Ram wants its midsize truck situation 'fixed soon'

Clues point to Mexico assembly, probably a couple years away

2009 Dodge Dakota
2009 Dodge Dakota
View 4 Photos
The rumors of a midsize Ram pickup are like a metronome — sometimes in motion, sometimes dead. This week the rumor is alive, so reports Automotive News. Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley admitted during an earnings call that the lack of a mid-sizer is "a clear hole in our portfolio," and that the Ram product development team is "focused on it." Puzzling that out means finding "a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market." But he wants a solution found soon.

During the product roadmap presentation FCA made in June last year, late CEO Sergio Marchionne said the middling pickup would be built in Mexico. That tidbit came after years of Marchionne saying the brand would get in the segment, only to have the idea shot down by Ram bosses. At the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, a year after the midsize Dodge Dakota went off the market, Marchionne said the brand would reinstate a new-generation Dakota, with a better-than-50% chance it would be unibody. In 2013, then-Ram president Reid Bigland said the chances were tiny because the numbers didn't add up. The two men got on the same page, in favor of, in 2014. In March 2016, Marchionne said, "I like that space a lot," and "It's a good space to be in." Exactly one month later, then-Ram CEO Bog Hegbloom said the idea was dead because he couldn't make a business case for it.

Come early 2018, even Marchionne had joined the naysayers. He told Automobile, "We did not think it was necessary to re-enter that market after our last experience." The snag was, and remains, that a smaller truck has "a cost structure very similar to our Ram 1500. We have not found an economic way to get this done." Four months later, there's a midsize pickup on the product roadmap. Then, at this year's New York Auto Show, Ram Trucks boss Jim Morrison told us Ram had no plans yet for a smaller pickup, although the division continues to look at its options.

Last September an Automotive News report forecast the truck to be built in Toledo alongside the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator pickup. When Car and Driver asked for clarification about Toledo or Mexico, FCA pointed to Marchionne's comments referring to Mexico. It appears that's the angle Manley and his team are still trying to make work. The Saltillo, Mexico, assembly plant now builds Ram's heavy-duty trucks, but observers expect HD production to move to the U.S. to make room for the smaller pickup.

Another component in play is that FCA plans global export of whatever gets made, so the automaker needs a product that fits into its present situation. At the moment, there's a Fiat-Strada-based Ram 700 on sale in Mexico, and a Ram 1200 on sale in the Middle East. That truck is a rebadged Mitsubishi L200 that also sells as the Fiat Fullback.

Some predictions put the mystery truck on sale in late 2020 as a 2021 model. If that were so, we'd expect to see mules and prototypes on the road imminently. If that's too soon, we'd be surprised to finish 2022 without something smaller than the Ram 1500 on dealer lots. The midsize truck market expanded by 13 percent so far this year compared to 2018, putting emphasis on Manley's statement, "it's a big part of the portfolio and growth we want to achieve."

RAM Information

Share This Photo X