Chrysler Believes Small Truck Could Make Comeback
New Entry-Level Ram Model Would Probably Be Unibody
While many manufacturers have abandoned the small-to-midsize truck market, some believe there is an unfilled niche for a smaller, more fuel-efficient truck. According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler's vice president of product planning Joe Veltri sees the small truck segment as an under-served market that has the potential to be a sales goldmine.
Veltri points out that small and midsize trucks used to outsell their fullsize counterparts as late as the 1980s and that there are two big potential customer groups: the large number of millennials that are outdoor recreational enthusiasts and current boomer fullsize truck owners that will look to downsize. He also cites consumer concerns and interest in better fuel economy as factors that could drive customers towards smaller trucks.
Even before the midsize Dakota model went out-of-production in August 2011, Chrysler has shown several small-to-midsize truck concepts, including the Dodge M80, Dodge Rampage, as well as the Jeep Gladiator, loosely based on the Wrangler SUV. Chrysler's Mopar accessories division offers a conversion kit to turn the Wrangler Unlimited into a pickup.
While the small and midsize trucks of the '80s and '90s were scaled-down body-on-frame designs like their fullsize brethren, Veltri says a future smaller pickup will be unibody to meet future fuel economy standards, as well as changing consumer tastes and needs, which often no longer dictate the capabilities of a full body-on-frame chassis.
Currently, Toyota owns the lion's share of the midsize truck market with the Tacoma, which sold over 100,000 units in 2011 and sales trending even higher for 2012. Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales vice president, says that the exit of some other competitors from the market (notably the Ford Ranger) has created an opportunity to expand their market share and that the truck also appeals to customers seeking higher fuel economy. However, fullsize trucks have closed the fuel economy gap considerably, with the Ford F-150's optional EcoBoost V-6 delivering nearly the same fuel economy as a V-6 Tacoma. The Chevrolet Silverado SFE also offers competitive fuel economy with V-8 power.
Source: Detroit Free Press