Chrysler Executive Believes Small Truck Market Still Viable

By Trevor Dorchies | July 06, 2012
Like the other two major American automakers based in Detroit, Chrysler doesn't have a small pickup truck available to the public. That's not to say that all three never have, as Ford killed off the Ranger last year, while General Motors plans to halt production of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and Chrysler discontinued the Ram Dakota last August.  Now, less than a year since the last Dakota rolled off the assembly line, Joe Veltri, Chrysler's vice president of product planning, still believes there's an unmet need for small pickup trucks in the United States. Veltri also knows that reviving the small pickup truck market in the U.S. will require some major tweaking, like making the trucks smaller again, and more fuel efficient. "The trucks today, they are big, they are fuel-inefficient," Veltri said to the Detroit Free Press. "The formula, in my opinion, doesn't meet the needs of the market." Even while Chrysler stopped producing Ram Dakota pickups last year, the automaker is still studying the business case for what has become known as a lifestyle pickup. A lifestyle pickup truck is aimed more at people who will use their truck as a daily driver and not just for working purposes. These people also use their truck to occasionally haul rocks and mulch from the home improvement store for a project around the house. As it currently stands, Chrysler is still exploring what platform will be used for another small pickup truck to fly under the Ram flag. While no final decision has been made, Veltri has said that the new small pickup will be built on a unibody platform, the same that supports cars. Full-size trucks are usually perched on a body-on-frame structure but a unibody platform will help keep the truck's size and weight down and as a result, gets better fuel economy figures. Veltri is also aware that if done right, Ram could secure a customer base for years to come as younger buyers are usually attracted to smaller pickups.
"Based on the research we've done of the customers and their needs...we can do something in a unibody," Veltri said to the Detroit Free Press. "Truck buyers are very loyal, so if you are able to sell one of your smaller trucks to a young buyer, you have a high probability of getting them to buy a full-size truck when they get older." With all three major Detroit-based automakers currently vacant from the small pickup truck segment, the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma have stepped in to fill the void. However, even with the Detroit big three absent from the segment, only Toyota has been able to pick up the slack, as the Tacoma is currently enjoying a 27 percent increase in sales when compared to the same time last year. Nissan has managed to only move 29,385 Frontiers so far this year while Honda has only found 7,269 new homes for its Ridgeline. Veltri remains tight-lipped about the possibility of a small pickup truck returning to Chrysler's portfolio. Even so, Dodge has continued to dangle the prospect of a return of the small pickup with the Dodge M80 concept (pictured above) shown off back in 2002 or the Dodge Rampage concept (pictured below in black) in 2006. A small pickup was also outlined in Chrysler's reformation plan after filing for bankruptcy back in 2009. When we asked Chrysler recently about the chances of a small truck returning to the Jeep or Ram brand we were told it's all about what the customer wants. As always, stay tuned as more details unfold. So, what say you? Do you want Ram or Jeep to start producing a small pickup truck again? Tell us in the comment section below. Source: Detroit Free Press