It's no secret the midsize truck segment is getting to be a lonelier place by the day. Essentially a two-way race in the U.S. between the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, the Dodge Dakota has long been an also-ran, despite having a segment-exclusive V-8 engine for many years, until GM started offering a Vortec V-8 option in the Canyon and Colorado a few years ago. Well, the Dakota's likely replacement will have little in common with its forebear. And could possibly even go to front-wheel-drive, if reports coming out of Canada prove to be true.
It has long been rumored that the Dakota small truck -- expected to be killed off later this year -- would be replaced by some type of unibody truck. Switching to a unibody design would probably make for a lighter, more fuel-efficient truck, helping Chrysler meet stricter economy regulations. The company reportedly has goals of between 15,000 and 20,000 annual sales for the new truck.
The "lifestyle truck" would likely be similar to Honda's ageing Ridgeline. Wheels.ca says it will be built at the Windsor, Ontario plant which assembles the related Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Volkswagen Routan minivans. This lends credence to the rumor that the new truck may employ a modified van platform.
The idea of a unibody, lifestyle-oriented truck was presaged by the Dodge Rampage concept seen at the 2006 Chicago auto show. It was based on the Chrysler minivan platform, and the concept even included van touches like sliding rear doors and the brand's trademark Stow-N-Go seating.
If and when such a vehicle reaches series production, it is certain to be lumped under the Ram brand, like Chrysler group's other pickup trucks. Here's hoping they pick a catchier name than "TR Ram Life Style Truck."