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FCA trademark filing rekindles Dakota return rumors

by Patrick Rall on

It seems like we have been talking about the return of the Dodge Dakota midsized pickup since it was discontinued after the 2011 model year. Shortly after production of the third generation Dakota – sold from 2009 through 2011 as a Ram model rather than a Dodge – there were rumors that FCA was working on a replacement. Unfortunately, those rumors were followed by reports that the Dakota replacement project had been “shelved”, as American truck buyers focused their interests on half-ton pickups.

Since then, there have been rumors that popped up in social media groups about the return of the Dakota and when it became official that Jeep was bringing the Gladiator pickup to market, those rumors started to make sense. During that time, we saw sales numbers for the midsized trucks improve to the point that Ford brought back the Ranger to compete with the likes of the Toyota Tacoma, the Nissan Frontier, the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Cayon. That growth in midsized truck sales played a role in the introduction of the Gladiator, but with that topless Jeep pickup pertaining to more of a niche market, it would make sense for the Ram brand to introduce a more traditional midsized pickup.

That traditional midsized pickup would likely be the new Ram Dakota and based on a report from Motor Trend, FCA recently filed for a trademark of the Dakota name. This move could be nothing more than an effort to protect a model name that the company made popular starting back in the 1980s. This is a common practice among all automakers and some other good examples of names being trademarked simply to prevent others from using it include FCA repeatedly protecting the Cuda name or General Motors trademarking the Chevelle name – even though no such modern models exist.

On the other hand, the more interesting possibility here is that FCA has filed for a trademark of the Dakota name as part of a plan to get the Ram brand back into the midsized truck game. Since that is clearly the more interesting option of the two possibilities, today we will look at what the modern Dakota could be.

Gladiator Turned Dakota

If FCA reincarnates the Dakota name as a midsized pickup for the Ram brand, we can expect that it will ride on the same chassis platform as the Jeep Gladiator. Where the two trucks will differ is in their overall form. The Gladiator is only offered as a four-door, short bed pickup with a removable top and the distinct Wrangler-based styling. Since not everyone loves the styling, the removable roof or the fact that the Jeep pickup is only offered as a four-door with a short bed, we can expect that the Dakota will offer more body configurations and, of course, no removable top.

The Ram Dakota will likely be offered with at least two cab configurations, if not three. We can expect a design with four full-sized doors, but there is a good chance that we will also see a slightly smaller, extended cab model with smaller doors that will compete with the smaller versions of the Colorado, Tacoma and Frontier. We could also see a two-door model, but with those being the least popular design among all truck buyers these days, we aren’t confident that Ram will be the only automaker to offer a true two-door midsized truck. In addition to the varying cab sizes, we can expect that the Ram Dakota will have both a long and short bed.

As for the powertrains, it seems likely that FCA would make use of the Pentastar V6, as they put that engine in pretty much everything. While the old Dakota always had a V8 option, there are no V8 midsized trucks in today’s market and sadly, we don’t expect that the Dakota will be the first of the modern small trucks to go that route. Instead, we imagine that the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 will be joined by the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, which would make the Dakota the strongest truck in the class. In general, a diesel option seems likely and with the Ram 1500 relying on the 3.0-liter mill, that seems like a great choice for the Dakota, but there is also the possibility that the company could use a smaller diesel. They may even offer a turbocharged four-cylinder, but with several good V6 engines in the Ram portfolio, we expect that a new Dakota will rely mostly on six-cylinder engines – likely mated to some variation of the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Of course, the Dakota will be offered in both two- and four-wheel-drive form.

Unfortunately, this trademark filing doesn’t guarantee anything and this could be nothing more than the company protecting the Dakota name, but there has arguably never been a better time to jump back into the midsized truck game. The company has the chassis platform and the drivetrain components to make it happen and the midsized truck segment is as popular as it has been in ages.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.


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