When people look back at today's automotive industry, what do you think they'll remember us for? The emergence of hybrids? Ever more expensive and exotic supercars? The dawn of the self-driving car? All likely scenarios, but so is the blurring of lines between one bodystyle and another, giving rise to hardtop convertible coupes and crossovers of every shape and size. But one bodystyle the North American auto industry has stayed largely away from in the past couple of decades is a car nose and chassis with a pickup bed.

It's a bodystyle immortalized by the Chevrolet El Camino, but with few exceptions, we haven't seen too many of these automotive platypuses in recent years on our turf. Subaru tried with the Baja and the low-volume Honda Ridgeline soldiers along largely unchanged, but the genre's biggest adherents are still Down Under, where ute versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon live. With a few other examples scattered to the four corners of the earth, that's really about it. But if these spy shots are anything to go by, it looks like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could be working to bring it back.

Spied undergoing testing in Michigan, what we appear to be looking at is a heavily disguised Fiat Strada being prepared – like the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster and the smaller Doblo-based ProMaster City – for Stateside duty as a Ram product. The Strada, for those unfamiliar, is a product of Fiat Automóveis in Brazil and is based on the Palio economy car. The nameplate has been around South America since 1996 and was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (long before Volkswagen monopolized his talents), and takes a more rugged approach in the form of the Strada Adventure.

The test mule pictured here (said by our spy shutterbugs on the scene to be packing a diesel and a stick) is obviously wearing some heavy body cladding, but that in and of itself – along with its presence in Auburn Hills near company headquarters with Michigan manufacturer plates – suggests something could be afoot. Of course, it's 100-percent possible that engineers are merely working on a foreign-market model at the company's US operations – especially with that drivetrain combination – but past rumors have hinted that the now-dead Dodge Dakota could come back as a different sort of vehicle. Most recently, it's been hinted that the project was shelved, possibly in favor of a Mitsubishi-based pickup, but that doesn't appear to be what we see here.

Whatever this is, it looks longer than a Strada, with a bigger bed and four proper doors instead of just two and appears to be riding higher on a jacked-up suspension – all presumably to meet North American tastes. Any taller and it'd look less like a ute and more like a truck... which may be good news to those who miss the Dakota, but in its present form, it looks more like a revival of the Rampage than anything else.


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  • 56 Comments
      Schmluss
      • 5 Months Ago
      I love my 1982 Rabbit Pickup. It's not my daily, but to haul small things from Home Depot for weekend projects, it's great. Never had a problem due to it being front wheel drive and it gets great mileage and is easy to maneuver in parking lots. No need for a full size truck or a quad cab. There has got to be a market for these really small pick-ups. At least 50,000 annually in the US. You don't see all those old Rangers still running around for no reason.
      EJD1984
      • 5 Months Ago
      I really like the look of the Fiat Strada, I just hope Ram can tune the engine for some addition low end torque. Really like the two-door: http://www.autosblog.com.ar/2013/10/brasil-fiat-ya-vende-al-nuevo-strada-2014.html
      Chance Leo
      • 5 Months Ago
      They need to build a version of the rampage concept from a few years back. I would buy that in a heartbeat. Even with the minivan sliding rear doors.
      knowledgehurtsmyhead
      • 5 Months Ago
      GM should really bring the Chevy Montana they've got elsewhere globally to the US. Small package, good fuel economy, and enough bed space for hauling around more than the average family needs.
      car czar
      • 5 Months Ago
      If the bed is big enough to hall my cbr1000 and return 25-30 Hwy I'm all in.
      Bill Burke
      • 5 Months Ago
      Boy that is one odd looking test mule. That said, I believe if this is a mule for a new Fiat pickup, let's hope, and is being tested state side, which would signal a low risk venture for Ram and offers an economy of development scale that would work for Fiat, a process they would have to do anyway for this vehicle. If the product works for Ram and sells enough, good for Ram. If not, Ram drops it in five or six years in time for the next development cycle and Fiat loses nothing. I'd bet we see this thing (I hope far less oddly configured) as a small Ram pickup.
        yonomo200
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Bill Burke
        Looks like hell. It's supposed to. They've camo'ed the hell out of it. But I bet the final product looks great. I've always been a fan of Chrysler design, regardless of some of the scary stuff they did toward the end of the Damnear Chrysler mess. Fiat is letting Chrysler fix that crap now, thank god!
      • 5 Months Ago
      According to the Fiat-Chrysler year product plan, Fiat is planing a new midsize pickup for the european market in 2016. This is most likely an early prototype for that vehicle. Also according to the 5 year product plan, there are no plans to revive the Dakota. Hopefully they change their mind abut that though.
      Brian Regan
      • 5 Months Ago
      If it's anything like the Rampage concept from a few years ago they'll have my money. If it's going to be another 4-door, no bed pickup I'd hope it as a mid-gate similar to that of the Avalanche in order to be more useful.
      bootsnchaps60
      • 5 Months Ago
      I had a 85 Ranger longbed, great truck, good size. I don't want nor need a gargantuan full size truck , and the current "small" pu's are the size full size used to be. It's like the justification for not having station wagons-stop making them , make something bigger and more expensive instead and then whine that there's no market demand for a smaller vehicle. .
      Charlie Brown
      • 2 Months Ago

       Usa needs a small crewcab pickup 200 inches or less or the A bat toyota concept with a convertible bed , 4 cyl engines and diesel. the new Colorado is huge, a boat. Same with Tacoma. Overseas you can get the Chevy Colorado dmax and others that would work great here. a 90's style hilux crew cab has perfect dimensions. 

      mikeybyte1
      • 5 Months Ago
      I see a ton of Ford Rangers - and the Mazda twin - being used for light duty work. Many are held together with duct tape and gum. I feel this is a hugely untapped market. Many people do not want/need a mid/full sized pickup no matter the price point. Size matters in urban areas. Ford discovered this with the launch of the Transit Connect. I know a few businesses that traded in their huge vans for the TC. The first one to market with an affordable economical and practical small pickup will immediately own that market. Is it this Rampage? Who knows. But it is a highly untapped market. I have a feeling automakers are watching to see what the reaction is to the upcoming GM midsize twins. But IMO it is the compact pickup that is sorely needed.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 5 Months Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        But how do you explain Ridgeline not selling well, even when it was new to the market?
          carguy1701
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          >The 4-wheel drive system was innovative How? Its your standard reactive system with a button to lock the PTO on. That's not that innovative.
          yonomo200
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          Oh, *I* have developed anger issues... That's a laugh riot coming from you, Sea Urine.
          yonomo200
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          Because it's crap.
          carguy1701
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          Because it isn't what the market wanted. No 2WD option, no 2-speed transfer case, no step-up engine, IRS, based on a front drive platform...it's like Honda expected people to love it just because it had the Honda badge on it. The silhouette they showed of the next gen one looks more like a truck, but I'm not holding my breath.
          Larry Litmanen
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          Yonomo, i noticed that over the last few months you have developed anger issues, your comments became very i guess hateful. What's going on, share with us what has you so angry lately. I mean it is summer, weather is beautiful, if anything you should mellow down.
          tenspeeder
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          It looked too odd for a pickup.
          me_not_you
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          My boss has one. It is really practical and the bed is bigger than it looks. It is just so ugly it makes grown men, women, and children cry.
          ReTired
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          The Ridgeline was engineered as an SUT, a mini-van with part of the roof cut off. The 4-wheel drive system was innovative but marginally utilitarian, the carrying and towing capacity, limited and the engine, weak. What I (and likely others) want is something the size, format and capabilities of the mid-80s Toyota (Hi-Lux, N40?) - minus the affinity for RUST...workability in a smaller size, at lower cost, maybe with an ex-cab (instead of / in addition to the Crew-cab). Perfect for lighter weight, larger volume haulage and economical enough for personal transport / commuting. Wish they'd bring 'em back with better anti-rust materials / engineering. They looked decent, too.
      diffrunt
      • 5 Months Ago
      F ix I t A gain ,T ony
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