Dakota Production Ends… But is it the End of an Era?

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2011-ram-dodge-dakota.jpgby Patrick Rall

We have known for some time now that the Dodge Dakota turned Ram Dakota would be coming to an end as we know it sometime this year, and now it would appear the end of the  Dakota is upon us.  Along the way, as the end of the Dakota was discussed by Chrysler it was regularly implied that a replacement was on the way. This was then bolstered by lots of rumors, the most popular being that the “next Dakota” would be a much smaller truck than the current Dakota, possibly riding on a unibody platform. But according to unnamed sources who spoke with Automotive News, plans for the Dakota replacement have been “shelved”.

DodgeForum had a chance to sit down with Ram Truck brand president and
CEO Fred Diaz at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show, and while he couldn’t come
out and tell us anything about future products, it was implied that a
design had been developed for the truck that would replace the Dakota. 

However, from the sounds of the Automotive News report, it could be some
time before the US market gets a smaller pickup from the Ram Truck
brand.  In saying that the plans have been shelved, I would guess that
they have put the project on hold while they see what happens with the
small truck segment.  Ford has ended the long running Ranger with no
plans of replacement and there have been regular rumors that the
Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are nearing their ends too, as sales across
the truck market for the compact segment pale in comparison to those of
their full size counterparts.

The Ram Truck brand has introduced models like the new 1500 Tradesman
and 1500 Express, which offer the majority of the features of the Ram
1500 without the high price often associated with the bigger trucks. 
Chrysler has designed these trucks specifically for new truck buyers.
Thanks to the technology of the 5.7L Hemi, these new Ram trimlines are
less expensive, more powerful, more efficient and more capable than the
outgoing Dakota lineup.  Because of that, the Ram brand had intended to
make a true compact pickup that didn’t “overlap” at all with the
capabilities of the Ram – similar to the early first generation Dakota

I wouldn’t totally discount the chances of seeing a new small pickup
from the Ram Truck brand in the next few years, but with a mass exodus
by the Detroit Big 3 to more efficient full sized trucks, it could be
some time before Chrysler will show their cards as to what will sit
under the Ram 1500 in the brand lineup.  Rumors suggested that Chrysler
had something nearly ready for production, but perhaps the folks under
the Pentastar will hold back on their new small pickup until Ford or
General Motors reveals more plans as to what they have coming for the
same segment.

In the meantime, this means that if you want a Dakota you had better get
one before current inventory runs out, because there may not be another
one built for a long time.

What do you think? Is Chrylser right to scrap their plans for a Dakota replacement for now? Or should they lead the market segment instead of waiting to see what happens? Voice your opinion here!

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