that can tow 7000 pounds. Veltri’s new philosophy on small pickup trucks goes against the norm, much like Ford’s plan to build a smaller F-100 pickup truck that was shelved because it wasn’t capable enough.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)

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