Ram is Diving Back Into the Midsize Truck Market (But Will It Be a Reborn Dakota?)

RAM Dodge Dakota SLT Sport 2006 Crew Cab
Th. Dreger/Wikimedia Commons

Not since 2011 has Dodge/Ram sold a midsize pickup truck. Built to compete directly with the Ford Ranger, the Dakota was introduced in 1986 as kid brother to the Ram 50.

The ‘90s saw an uptick of consumer interest in these “lifestyle” trucks — pickups that felt more at home on suburban streets than construction sites. Toyota had sold a small pickup in North America for a few years but introduced the Tacoma to properly challenge Ford and Ram in 1995. Nissan entered its Frontier pickup in 1997, and Chevrolet was last to join the midsize pickup party with its Colorado in 2003.

As the 2000s wore on, truck buyer appetites changed. Though the Toyota Tacoma continued to sell well, American manufacturers saw many customers graduate to larger models like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram 1500. Chevy chose to dig its heels in with its relatively new model, but Ford and Ram eventually pulled out of the midsize market.

But the pendulum keeps swinging, and small(er) trucks are once again in fashion. Chevy and its sister brand, GMC, have seen tremendous growth in their Colorado and Canyon sales. Toyota’s Tacoma, while changing little between generations, continues to top the charts. Ford debuted a reborn Ranger at this year’s Detroit Motor Show that will go on sale next year. Volkswagen is even toying with the idea of bringing a little pickup to the U.S. Now it’s Ram’s turn.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed at the company’s five-year planning meeting that a new midsize pickup will enter production in 2021. The name of this new vehicle is to be determined, but we can guess it will either be called the Ram Dakota or the Ram 1200 (a nameplate Ram uses to sell a Mitsubishi-bodied truck in global markets). The midsize truck will be assembled at FCA’s Saltillo, Mexico-based facility and will likely be marketed as a 2022 model year.

Other details on the new Dakota are thin, but we anticipate it will ride on a shortened version of the new Ram 1500 platform and will be powered by a choice of turbocharged four-cylinder or V6 powertrains. There’s also a good chance Ram will offer a turbodiesel variant.