Spied: Small Pickup Behind FCA Fences

KGP Ram small pickup 4 II

In the wake of the news that Jeep is inching closer to offering a midsize pickup, it looks like Ram or possibly Dodge is thinking of offering a real compact pickup truck. It could look something like the smaller short-bed car-based Ram 700 (see images below) found south of border. Although the idea could play well for Ram since no other automaker competes in that arena, it might play even better for Dodge, which is desperate for new products and doesn't have the rugged capability reputation that Ram enjoys.

Thankfully, our spies were paying attention and spotted this subject parked near the outer fences of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Here's what they sent us:

"We spotted what appears to be a prototype for a midsize pickup truck sitting in a holding pen at the FCA headquarters in Michigan. The prototype — which looks similar in size to the Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont that is parked next to it — suggests design cues beneath its camouflage that differ from anything else currently in the Ram or Fiat truck portfolios.

"The prototype has everything fully boxed in behind the B-pillar, but if you look closely, the rigid panels have bowed in to a point too narrow to be anything associated with any SUV or crossover. The only logical conclusion we can draw is that, over the rear section of the vehicle, it's open above the prototype's waistline — clearly suggesting that this test vehicle is fitted with a pickup bed.

"As you can see, the front end is thoroughly covered with camouflage, but all of the visible cues and cutlines look nothing like the small trucklet that is currently on sale as the Fiat Strada in international markets and as the Ram 700 in Mexico. FCA/Ram sources, in the past, have said that the Ram 700 is not approved for the U.S. market, but that the company continues to look at opportunities. With the Chevrolet Colorado and a renewed Toyota Tacoma on the market now — not to mention companies like Hyundai and Jeep likely to reach into the market — could this new prototype be destined for U.S. showrooms? The size of this prototype looks larger than the diminutive Ram 700, but we'll have to wait for a better look to know for sure.

"We'll be on the lookout for this prototype testing out on the roads and hopefully gather more details once it's out from behind FCA's protective fences."

KGP Photography, manufacturer images


KGP Ram small pickup 1 II

KGP Ram small pickup 3 II

KGP Ram small pickup 5 II

Ram 700 reg cab II

Ram 700 rear II

Ram 700 front II



@ Big Al

I would definitely take the aluminum Ford HD with the Powerstroke diesel. As long as they offer that motor as an option, I could care less whether or not they offer an ecoboost something in it.

On the so-called "failure of car-based pickups (i.e. Ranchero/El Camino), they did get replaced; their market was absorbed by the compact pickup truck like the D-50, Ranger, S-10 and yes, Dakota, the first of the "modern" mid-sized trucks (bigger than any of its competitors when it came out.) The Ranchero/El Camino showed a need for an everyday-driver type of truck. In fact, some people called them "Country Cadillacs" as they were good looking as a car, but still had the ability to carry things in the open. I have a promotional photo of an El Camino holding a load of pumpkins.

The point is that not everybody needs nor wants a full size truck, especially when you consider how large they've become today. We do have modern evidence of this in the fact that on the average, so-called Global pickups are about 20% smaller than American full sized trucks while the old 80s-vintage compacts were about 20% smaller than that--roughly 30% smaller than full-size. This puts them at just a bit smaller in height and width than the modern car-based "trucklets" by Fiat, GM in South America and a few others. But it's taking Hyundai to challenge the American market by even considering building one in the NAFTA area for sale here.

Will it sell? Most certainly; the market has been un-tapped now for almost 20 years. GM, Ford and Chrysler abandoned the market in their attempts to save money, but as in Ford's case, only a small percentage of their customers accepted the choice Ford offered; a full-sized truck or a Fiesta. Instead, compact crossovers and SUVs have exploded, decimating the sedan market (coupes were already gone with very limited exceptions). I would wager that no less than one-third of those driving crossovers and SUVs really want an open bed vehicle at about the same size. With the exception of certain fleets that currently have no choice of size of pickup truck, I would wager that as the car-based pickup becomes more visible on the roads, the CUV/SUV market will see a significant drop in sales. For companies that don't need to carry large objects like lumber and piping (in other words, pest control and maybe even animal control) the smaller truck will become the obvious choice as their use in South America demonstrates--by an article by a South American on TTAC something like six months ago where an automotive glass shop uses a Fiat Strada as their road service vehicle. Yes, they will sell.

By the way, I didn't like the Dakota when it first came out either; it almost exactly split the difference between the compacts of the day and a full-sized truck. Even then I considered it too large and it did coin the term of "mid-sized pickup", even if the International Scout truck was the same size 20 years prior.

@Road Whale--That is precisely what happened but it still took a number of years for the Ranchero and El Camino to be dropped. I do agree that not everyone needs are wants a large truck which is the same assumption that Detroit made in the 50's about small cars that everyone wants the same size.

@Jeff S

Your perspective on the big/small thing is so determined by later decades like the 70s or 80s

You may be forgetting that the Big 3 were experiencing record stock prices and growth during the 1950s and 60s. We should all have it so bad.

VW and Toyota were micro brands in North America back then.

@papa jim--You also forgot that there was a Recession in 1958 just after the Ford Edsel was released in the Fall of 1957. Consumers stopped buying the mid-priced cars and bought fewer cars. True the recession didn't last that long but newly formed American Motors formed well after the merger of Nash and Hudson under George Romney had a hit with the Rambler which in a couple of years, Fall of 1959. led to GM, Ford, and Chrysler to introduce their own compact cars. Before the Rambler most small cars were imports like the VW Bug, Renault Dauphin, Ford Angelina, and some others which I forgot their names. Powell Crosley (founder of Crosley Radio from Cincinnati, OH) produced the Crosley car, a true mini-car, from 1939 up until about 1954. Crosley was ahead of his time. Post WW II was an era of bigger cars with families moving the the suburbs. One car families were becoming two car families by the late 50's. The Big 3 were still resistant to the idea of making a compact car.



Jeff S please don't waste time on fly specks and pepper.

The periods from 1950-to-1970, and from 1983-to-1999 were marked by enormous growth and the recessions in those days were hiccups.

Today's recession has lasted most of the last 10 years. They don't want to call it that, but it is. Record numbers of working people unable to find decent FT jobs.

The blip you refer to in the late 1950s had people really worried back then, but that had as much to do with Castro and Sputnik than it did the actual US economy.

The Big 3 ruled the roost in those days and every guy in the world with a few bucks in his pocket wanted a Caddy or a big Chrysler.

@papa jim: "The Big 3 ruled the roost in those days and every guy in the world with a few bucks in his pocket wanted a Caddy or a big Chrysler."

And yet Chevrolet, Buick, other GM brands, Ford, Mercury, Dodge Plymouth and yes, even Chrysler all produced what they called "compact cars" in '61. Maybe you forget the Chevy II Nova, the Ford Falcon, Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant. All were extremely popular cars through that decade and somewhat into the next. Those cars were small compared to the full-sized cars of the day, but today's full-sized cars are no longer than those old compacts. Only our pickup trucks have continued to grow.

@Roadwhale your recollection of the sixties is curious.

You mention the so called compact cars of that time--they were lead sleds with smaller wheels, brakes and seats.

They were heavy and sluggish. The majority of them optioned up to small block V8 powerplants which was the only saving grace for them. Hardly a value.

I didn't say they were good, papa jim, I said that they were made--and remarkably popular at the time. My first car was one of those--though what I really wanted was a '59 Impala. Still do for that matter. Preferably a 2-door hard top.

Though I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at a '59 El Camino.

@Roadwhale Now we agree!

My first car was a 63 Impala stick shift very rare option in those days, for an Impala.

The Impalas and Bel Aires really had style compared to the Fords, Plymouths and Dodges of that period. Later I had a big Mercury 390.

In the 21st century if a guy wants to stop breeding he gets a vasectomy, in those days he just bought a Rambler. Same results.

@papa jim--Any time there is an economic downturn it effects consumer behavior whether it is 1 year or 10 years. The point you are missing the point that a product that was not very popular before, compact cars, from a company that had been formed from the merger of two companies that were failing, Nash and Hudson, found an opportunity to become successful. The one thing that determines economic conditions is how people feel about their economic well being. The Sputnik and Castro were just as real to Americans of the late 50's as the current economic ups and downs. Anything that effects consumer confidence is real and significant.

@Road Whale--I agree with you assessment of the rise of the compact car. It is less important that the cars were smaller versions of their larger brethren, but that the consumer was more accepting of the compact cars and that GM, Ford, and Chrysler finally brought out a product to meet the needs and demands of the changing consumer lifestyles, move to the suburbans and needing a second auto for commuting back and forth to work. This was a major shift in consumer lifestyles and the demand for a different product.

As for papa jim's comparison of a Rambler to a vasectomy, I was never a fan of Ramblers but he misses the point that many Ramblers as other smaller cars were not the main family vehicle and were more of a commuter vehicle. Why would most families in the 50's and 60's need to large full size vehicles fully loaded with one breadwinner and a stay at home mother with 2 or 3 children.

As for automobiles there were much more differences in each model year of automobiles and more emphasis was put on styling. The Fall model releases of the new models were exciting because of the anticipation of a newly redesigned models with new features. Today most automobile designs are less significant and cars and trucks are much more appliance like. Today's vehicles are safer, more reliable, and longer lasting but they are dull for the most part. Toyota has made a science out of dull appliance like vehicles. Most of today's youth are less interested in vehicles or even driving than the latest I-Phone. I don't get as excited over buying a new vehicle as I did buying my first new car, a 1977 Monte Carlo fully loaded with swivel bucket seats. Don't get me wrong that I don't like buying a new vehicle its just that I view them more as appliances on wheels.

Jeff S,
It's called consumer sentiment. Consumer sentiment can be strong enough to knock several points of a nations GDP.

Business confidence is also significant. Business will judge whether to invest or not. Contrary to how some commenters here on PUTC blame Obama for their current woes, they should look back since WWII to see how and why the US is where it is. It's not all bad.

It's now the US must be more competitive than in the 50s and 60s, when the US auto industry was ruling the world. But, alas Detroit was slow to change to the changing global trends. By Detroit, I mean the car companies and UAW.

They thought they were invincible. This has been proven incorrect. Bailouts?????

As for small US cars. I do believe the Rambler was a relatively successful vehicle, along with the Falcon. My father actually had both and a 63 Galaxy.

Those size vehicle offered less room and comfort than a current Camry. I do believe the modern vehicle is far superior to the vehicles of old.

Just take the 2.5 litre Colorado. It is able to achieve 9 second 0-60 times. Go back 20-25 years ago and a V8 pickup struggled to achieve that.

I do suppose on a dedicated pickup site like PUTC you will find most of those who are Luddites and like to supersize at McDonalds, ie, bigger is better.

Many don't realise the current pickup style is only in it's 5th decade. Cars are twice as old. Yes.

The view of a pickup being a family trickster is a relatively recent occurrence. Naturally the pickup still has a little more morphing to undertake.

Pickups will gradually come in all different sizes like cars. Why? Because the 1/2 pickup is a car for the majority. 50 years ago the pickup was a work truck, agricultural.

An example of the refinement and competition is the new Colorado/Canyon twins. They do offer the refinement most would be happy to drive.

I actually read your comment regarding the L200. The L200 was the Mitsubishi van, called the Mitsubishi L200 Express.

@Big Al--Consumer sentiment is similar if not the same as how the consumer feels about the economy. As for the roominess of most vehicles today I would say that the Toyota Camry is a little less roomy than a 60's full size car but it is definitely quicker in acceleration and much better fuel economy. The head room and leg room on most full size cars of the 50's and 60's was better with taller roofs and wider. The vehicles are much safer today and runner longer.

I agree about full size pickups in that with a crew cab configuration and all the amenities today's trucks have become a replacement for the full size family sedan and for many the station wagon and the van. When I was growing up pickups were considered a farmer or a tradesman vehicle and not something that a suburban family would ever own. Even my farmer granddad had a full size Dodge or Oldsmobile 4 door sedan to drive to Church, meetings, and to travel, the pickup truck was for the farm and for farm business and not a regular family vehicle.

As for small US cars. I do believe the Rambler was a relatively successful vehicle...

@Big Al. You are kidding, right? Rambler died at a time when the rest of Detroit was still successful.

Not only were their cars boring, they had lousy customer satisfaction, lame cred, and was the only carmaker offering Rust as an option.

They even lost money making Jeeps.

I'd test drive one. I wished I'd gotten a V8 Dakota and not the trouble-prone V6, or I'd still be driving my '98 today. It was just the right size.

Pickups have all gotten too huge. Maybe this one will be too small, but somewhere, like Goldilocks, I'll find one that is "just right" for work on the farm.

@Big Al: I was hoping you would give me the correct truck model as even I was aware I was wrong with the first number. I believe I also corrected it in a subsequent post as the L200 is very definitely a pickup truck per several internet sites including Mitsubishi's own. I believe the van you're talking about is the Nissan since I can't find a van in Mitsubishi's lineup.

You are correct RoadWhale.

The L200 is the Mitsubishi ute.

@papa jim--Rambler/AMC was relatively successful through the late 50's thru the 60's. The Pacer in the mid 70's was AMC's undoing. Maybe AMC still might not have made it but the Pacer quickened AMC's demise. AMC put most of their investment in the Pacer banking on getting the rights to make GM's wankel engine which GM decided to cancel due to durability. AMC had designed the engine compartment for the wankel engine. AMC quickly scrabbled to put a straight 6 in the Pacer but had to redesign the firewall and drivetrain. Also the Pacer had all the disadvantages of a small car and midsize car. It lacked any kind of power and it was not fuel efficient. AMC did not have the funds to redesign their other cars and just did cosmetics. Then Renault bought AMC out and they just added to AMC's problems with the Alliance and the LeCar. The Rambler American was AMC's high point. They did have a nice muscle car in the AMX/Javelin but that wasn't their bread and butter.


@sandman--I don't remember the Scout II being advertised as a midsize truck. I will say that smaller trucks are not a new thing with Crosley making a miniature pickup in the 40's and 50's based on their miniature car. I doubt even Crosley was first at making a small truck but Crosley was an interesting man and a true entrepreneur.

@Jeff S You must be from another planet, buddy. AMC sucked out loud.

Their cars were a huge drag. I had friends who'd rather walk than drive their parents Rambler--and be seen doing it.

AMC failed from every direction I can imagine, and this was at a time when the basic American sedan was not a very well made car.

The Asians rolled in with superior build quality and innovation at a time when Detroit had gotten fat and lazy, from the board room right on down to the assembly line. It took decades for the Big 3 to recover from it.

AMC was a pimple on the world's butt in those days. I cannot recall a single AMC car, apart from the Jeep, that I would have wanted. They even managed to foul up the Jeep. Chrysler, as wretched as they were in those days, actually managed to save Jeep from its awful days as an AMC property.

Jeff S,
I thought the concept and naming of the "midsize" started out as a marketing ploy by Chrysler back in the 80s with the introduction of the Dakota.

They used a sheet of plywood to show how the smaller than fullsize could still carry a sheet of ply like it's bigger brothers.

@Big Al, actually Al the Dakota was a cute fat girl at the dance, big on the outside, little on the inside.

Every dimension of the Dakota was bigger (curb weight, wheelbase, height, width) but the legroom and headroom were straight out of lame. No better than the S10 or Ranger in that regard.

@big al--Dodge was the first to call a truck midsize, but not the first to make a midsize truck.

@papa jim--Your biased narrow views block your objectivity. I never cared that much for AMC products but I am willing to admit that AMC was successful in producing and selling a compact car, the Rambler American. AMC actually changed the US auto market because 2 years later the Detroit 3 each had their own compact cars. If it were not for the actual success of the Rambler American it would have been doubtful that there would have been a Ford Falcon, Valiant, DodgeLancer (later Dart), Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile F-85, Buick Skylark, and later the Chevy II. It does not matter that these early compact cars were smaller and cheaper versions of their full size brethren. Without a Tempest there would be no GTO or Firebird, without a Falcon there would most likely not be a Mustang, without a Chevy II there would be no Camaro, and without a Valiant there would not be a Barracuda. Compact cars resulted in a totally new product the Mustang which morphed into the muscle car.

@papa jim--The Japanese took the compact car one step further in making them more affordable and reliable. Japanese cars did not really take off until the 73 Arab Oil Embargo even though they had been on the market for years. You seem to judge the importance of a product on your own narrow opinions and cannot see the big picture. Compact cars did not displace the full size cars, they tapped into a market that had been under represented but that was expanding as more American families moved away from urban areas to suburban areas and became two car families instead of one car families. This was a significant change in American lifestyle.

Sorry Jeff. Honda was a sales sensation from 72 to 74--the Civic was a huge hit. Madza, Toyota, Datsun? All were hot then.

@papa jim--What is there to be sorry about. The Japanese took the compact car and came out with their own versions which were originally very crude but then they evolved. I doubt you even know what a 72 Civic looked like (I do I had a friend in college that had one when they came out). It was a very miniature car with a motorcycle engine and a chain for the drive train. It took Honda a few more years to make a larger more competitive Civic. The original Toyota imported in 1958 was small, heavy, and under powered and was taken off the market within a year. Toyota came back in the early 60's with a better product. Japanese cars and trucks sold respectfully but not in large numbers until the Energy Crisis which caused the sales of small cars to skyrocket and larger cars to plummet. The Japanese auto market did not succeed overnight it took years and an Energy Crisis to propel their sales. It also took the Japanese parts manufacturers to go through years of producing parts for the British auto industry and having the British constantly reject Japanese manufacturers parts giving the Japanese an incentive to make their parts better than the British.

@papa jim--Detroit was hurting by the late 70's. By this time the Japanese cars had made huge inroads into the US market and Detroit's answer was rehashed Vegas and Pintos which were never that good when they were introduced in MY 1971. Also the Voltaire and Aspen were not very good either. Detroit has since lost market share and if it were not for large pickup trucks and suvs GM, Ford, and Chrysler would all be asking for Government loans. American cars have improved but there is still a lot of distrust of the Detroit 3. It is much easier to lose a customer than to regain them.

@Jeff S Your analysis sounds like a history lesson based on the media's version of the facts. Energy crisis, you say?

It was not about gas prices. The big difference in the 1970s with regard to Japanese cars was a baby boomer generation that was not biased against Japanese products, as their parents WW2 generation was.

Japanese cameras, wristwatches, stereos and cars all became status symbols for middle class American kids in the 70s. For those who wanted to be cooler than that, there was Saab and Volvo--but none of us wanted to be driving our father's Oldsmobile.

"@Jeff S Your analysis sounds like a history lesson based on the media's version of the facts. Energy crisis, you say?
It was not about gas prices. The big difference in the 1970s with regard to Japanese cars was a baby boomer generation that was not biased against Japanese products, as their parents WW2 generation was.
Japanese cameras, wristwatches, stereos and cars all became status symbols for middle class American kids in the 70s. For those who wanted to be cooler than that, there was Saab and Volvo--but none of us wanted to be driving our father's Oldsmobile.
-- Posted by: papa jim | Sep 23, 2015 1:03:16 AM

Sorry papa, this time you're wrong. it very certainly was the energy crisis--or rather the Oil Crisis--which caused the sudden explosion of Japanese cars and trucks on the US market; they tended to get about 50% better fuel mileage across the board when fuel prices jumped almost 300% (I was paying 25¢ per gallon in '71, which jumped to 75¢ per gallon after the gas crunch. I was driving an American "compact" that cost me $1/day to drive to work 30 miles away where one hour's pay more than covered that cost. When the fuel price jumped, I was suddenly paying $4/day which exceeded that one hour's pay by almost double. This is when I started seeing far, far more Japanese cars on the roads than ever before. Add to this that one response by the Big 3 was to cut engine size and power as well as trying to make the cars lighter and you got a lot of people looking at the smaller, lighter Japanese cars that could now hold their own against the new class of American cars in performance while still getting better economy.

It was a Perfect Storm that worked to the Japanese automakers' advantage and they took full advantage of their opportunity. This was when the true compact truck became a common sight on the roads--to the point regulations had to be put in place to limit their imports and had to be tightened to address the loopholes. Strangely, certain loopholes remained which the Big 3 even now--or at least one of them--have taken advantage and themselves been faced with fines because of it.

@Road Whale you say I'm wrong THIS TIME??? Have you ever once admitted that I am right?

Your first-person analysis of the 1970s makes no mention of the dollar's phenomenal decline in buying power during those days. Your also analysis assumes that everybody else sees it the same as you.

You ignored the spot-on points I made about the rejection of grand-dad's bigotry regarding foreign made goods.

What about Saab and Volvo, if fuel economy was the big deal why didn't you buy a Volvo? During the time I've been reading your comments you've insisted on driving a 25 year old lead sled F150--hardly an economy car.

And you say?

@papa jim--It was more than baby boomers that propelled the Japanese auto industry in the US, it was Detroit's attitude that they can make anything and the consumers will buy it. You apparently never heard of the Malaise Era of cars which was from about 75 thru 85. Detroit believed that no one could knock them off their pedestal. The first Chevy Vegas had an engine that would last about as long as a booster on a NASA rocket. People bought Japanese cars originally because they were cheap and during the Arab Oil Embargo when VW Bugs and other small cars were in short supply Japanese vehicles were then purchased in significant numbers. Either you are younger than I think you are or you are suffering from memory loss but the Arab Oil Embargo cause many drivers to panic and get rid of their late model full size cars for fear of not being able to get gasoline. Even and odd license plates, plates ending in an even number filled up on even days. Once many bought Japanese cars they discovered that they did not breakdown and fall apart like Fords, GMs, and Chryslers. Whenever an industry takes their customers for granted and assume that the customer will buy anything they sell even if it is a piece of junk that industry is doomed. Fuel economy is just one aspect of the Japanese auto industries success it is more of attention to detail and quality. Either you have your head in the sand and cannot understand anything that I have stated or you are a curmudgeon who likes to argue.

@papa jim--Some of the bigotry toward Japanese products was because many of the Greatest Generation, my parents and possibly your parents, fought in WW II and also because Japanese products before WW II and in the post war era were cheap and mostly not good quality. This is much like the image of Chinese products which will eventually improve and the Chinese will have a much better image. Some of biased of toward Japanese products faded as Japanese quality improved and US products got worse. Many a loyal GM, Ford, and Chrysler owner got burned by bad quality of the Detroit 3. Even some WW II vets started to buy Japanese vehicles after their loyalty to Detroit brands was tested by Malaise Era vehicles.

My point was it took a shift to the suburban lifestyle to accept the compact car as families demanded a second car. VW bug, Renault Dauphin, Ford Angelina, and the British cars first then the newly formed AMC with the Rambler American followed by Detroit Big 3 compacts, then the Japanese compacts, S Korean compacts, and eventually the Chinese.

The Fiat Strada and VW Saveiro can carry around 750 kg as they have FWD unibody structures with leaf springs rear suspensions. I think the most practical ones are with the extended cab. The Strada has a front diffential lock option, they run on 1.6-1.8 gas engines and are faster then mid-size diesel pickups.

Sure, its nothing imposing, but they do the job and are cheap. I think those vehicles would make sense in the US, at least in Canada they would definitely.

Something based on the 500X makes more sense as the Strada is FWD and has an horrible design, also probably couldn't pass crash tests.

But in the end Marchione would rather sell a full-size truck with $10.000 4x4 and diesel options plus the essential $30.000 golden unicorn trim.

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