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Ram dealers clamor for return of Dakota midsize pickup


2020 Ram 1500 Limited (Image courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

The midsize pickup segment is red hot, with Chevrolet, Ford, GMC Toyota and even Nissan all vying for a sizeable slice of the sales pie. However, missing among this diverse field of contenders is FCA and the Ram brand. The axed Dakota was the brand’s most prolific model, but it was cut due to (ironically enough) a decrease in midsize pickup demand.

But with the segment rebounding, FCA dealers across the nation are clamoring for a midsize pickup of their own to bring the fight to both GM and Toyota.

This is according to a report published by the folks at the Automotive News who covered a conversation between the publication and Phil Bivens chairman of Fiat Chrysler’s National Dealership Council.

“I haven’t seen anything in the product portfolio that suggests that it might be coming, but just like with heavy-duty, not everyone wants a big truck like that. Not everyone needs that full truck. Then you talk about the 1500, those are still big rigs. With city driving and things, I would love a midsize truck. Would be crazy not to want it,” Bivens revealed in the sit-down interview.

That’s not to say that FCA is out of the segment entirely, with the Jeep Gladiator currently being the sole representative for the Italian American automaker. However its focus on ruggedness, the ability to remove the roof and its Wrangler-based roots does not appeal to mainstream buyers that are looking for a more conventional truck that can haul cargo and do truck stuff without any extra frills. The item that catches our attention is Biven’s statement that he is not aware of “anything in the product portfolio” since Ram’s own roadmap from 2018 points to a mid-size pickup truck coming before the 2022 model year.

The last midsize pickup that Ram offered was the old Dakota model. Built back when Ram was a broader part of the Dodge brand, the Dakota lasted from 1987 to 2011, and for a time, it was a very popular model among buyers. The truck proved to be a very flexible canvas, with the Dakota not only getting tuned by the legendary Carroll Shelby during his brief affair with Chrysler, but it also gained a convertible model which has not been replicated in the midsize pickup segment.

A key part of this success was the exterior styling, which incorporated cues from the bigger Ram pickup and allowed the Dakota to have a solid connection to truck buyers (the same could not be said for it’s knee-jerk created cousin the Mitsubishi Raider). A new Dakota (assuming it keeps that name) could pull the same trick twice, and come equipped with some of the bigger Ram 1500’s features, while adding just enough of its own traits to the mix to make its own distinctive identity.


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