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Chrysler looking at two new pickups

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler could add two new pickups to its lineup. One would be a replacement for the outgoing Dakota, the other would be a Jeep with a pickup bed, a vehicle that has long been at the top of Jeep fans’ wish lists.

Fred Diaz, CEO of Ram brand, said the slow-selling Dakota will reach the end of the road sometime around the end of September this year and a true mid-size replacement could replace it in the lineup in late 2012 as a 2013 model.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday during an interview at the North American International Auto Show, Diaz said, “It’s not going to be the beast that the Dakota truck is.”

The truck would be marketed to those who need the utility of a pickup but don’t need a lot of towing capacity. Diaz noted Chrysler’s consumer research has shown potential customers want space for four people, mileage in the 30 mpg range and the ability to tow a personal watercraft. Diaz added “it needs to look like a real truck. Not a soft, wimpy truck.”

Diaz emphasized the design is still under review and that the project has not yet received the official green light. The one thing that is certain is that the new truck won’t carry the Dakota name. Without the requirement for big pickup towing capability, the new truck could utilize unibody construction. Diaz said the platform could come from either Chrysler or Fiat.

Fiat currently produces the Strada, a small pickup along the lines of the Dodge Ram 50, but does have heavier commercial platforms that would be more suited to American tastes.

A pickup based on the Wrangler is getting serious consideration from the powers-that-be in Auburn Hills. In an interview, Mike Manley, head of Jeep brand, said, “With that platform, it’s something you could bring to market relatively quick.”

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said there was a “better than 50% chance” a Jeep pickup would make it to production. Marchionne himself is partial to the 2005 Gladiator concept vehicle and there is capacity available in Toledo.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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