Chrysler Sees New Hope For Small Pickups

2002_Dodge_M80_Concept II

The thought process was always pretty simple: Younger buyers could purchase smaller, more affordable pickups, and then when they get older and earn more money, they could step up to larger full-size trucks. And that was the template and strategy for decades.

Then full-size trucks prices dropped with strong competition and huge incentives on the hood, with the result being a compact/midsize truck segment squeezed to a fraction of what it once was. Now, conventional wisdom may be shifting, as some see a potential need for small trucks again, but this time to a different kind of buyer. 

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Chrysler's vice president of product planning, Joe Veltri, is convinced that there's a market for a small, affordable pickup truck, and we agree with him.

Interestingly, Veltri seems to believe the group most likely to want these small pickup trucks will not be young buyers looking for a less expensive, versatile vehicle to fit their varied lifestyles, but more likely to be aging baby boomers looking to downsize in their later stages of life from their full-size truck choices. 

Veltri talks quite a bit in the interview about the possibility of a unibody chassis for such a vehicle but insists the final decision has not been made. Over the last 10 years, there has been plenty of speculation about what Chrysler would do with the next-generation Dodge Dakota, with concepts like the Dodge M80 and Dodge Rampage garnering a lot of excitement for the brand.

Could this finally be the crack in the door many have been waiting for? For the full story, click here

2006-dodge-rampage-concept II

Comments

Highdesertcat: you are wanting all that for 15,000 to 20,000? Maybe 20 and thats about it. If they stuck an auto in one they would prob want to start with the 8 speed, but then they might want to use the six speeds. Either way even a 6 speed auto is near a $1000 option. Power windows and locks? Wow, just drive the cost up, why don't you! That's a good part of why the Dakota didn't seell, it was that much more to get a 1500. If they they have a formula to determine how many to build of each variant, they sure didn't use it when they built all those v-6 Dakotas in 07 when I shopped for a truck in December. The v-6 ones littered the lots and they had big huge discounts on the websights. It was totally behind Toyota and Nissan's v-6. A four cylinder would not work cause the truck got so heavy. Wanna 4 cylinder? It needs a turbo or something to crank up torque. Toyotas little 2200 were great sellers, look at them now 2.7 or 2.8? Cause of all the weight?

If you start out with all the stuff you lift, how could you remove it down the road? "Introducing the newest option, the (low cost) stripped one"? Do folks in the north NEED A/C? WHY black seats?

i want this little truck to be affordable, with a/c,4x4, able to carry 1300lbs, and good ground clearance. for 15,00 dollars

TRX4 Tom,

The economies of scale are such that I believe they could do it. All the parts already exist so all they have to do is pick and choose and mate things up. The only thing really new is the sheetmetal.

For instance, an existing SOHC or DOHC 4-cyl mated to an existing five-speed automatic would work and cost a lot less than a Pentastar V6 mated to a six- or eight-speed automatic.

Disc brakes already exist, just pick the ones appropriate for this GVW class and match it to an appropriate PB system to give it effective stopping power.

The AC, PS, PW, PDL, and the Sat/AM/FM/MP3 radio already exist, so use what you got, I'd say to Fiat.

The Black interior with cloth seats would be the least expensive ways to go. There would be a lot of plastic, but that is normal in cars and trucks these days.

They could use the Wrangler steering and 4x4 gear if they want to offer a 4x4 version, but that would jack up the price to $26K.

I'm sure the boys and girls at Fiat will figure it out. In order to make an impact they need to introduce this little truck at a price point that will set heads turning. $20K MAX, full pop for a 2wd; $26K for a 4x4 variant.

@Highdesert cat-I agree with your ideas on the M-80. I would go further and say release this truck at $15,500 with no additional options for now. Limit the interior to a midgray cloth call the interior Graystone (a lot of people don't like black interiors and you could probably get a discount for a generic medium gray interior buying in volume). Offer 4 colors-Sunburst Yellow, Cardinal Red, Bold Black, and Natural White. Do not offer an extended cab initially and call this a Mini Ram. Keep it simple and offer roll down windows and dig into the Chrysler & Jeep parts bin and share as many parts as is possible. Standard equipment would be an existing SOHC or DOHC 4-cyl mated to an existing five-speed automatic. For now don't offer 4 wheel drive and assemble this in an existing plant that it shares platforms with. $15,500 is a critical price because it would be below the 17k base price of a Tacoma and nothing would match its price. Market this like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. People that buy this truck will not be your typical full size truck buyers. Keep it simple for now and contain costs without making it junk. If it is a success expand options such as extended cab, moon roof, 6 speed manual,sliding rear window, electric windows & locks, and 4 wheel drive. Add satelite radio with a MP3 port as the only radio. Also add cruise control and intermitten wipers as standard equipment too.

Thanks for the response Highdesert cat there are a lot of snotty car salespeople especially Toyota salespeople. Now I would go to the internet and Consumer Reports car buying service (maybe even Sam's Club) and if they didn't want to sell me a Toyota I would find the dealer that met the price and terms of my research. Of course that is what I do now on anything I buy. Isn't the internet great!!

Jeff S,

all great ideas. Now all we need is for the folks at Fiat to listen and incorporate these recommendations into this little truck.

There are a lot of people who would like a little truck that fills multiple functions in a household as a second vehicle. I cannot imagine my life without at least one truck in my household. It has always been that way, all my life.

I've never had a compact truck but when I started way back when, the trucks then were about the size of the compact trucks now.

And there always remains the possibility that Toyota will undercut any new entry into this segment by lowering the price on its base Tacoma. Even in its base form the Tacoma is overpriced by at least $1500 IMO.

I bought one of my grandsons a base Tacoma with air in 2007 for $15K out the door incl tt&l. And he got back $10,5 when he traded it for a 2012 4dr SR5 4x4 this past January.

So Toyota has a lot of margin to work with. Fiat does not.

Chrapsler never could get their small pickups off the ground and never will.

Young people today know the value of a quality vehicle that's why they're so into the import brands.

They aren't just buying a Dodge cuz their pappy had a Dodge and his pappy had a Dodge and there was always a Dodge on the farm... nah. They aren't buying Dodges because Dodges are pieces of crap that break down constantly and appeal to mullet wearing ex-camaro drivers that only care about making noise come out of their tail pipes.

Sorry, MaXx; you haven't come out of the '60s yet.

Now, I'll grant that Chrysler developed a bad rep in the early '60s by selling technologies that weren't fully tested. That said, they were in almost every case at the leading edge of automotive technologies here in the States. That rep got shot down after Lee Iacocca rescued them from bankruptcy in the '70s and suddenly had Chrysler putting out some solidly reliable cars. They may not have been the prettiest or the most powerful, but they were seemingly unstoppable.

Now you turn around and look at what's on the road and you see cars that have some of the highest resale value in their class and Jeep has become America's true Global Brand. I've been driving a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara since '07 and have yet to suffer any kind of major breakdown due to quality, materials or workmanship. I've looked at the 300 and the 200 and found them notably more roomy and comfortable than almost any other American car in their class and I'm certainly not seeing any of them "simply fall apart" as some naysayers would like to tout.

I will admit that Chrysler's cars may not be as 'pretty' as the competition or maybe they don't have as much power as the competition, but as far as I can tell they still keep going and going and... where Ford--while improving--still has a quality issue for their cars and to me is ugly as sin for their trucks and GM seems to have a relevance issue with their too-generic sedans and seemingly tin-foil trucks. Both Ford and GM have abandoned their compact lines just as Chrysler did several years ago (I never considered the Dakota as 'compact').

So now Chrysler is again looking at a 'Compact Truck' segment and I honestly believe that segment is larger than anyone here cares to admit. The M80 above looks like an ideal RAM/Jeep joint vehicle that overall would benefit the corporation as a whole even if the RAM division sees some losses due to cannibalization from Jeep. If RAM ignores Jeep, then overall sales of the model are likely to be far below what they could be simply because of the marque. Personally, I want a Jeep version.

@MaXx - actually, many youth of today don't give a "rat's ass" about cars, trucks, motorcycles etc. Generation Z is too young to care. Video games and the internet are a bigger interest. Generation Y is struggling because they got used to being under the umbrella of their "babyboomer" parents so sticking with a job or working hard to an end goal like owning a truck just isn't there. Everything was given to them, and like school and sports - they were taught that just showing up and participating was "good enough". They will bitch and complain that it is "unfare" that they don't have a truck but won't work for it. I saw this sort of stuff when I was single and owned a sport bike. The young guys would whine that I was lucky because I had a new bike, cash in my pocket, a house, a truck and other toys. I would then point out that I had an education, a good fulltime job and several casual jobs. In the same breath they would complain about being fired because they didn't show up for work.
So your point about value is????

I usually skip the chest-beating macho-men here, but I got news for everyone over 45: the Millennials are not into cars (or trucks) period.

Here is one of several reports:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/03/why-dont-young-americans-buy-cars/255001/

Urban kids will eventually start families and that usually means suburban life. Even in town, however, a pickup is good thing to have if you can park it. Kids move a lot in and just after college. They ride bikes and transport them (there's nothing easier than tossing my bike up into the Chevy's bed).

Small, cheap pickups fit the bill for a generation not into vehicles as status symbols or proof of manhood. These kids just want to get around with their stuff.

Bring back the small truck! Toyota has abandoned the best vehicle it ever made, and the one that made it famous- the 1970'-1980's four cylinder trucks.

Return to 1980's dimensions. Put a 2.4 L four cylinder in it. Give it 20 mpg city and 25 mpg hwy. When I went to replace my 1987 Toyota 4x4 there was no alternative but another used truck. If Toyota made the same truck as my '87 but with modern safety features I would have bought one in a heartbeat.

So I bought a 2004 Tacoma V6. The quality is not on par with the Japanese built '87 but it's alright.

If you need a work truck get a V8....but how many guys drive their oversize, full-size, lifted trucks back and forth to work and the store, alone. What a waste.

just make a truck that people can afford. under $20,000 ! cut out all the fancy stuff. i need a truck i can drive off road get out step in mud get back in .. think old school like the m880 from when i was in the ARMY .. no rug no power every thing .. GPS dont do no good when i am out fishing and hunting ..



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