Ram faces an uphill battle when it comes to rejoining the mid-size pickup market.
The Dodge Dakota has been dead going on six years now. Like the Ford Ranger it was discontinued because of a decline in the mid-size pickup market. As we all know that decline has been erased, with GM benefiting the most from the upswing. At the 2017 Detroit Auto Show Ford announced that the Ranger would be returning in 2019. FCA announced...not a lot. The last time Mike Manley, boss of both Jeep and Ram, spoke publicly about the possibility of a Dakota revival was last summer.
In an interview with USA Today the FCA exec conceded that a new mid-size truck was on his mind but that nothing was in the works. "In terms of midsize pickup for Ram I very much believe that that’s an opportunity for the brand. Not just because of the success of the few competitors that have been playing in that field, but I …have been part of the history of the brand, I think it remains a great opportunity for us. But I have no definitive plans for that to announce today,” Manley said. When asked to comment on if that position had changed at all Ram was blunt. “I'm sure those comments still reflect the position for the North American market. The position has not changed,” we were told.
The problem for Ram is multifaceted. For starters, FCA is still down billions of dollars. That kind of hole takes a while to dig out of. Selling cars that turn a huge profit, like trucks and SUVs, is a good way to climb out. The automaker is doing just that, with a Jeep pickup and revived Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in the works. That leads to another problem. Where would Ram build a new Dakota? The old Dakota was built at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant. Said plant is going offline for a few years so that it can build the new Wagoneers and Ram heavy duty. Sure, the new Dakota could be built north or south of the border but it makes more sense to consolidate like models in a single factory, and then there’s the wrath of President Trump to consider.
While a new Ram mid-size truck probably won’t happen any time soon the ground work has sort of kind of been laid for its return. The Fiat Fullback, not sold stateside, is a body-on-frame RWD truck based on the Mitsubishi L200. It’s built in Thailand and sold in numerous markets around the world, although it’s a bit too underpowered to compete stateside. Funnily enough there is actually a Ram-branded mid-size truck for sale in the Middle East, the Ram 1200, although it looks incredibly horrible and would be laughed right out of the country. The point is that FCA is competing in the mid-size market worldwide. You have to think it is trying to find a way to do the same in the US. However, the hurdles may be too big to overcome, at least right now.