Update #1 November-4-2009 01:59 EDT:
Fred Diaz, president and CEO of the new Ram brand, says Dakota pickup production will end by 2011.
"It's the natural end of the Dakota's lifecycle," Diaz said. "It competes in a shrinking segment. We need to figure out if we can build a smaller, more efficient vehicle that people can use for play and light-duty work. It also has to be more affordable than the current Dakota."
Diaz said many Dakota buyers find themselves in the dilemma of buying either a Dakota or a Ram 1500 half-ton because both trucks cross into the other's price range but the half-ton Ram is more capable.
What might replace Dakota? It would likely be a unibody truck that could ride on a Fiat platform.
"The merger with Fiat has put us in the perfect position to evaluate Fiat's offerings," said Diaz. "We could [replace the Dakota] with something in-house but we're also examining what Fiat has – every model, including Iveco. We're going to pick the one that makes the most sense to us."
The mention of a unibody pickup and the newly-separated-from-Dodge Ram brand seem to conflict. The Ram brand is going to emphasize tough trucks aimed at tough truckers. The concept of a unibody pickup, like the Honda Ridgeline, has not been well received by this group because of such vehicles' relatively weak work capabilities.
"The Dakota replacement can't be a light paperweight replacement that can't do anything," said Diaz. "It has to be fairly capable of doing some work. But it also has to have really good MPG."
Dakota production might still continue after 2011 for markets outside the U.S., like South America.
"I'm going to be honest," said Diaz. "That's not off the table. We just don't know yet."
We've just taken a quick run through Chrysler's 2010-14 business plan and one item we noticed is that the Dakota body-on-frame pickup is scheduled to end after 2011. An unnamed midsize unibody pickup is under consideration to take its place.
The Dodge Dakota first went on sale in 1987, creating the midsize truck segment as an alternative to compact and full-size pickups. The current Dakota is the third-generation of the pickup.
The Dakota's sales performance has rapidly declined during the past few years. Last month, only 515 units were sold and year-to-date sales are down by 58%.