There is only one truck manufacturer in the U.S. that doesn’t have a midsize truck in its stable, and it is Ram. That will change by the end of 2020 as it looks like a new midsize Ram Dakota will join its hot-selling full-size pickups.
While it would seem that sister company Jeep has split hairs every which way developing every variant it can imagine, Ram has seen much more limited market adventurousness. Heavier payload trucks, Suburban-like variants, and a midsize pickup never materialize with a Ram badge.
Crowded Field Of Midsize Trucks
Heading into 2021 Ram will finally revive the Dakota it last made in 2011, joining the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Jeep Gladiator, Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier. Those first three trucks didn’t exist the last time the Dakota was around, showing how much can change in just a few years.
We can expect a body-on-frame platform with engine choices ranging from the Pentastar 3.6-liter and possibly diesel V6 to a turbocharged four-cylinder and hybrid. Both a single- and quad-cab are expected. Short and long pickup beds are also part of the plan.
The trick for Ram is to keep clear of overlapping into Jeep Gladiator territory while offering as broad a platform of options as it can. Right off the bat, the Gladiator is only available as a four-door, so the single- and quad-cab bodies are perfect. Same with the longer bed being available, as Gladiator only comes with the short bed.
Gladiator-Based Ram Dakota
We know that the new Dakota will be based on the Gladiator platform. The good news is that both the Jeep and Ram’s raised hood and dropped fender retro approach are so distinctive we can’t see any possibility of there being apparently shared components. We expect the Dakota to ditch the Gladiator’s live front end for an independent front suspension.
Also, the Dakota’s list price will have to be far south of the Gladiator’s $35,000+ price tag. As the Dakota is a more conventional design without the removable top and doors it would seem that Ram can develop a nice midsize coming in at $25,000 and have a competitive truck in this crowded segment.
Don’t forget that Ford is in development with a Mustang-like SUV. If this proves popular we can see Ford doing a pickup version, and with that would Ram counter with a Charger- or Challenger-like truck? While sedan production is folding across the landscape there are possible new segments that don’t yet exist. What would a Challenger with the proportions of a truck look like?
Ram Classic Not Going Away
One other direction the needle will need to be threaded is to avoid overlapping into the Ram Classic. Meant to temporarily bridge the gap created by the higher price of the all-new Ram truck, it has proven to be so popular Ram now says it won’t be discontinuing it anytime soon. With tooling cost having been paid for years ago the Classic is a cash cow for FCA. But that lower price means it could soon be bucking heads with the upcoming Dakota.
So internally, Dakota must fall squarely between Classic and Gladiator pricewise or at least offer features neither of the other Jeep and Ram products contain.