A Dakota replacement is in the works.
Once considered a dying segment, the midsize pickup truck market is showing fresh signs of life. Much credit is due to GM for releasing a pair of new trucks in 2015 — the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Those trucks lifted sales among such competing models as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, and rejuvenated the segment.
Honda Ridgeline, Ford Ranger Return
Early in 2019, the Ford Ranger returns after an 8-year hiatus. About the same time, the Jeep Scrambler joins the market, the first pickup truck from this SUV brand we’ve seen in decades. Honda has the Ridgeline, a crossover pickup truck based on the architecture underpinning the Honda Pilot.
The segment isn’t done yet. A new model from Nissan seems imminent and the Tacoma will likely see a significant overhaul in the next year or two as Toyota seeks to defend its top position in the segment. Next up is a Ram pickup truck, an expected all-new model recently confirmed for production as reported by Automotive News.
From Dodge To Ram
Not much is known about the Ram, which replaces the Dodge Dakota last produced in 2010 (it was sold as the Ram Dakota in 2011). What we do know is that the Ram will be built at the same Toledo, Ohio, manufacturing plant as the Jeep Scrambler. Both models are traditional body-on-frame and will likely have multiple powertrain, cabin and bed choices available.
But the Ram, like the Jeep, will not be a high volume model. The segment has supported about 500,000 units annually, which is a far cry from the 2.4 million full-size pickup trucks sold every year in the U.S. alone.
Manufacturers, however, may look at midsize pickup trucks as the key to improving overall fuel economy. Yes, full-size pickup trucks from GM, Ford and Ram earn up to 30 mpg highway when motivated by a turbo-diesel engine. But those engines represent only a small portion of the motors powering pickup trucks.
Hybrid Pickup Trucks
Ram is the first manufacturer to introduce hybrids, utilizing mild hybrids in some models. They’re not full-blown hybrids, but they do bring vehicle electrification along with the enhanced power to the segment. We’ll soon see plug-in hybrid pickup trucks, which will only enhance fuel efficiency.
The smaller, lighter midsize trucks may prove the most efficient models as these come with standard four-cylinder engines. Just as Ram has the first hybrid trucks, we’ll see that technology spread to Jeep and to the Dakota replacement, as both brands are owned by Fiat Chrysler.
The Jeep Wrangler, for instance, will soon boast a plug-in hybrid model, arriving on the market about a year after an available turbo-diesel engine debuts next year. It seems likely that whatever the Wrangler gets will head to the Scrambler. And because the Scrambler and midsize Ram share the same architecture, ditto for the Dakota replacement.
Ram Pickup Truck Aspirations
Although there isn’t much known about the new Ram pickup, there are a few things we can deduce. For starters, extended cab and crew cab configurations along with two bed size choices are a given.
FCA’s venerable 3.6-liter V6 and a turbo-charged 2,0-liter four-cylinder engine should kick things off. One or both will be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or to an available 9-speed automatic transmission (standard with four-wheel drive). Segment-leading technologies, including infotainment and driver-assist features, will dominate the top-end trims.
In all, the upcoming Ram Dakota should only burnish the brand. Given that, the Ram is only possible because of the Jeep Scrambler, which is based on the popular Wrangler. Together, the three models should deliver the profits the automaker requires to justify such models.
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