Having axed the medium-sized Dakota pick-up nine years ago, the filing of a new trademark application for the name in question in North America has ignited speculation that Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is considering a segment return with an all-new sub-Ram 1500 model.
According to MotorTrend, the application was submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office on 29 April and if approved, could pave the way for the re-introduction of the Dakota as the fourth model underneath the Ram Trucks banner.
At present, the commercial vehicle division of FCA, spun-off from the Dodge brand a decade ago, is made up of the Ram pick-up, the ProMaster City van based on the Fiat Fiorino and the standard ProMaster van derived from the Fiat Ducato.
Introduced in 1987 as the Dodge Dakota before becoming the Ram Dakota two years before is eventual demise due to declining segment sales, the apparent revival comes amidst numerous recent reports from Ram dealers complaining about the lack of a rival for the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the unibody Honda Ridgeline, the recently facelifted but terminally aged Nissan Frontier (Navara) and the Toyota Tacoma.
Despite the introduction of the Jeep Gladiator last year as the supposed replacement for the Dakota, FCA boss Mike Manley, in an interview with the publication last year, remarked that room for both exists as the Wrangler-based Gladiator’s target market is completely different.
“Being able to find a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market is what they’re struggling with at the moment. I want that problem solved, frankly, because it’s a clear hole in our portfolio,” Manley said, before adding, “trust me, they’re focused on it. We need to get it fixed soon”.
Initially planned for introduction in 2022, the leaked document has now seemingly suggested that the body-on-frame Dakota could arrive earlier, possibly next year as a 2021 model year entrant. Accordingly, it will come with a selection of four-and-six-cylinder petrol engines, as well as a turbodiesel, with a further possibility being a hybrid. As with its predecessor, the Dakota will have the option of rear-or-four-wheel-drive.
What remains to be seen though is whether FCA will finally see it fit to offer a factory approved right-hand-drive pick-up for markets outside North America, especially on the back of tremendous success in Australia where examples of the previous generation Ram 1500 have been selling-up a storm despite the $80 000 (R963 476) starting price and 25 month straight decrease in new vehicle sales Down Under.
Converted by the Walkinshaw Automotive Group with full approval from FCA, then sold by American Special Vehicles owned by the Ateco Automotive Group, the posting of 178 unit sales last month rated as one of the few upswings in the Aussie new car market where the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic saw sales drop by 48.5% to 38 926 units, the lowest since 1996.
If given the go-ahead for right-hand-drive markets, the smaller Dakota could provide FCA with a rival for not only the Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok, but also the forthcoming Mazda BT-50 and, from a local market standpoint, the Big Three in the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max.