Trucks, Jeeps

The always-future Dodge Dakota pickup truck

What happened to the compact/midsized pickup truck that was rumored in the 2000s, and appeared on the 2010 and 2012 long-term plans?

2013 Dodge Dakota?

The first Dodge Dakota was launched in 1987, using a four cylinder engine. The second generation was somewhat bigger and more popular: the 1997-2004 Dodge Dakota. The final Dodge Dakota was even bigger; the base price shot up and buyers complained that it was often more expensive than the Ram 1500, especially with the awkward styling. The Dakota’s sales fell sharply, and Chrysler stopped production.

2008 dodge dakota sport

As far back as a press event in August 2007, though, the truck-platform PR manager told us about the future of the Dakota, which had just gotten bigger. He said that Dodge wanted to move the Dakota back to being a lifestyle vehicle, and had been discussing different features, size, and other aspects of the pickup with customers.

dakota pickup sales

The term “lifestyle truck” brings up images of Honda Ridgelines, but Dodge likely meant something closer to the original Dakota, possibly with lower cargo capacity. Most small pickup buyers, according to research, don't try to tow yachts or heavy trailers, or load up the bed with gravel and I-beams; they buy pickups for the image, or for hauling moderately heavy items, or doing moderate towing.

One major 2010 rumor came from the Windsor Star, which wrote that plant workers confirmed two new trucks would be built at the Windsor, Ontario plant.

A year later, in 2011, Sergio Marchionne told Ward’s Auto World that the truck would be built in Windsor if it was compatible with the next-generation minivan platform. Projected sales appear to be around 30,000 units. Ram chief Fred Diaz told Allpar that “We are heavily, heavily, heavily exploring the possibility of bringing a mid-sized truck to the market.” He said that a new Dakota would still be able to tow; it just won’t be able to tow your house. A new Ram was also slotted for calendar year 2016 on the four-year-plan, along with a new Fiat truck to be imported from the United States.

Then, in mid-2013, Reid Bigland said there would be no new Dakota.

More reports have repeatedly come in over the years (with pundits frequently treating the idea as brand new). It seemed clear, even when the final generation was launched, that Dodge knew the Dakota had become too pricey and heavy. One variant had the Dakota being a version of the future 2014 Cherokee.

Suzq Pickup

Some talked about moving the Dakota to the Jeep Wrangler chassis, which was small enough and adaptable; but Wranglers, being engineered to take a pounding on off-road courses, are much heavier than the new pickup should be.

Where did it stand in 2016? FCA made a deal with Mitsubishi to sell its L200 pickup trucks in Mexico (the Ram 50 was essentially the L200). A joint project seems to have been likely for the future, but Nissan’s unexpected move to take over Mitsubishi may have put the kibosh on that plan, if it existed at all. For the moment, nothing appears to sit between the Fiat pickups and the big Rams.

The case for a new Dodge Dakota

Ram chief Fred Diaz told Allpar in 2011:

It’s a very small market here in the United States, so you have to decide whether or not you’re going to play in that small market and be able to dominate that small market enough to where you can build a business case that makes it worth going there, or you've got to decide that you’re going to bring a vehicle that’s so new, so unconventional, so styled right, good mileage, and just the right amount of capability, that you’re actually going to grow that market...

lifestyle truck

He added that the same people tended to cross-shop both compact and midsized trucks, including the Ranger, Tacoma, Ridgeline, and Dakota. He said the new Dakota would be:

... capable, but not as capable as a full size Ram. People want to be able to take cargo, with a reasonable payload, and people, with high mpg, reasonably priced. The [current] Dakota is so capable, pricing bumps against the light duty [Ram 1500]. We don't want confusion.

Most years a Dakota was available (and every year from 1992 to 2005), it sold over 100,000 units per year.

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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