The always-future Dodge Dakota pickup truck: What happened to the pickup truck that was rumored in 2004, and was on the 2010 and 2012 plans?

The first Dodge Dakota, launched in 1987, had decent enough sales; starting in 1992, Dodge sold over 100,000 per year in the US, with a boost from the platform-team-created 1997-2004 Dodge Dakota. The 2005 Dodge Dakota erred on the size of big (and, some say, ugly), and sales slid to the point that the Dakota was dropped entirely.

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This rendering is somewhat dated now, but the look, arguably, is not. The Dakota pictured here could have been built on a modified Dodge Charger chassis.

In August 2007, a Dodge rep said they wanted to move the Dakota back to being a lifestyle vehicle. The company already had a design in mind, but much would happen after that. RedRiderBob wrote that Dodge was "full-bore into development" in 2008, when they launched a revised version of the 2005 Dakota. The new four-door pickup would be based on the rear-wheel-drive big car platform, and was slated for 2011-2012. It was dropped in the midst of the company's post-Cerberus bankruptcy.

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The term "lifestyle truck" brings up images of Honda Ridgelines, but Dodge likely meant something closer to the original Dakota or the Mitsubishi L-200-based Ram 1200/Dodge D-50. Most small pickup buyers, research claimed, don't try to tow heavy trailers; they buy pickups for the image, for moderately heavy hauling, or moderate towing. The new truck would have been able to do that, and still fit in the average garage.

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In 2010, the Windsor Star claimed that plant workers confirmed two new trucks to be built at the Windsor, Ontario plant. In 2011, Sergio Marchionne told Ward's Auto World that a low-volume truck (around 30,000/year) would be built in Windsor if it was compatible with the next-generation minivan platform. The rebirth, it seems, had moved from large rear-drive cars to large front-drive minivans, like the Honda pickup.

Ram chief Fred Diaz told Allpar that "We are heavily, heavily, heavily exploring the possibility of bringing a mid-sized truck to the market." 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 after all.

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Instead of developing their own pickup, Fiat Chrysler bought the rights to sell Mitsubishi's L200, once sold as the Dodge D-50 and Ram 50. The L200 is dubbed Fiat Fullback in most markets, and Ram 1200 in parts of the Middle East and Mexico. After that, Mitsubishi and Nissan joined together, and suddenly licensing the L200 design seemed like a bad idea—especially with the added reach of Peugeot brands. Peugeot itself has a pickup, engineered with a Chinese company, in the same class; but it is unlikely to be right for American sales.

Once again, people are talking about a new Dodge Dakota pickup. Car & Driver even predicted one for 2021, but they claimed it would be based on the Jeep Gladiator; it would need a great deal of work to reduce weight and cost, and it’s uncertain that a Dodge or Ram Dakota competing against the Gladiator, for much lower cost, would be a good idea. The other option C&D floated was basing it on the Ram 1500.

Today, though, neither approach seems particularly likely. There are two platforms under development which could be used: STLA Large and STLA Frame. Both have arguably greater longevity than the Wrangler/Gladiator (which does allow for the 4xe system, but may not work for a BEV). STLA Large would have some advantages in handling and ride, while Frame would likely be easier to develop and modify with a longer bed if needed. Another advantage to the Wrangler/Gladiator base is that it could be made in Toledo, and with the Bronco making friends very rapidly, Jeep may just need another product for its new and old Toledo plants.

C&D predicted that there would be no V8 option, and this seems sensible, though one major differentiator of older Dakotas was the V8. The future life of the 5.7 is likely limited, with a new inline turbocharged six-cylinder coming online soon, a hybrid turbo four-cylinder producing stronger performance, and a strong desire by Stellantis to stop paying Tesla for emissions credits.

Will this finally be the Dakota that sticks? Will it be a global vehicle (which would introduce a new set of compromises) or North America-only? These and more questions will be answered largely by time. Where it will be made, however, largely depends on its platform; if it’s on STLA Large (or even extended CUSW), that’s probably Brampton or Windsor, unless the large cars are dropped or moved out of Brampton. If it’s on the Gladiator frame, it’s Toledo. If it’s on a STLA Frame and it’s compatible, it could even be made with Wagoneers in Warren. Time will tell.

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Reviews: 2008 Dodge Dakota test driveDakota Sport (2000) • Dodge Dakota (2006) • 2008