The Ram truck lineup currently offers only one truck family, as Chrysler phased out the midsize Dakota in 2011. The Ram 1500 and its heavy-duty 2500/3500 versions sell well, but these trucks are too big for the trucks. Buyers wanting a more personal-sized vehicle like the one offered with the Dakota.
Despite the demise of the Ram Dakota, a new pickup seems likely. Its font will be familiar, but its debut may not take place before 2015. Let’s take a look at what a future generation of Dakota will look like when it hits the market.
1. Shared platform. Don’t expect the Dakota to have a single platform. No, you won’t get a cut version of the great Ram pickup. You most likely have a chassis that is backed by the same platform that underpins your next-gen minivan. Those models will be front-wheel drive, but an all-wheel drive version will be developed that will be especially useful for fans of the Dakota.
2. Economic engines. No V-8 engine will find its way under the hood of a future Dakota. A V-6 engine seems likely and will probably shift to 3.2 liters. That engine size matters, as it represents a smaller version of the automaker’s venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar engine, one that is suitable for towing. Look for at least a four-cylinder gasoline engine and, with the automaker’s relationship with Fiat, a diesel model seems likely as well.
3. Body styles. The standard Dakota pickup seats three, just like the Dakotas of old. A special two-seater with cube sets would fit very well with this model. An extended cab model with available rear seats would make this truck ideal for accommodating up to five adults. Look for short and long bed versions of this truck that will also be sold.
4. Current technologies. Like cars, vans are also often equipped with the latest technologies. Look for the next-gen Dakota to offer navigation, a rear-view camera, a premium HD sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a host of features truck buyers want. Its unibody construction means that this truck will be stiffer and will likely bring safety features like blind spot sentry and an independent rear suspension.
The chances of Chrysler developing a body on frame are practically nil. The cost of such a model is prohibitive and in a market where 50,000 trucks sold is considered good, there is no way the automaker can justify the additional cost. Still, any truck brought to market will be well thought out, a potential winner in a segment that could use new models.