This past week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) filed for a trademark patient for the “Dakota” nameplate, leading to a lot of people to speculate that a new midsize pickup is about to return. However, that might not be the case… or at least not anytime soon.
Since its demise in 2011, a lot of people have been hoping that Ram would join the several other automakers jumping back into midsize trucks. Former Head of Ram and now FCA CEO Mike Manley admitted during an earnings call in 2019, that the lack of a midsized truck is “a clear hole in our portfolio,” and that the Ram product development team is “focused on it.” Finding “a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market.”
Rumors had a new Ram-based midsized pickup sharing the platform architecture of the all-new 2020 Jeep® Gladiator. The Gladiator deemed a “lifestyle truck” used a scaled-down version of the previous-generation Ram 1500 platform, although utilizing a solid front axle and its own exterior and interior components, it seemed that the Gladiator could offer a future to a midsize Ram pickup. However, since the Gladiator is a “lifestyle truck” and is under the Jeep umbrella, the brand can force a more premium price.
The engineering and componentry that went into the Gladiator platform to acheive the Gladiator team’s goals resulted in a platform that cost more to make than originally planned. Thus offering a Ram-based midsize truck off of the Gladiator platform would only price the vehicle against the brand’s own Ram 1500, which was ultimately why the Dakota was canceled back in 2011.
The original plan that was given in the Captial Markets Day presentation back in June 2018, was that the company would move its Heavy Duty pickup production from its current home in Saltillo, Mexico to Warren, Michigan. This would allow the plant to build a new Fiat and Ram based “metric truck” to compete globally, which would replace the Ram 1200 and Fiat Fullback global midsize trucks. However, since then, plans have been made to continue production of the Heavy Duty trucks in Mexico, extend the production of the successful Ram 1500 Classic models at Warren, and build the all-new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as well.
If you are a daily reader of MoparInsiders.com, you will remember we talked in detail about Ram’s decision to extend the production of its fourth-generation Ram 1500 pickups, as “Ram 1500 Classic” models. With the tooling paid off, the trucks are huge moneymakers for FCA allowing them to offer more truck for less money while undercutting the current Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Ford Ranger midsize trucks. A move that propelled Ram into the second best-selling truck maker last year. Building a Dakota to compete against a truck that has already got a strong foothold on the pickup market, would not be a wise business decision for FCA.
While we expect Ram to eventually bring a new midsize pickup to the United States and Canada, we don’t think the trademark patent means it’s coming anytime soon. Usually, when an automaker refiles for a patent name, it is because they want to protect the nameplate and ensure they maintain the name due to merchandising rights.