By on May 18, 2011

When Chrysler Group Design boss Ralph Gilles said yesterday that “nothing has changed from the Five Year Plan,” I failed to mention one of the issues that made his statement less than entirely accurate: the planned “mid-sized pickup” which was supposed to debut as a 2011 model. The planned unibody pickup was labeled as “under consideration” at the time, and since nobody has mentioned it since (and because Honda’s Ridgeline has been losing sales), most industry watchers seemed to think the idea was stillborn. Not so, reports wheels.ca. Citing insiders and suppliers briefed on the program, Wheels says the new truck will be built in Windsor, Ontario on Chrysler Group’s minivan platform as

an insurance policy that the plant will continue on three shifts at full capacity.

Which isn’t as thrilling a justification as, say, “the compact pickup market has been shamefully neglected for years, and rising gas prices and CAFE standards make well-developed, modern, fuel-efficient pickups a no-brainer,” but it will have to do. And since Chrysler is reportedly targeting only 15k-20k units per year, it’s not particularly surprising either. In honor of Chrysler’s return to front-drive, compact pickups, be sure to check out the Curbside Classic on its progenitor, the Dodge Rampage.

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43 Comments on “Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: Ram Developing Minivan-Based Compact Pickup?...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    At first glance, the truck looks like the new Scion coupe had its side lifted and grafted on. The truck itself looks like it’s on a rendition of the set from a late-60′s Mike Douglas Show with all the daisy-look patterns!

    Overall, ‘way too chunky. Also, does anyone believe “suicide” doors will actually make it to the mass-market? …I thought so.

    • 0 avatar

      Element used to have pretty decent sales. Suicide doors are great if you want to stuff something into cab. They would work best if the fold-forward plascit-backed seat of Liberty is implemented, so that loads do not rip up the seat fabric like in RAV4.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      Although it looks like it from the photo, it doesn’t have “suicide” doors. It has a regular door up front and a minivan style slider in the back. Yeah, that will make it to production….

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Unless the development costs are extremely minimal I don’t see where it makes any sense spending development money on a vehicle expected to sell only 15-20k units a year. I understand the platform and drivetrain already exists but they still need a new body. Seems like Chryco is answering a question nobody asked.

  • avatar

    How many people are going to buy a FWD truck? Will the transmission hold up to towing hauling?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Poseur-mobiles like the Toyota Tundra and esp. Honda Ridgeline might as well be FWD for how much (or little) “work truck” is in them.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        Agreed on the Ridgeline being an oddity but what’s the deal about the Tundra? Don’t know the Tundra very well personally, but I’ve never had any reason to doubt the credibility of any of Toyota’s working vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Tundra lacks a proper fully-boxed truck frame, along with proper Heavy Duty drivetrain options like the higher-end Sierra / F-series.

        It’s a fine truck for going to Home Depot, but I wouldn’t suggest a Tundra for mountain towing a heavy trailer needing a 5th wheel adapter.

        Tundra’s not as girly as the Ridge, but still lacks the beef of a Dodge, to say nothing of the Sierra / F-series.

        When Toyota sells a heavy-duty Class 4+ Tundra, please let me know.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        “Tundra lacks a proper fully-boxed truck frame, along with proper Heavy Duty drivetrain options like the higher-end Sierra / F-series.”

        Does Tundra fall apart at full spec load?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        It’s a fine truck for going to Home Depot, but I wouldn’t suggest a Tundra for mountain towing a heavy trailer needing a 5th wheel adapter.

        I wouldn’t suggest any 1/2-ton for 5th wheel use!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      One of the most irritating things about my 1998 Ranger is that it’s rear wheel drive. I didn’t think this was the case when I bought it, but I’ve owned the thing for 8 years now, and I’ve changed my mind. Yes, I can compensate for the truck’s inadequacies with skilled driving, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating. It wasn’t a big problem when I lived in the south, but it’s quite annoying to drive a RWD manual on ice in the winter with something like a 70/30 weight balance. The truck is balanced that way because it’s intended to be driven with a full bed, but I drive to the hardware store with the truck empty, and I rarely use the full 1000lb carrying capacity of the vehicle. So, a front wheel drive compact pickup truck would be a much better vehicle for my purposes.

      An AWD system that would automagically distribute the power to the wheels based on the load would be ideal, though. My Ranger lives in Suburbia, and it needs all-weather capability, not Jeep-like off-road abilities — so the kind of wussified computer-controlled AWD systems that get panned regularly on this blog would actually be perfect for my purposes, because all it needs to do is turn whatever wheels isn’t on ice.

      A compact diesel truck with Subaru-style AWD would be the ideal replacement for the Ranger, but it’s not made and probably never will be — even though I’d be willing to pay a premium for both of those features. But, alas, I need a back seat and SUVs aren’t my cup of tea — so, I’ll probably just settle for a Subaru wagon of some sort, and buy a trailer.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    I don’t care for the concept’s looks but I hope some of it’s elements transfer to a real life vehicle. The minivan style rear door is certainly unique, as is the slide out bed ramp. Having a midgate adds to the utility, as well.

  • avatar

    The fuel consumption is the key. Ridge is floundering because F-150 easily bested it in fuel consumption department even before Ecoboost, while hauling and towing way more. It’s a shiny example how the unibody construction does not automatically mean benefits of lower weight, depending on execution details. If Fiat can do better, that’s fine. Something like WV Amarok would be quite welcome. Or at least I would definitely consider one once I am tired of my Jeep.

    • 0 avatar
      Orangutan

      Exactly. The Ridgeline isn’t a bad vehicle, it just can’t compete with the “real” trucks cranked out by domestic manufacturers. The Honda’s fuel economy, horsepower, torque, towing, hauling, and off-roading abilities are worse than the domestic trucks, while its price is higher after incentives are taken into account. A unibody, car-based pick-up isn’t a bad idea; Honda just did not build one effectively or competitively.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      I thought the Ridgeline was targeted at Tacoma, not Tundra/F150. It’s a hybrid of small truck and SUV, and not intended for heavy duty in the first place.

  • avatar

    Unibody works on utes but front drive useless been done before FAIL

  • avatar
    Some Guy

    The reason why the Ridgeline has sold so poorly is that it’s butt ugly. I’d be all over unibody-based truck if it looked attractive and provided fuel economy superior to a “traditional” truck. If the final product would have stow-n-go seats, that would be even more awesome.

    I personally wouldn’t care if it’s unibody based if I can get great fuel economy. For me, towing is a waste of money spent on extra junk in my life to maintain and/or break… I don’t care about travek trailers. I don’t care about boats (I’ve heard that the best two days of boat ownership are when you buy it, and when you sell it). I just want an open bed that I can get dirty and haul regular household stuff around in… not 1000 pounds of cinder blocks.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    How small does a bed need to be before a vehicle stops being considered a pickup? I’m not speaking legally, but in popular thought.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeffer

      I’ve always maintained that if you can’t put a 4×8 sheet of plywood between the wheel wells and close the tailgate; it’s not a real pick-up!

      • 0 avatar
        drylbrg

        My grandfather thought that a real pickup was something that could haul a load of cow manure. Being a dairy farmer, that was one thing that he always had a good supply of.

      • 0 avatar
        northshorerealtr

        Don’t know about current versions, but the 01-07 Chrysler mini-vans would accept 4×8 sheets (if the front seat is moved up slightly from full back position), and still close the tailgate. Had an 01 Chrysler, and it was great for home depot runs.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I liked the orginal Dodge Dakota in which you could haul a 4X8 sheet of plywood OVER the wheel wells (if you ordered the long bed) and it had built in pockets for 2x4s to make a storage space under that 4×8 sheet of plywood. Honestly (having driven one as a member of my college’s maint. dept for a few years) with the V6 and standard cab I thought it was PERFECT. Yes the cab was a bit cramped but I’m not looking to drive a pickup across country, I’m looking to use it to work.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Dan: I had one of the late versions of the original Dakota. It was a great truck, big enough to haul anything you’d need as an average person, but small enough you could park it on city streets pretty easily. I had the extended cab with the shorty bed, but I could get a full load of mulch in there, no worries. 4 x 8′s hung out the back a little, but it wasn’t bad. Too bad that 3.9 was so thirsty, it was the only real drawback to the truck.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Subaru Baja.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      @Dan & Geo:

      I always felt the Dakota was the ideal size for a “regular” pick-up truck. These are about the same size as the 1976-1972 Chevy/GMC full-size C-10 short-bed, step-side, standard cab pickups we had when I was in the air force. Those little things were everywhere and a delight to drive and ride in and did everything a truck was expected to do. No, I wouldn’t use one for a cross-country trip either, but that’s not what they’re for anyway.

      When I owned my Ranger standard cab short bed straight side truck, I always had two 2×4 studs cut to fit in the stamped pockets to carry plywood and drywall or anything else that was 4′ wide. Worked perfect!

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Zackman: Yes, that gives you an idea of how much truck sizes have crept up. A full size truck in 1972, becomes a mid size truck in 1990, and now a mini truck in 2011. When the last version of the F150 came out a couple of years ago, I mistook one for some weird F350 with-a-bed kind of truck. Then I looked at the badges again and realized it WAS the F150! But Ford isn’t the only one doing this. It’s a shame we can’t somehow get back to the 1972 truck without gasoline going up to $8/gallon or something similar…

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @Zackman & geozinger

        Today’s full-size regular cab trucks do have more head and leg room than early ’70s trucks, plus today’s 1/2 tons sit higher off the ground, come with bigger tires, taller beds and wider track but overall dimensions have remained the same.
        What has changed is our perception. Park a full-sized early ’70s car & truck side by side and the truck looks dwarfed with more cramped seating.
        Full-size and compact cars are smaller today but trucks have stayed the same because beds have stayed the same (length & width). The ’72 Chevy Nova and ’11 Honda Accord are both compacts.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @DenverMike:

        Don’t knock the 1972 Nova – I owned one – wonderful car I should’ve kept! Just kidding! – And all the Colonnades were Mid-Sized cars – larger than my Impala!

        As for truck sizes – you’re correct in stating increased cab size, but while the basic inside box dimensions have remained constant, the trucks have seriously grown around it in girth and plain old bulk. I owned a 1976 Chevy & 1980 Dodge long bed standard cab and the tires were definitely smaller and looked out of proportion to the overall vehicle.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    Wow! That looks impressive to me. I think it would easily upstage the pathetic Dakota in sales.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As a ’02 Dakota V8 Quad Cab owner I’m interested in a replacement. The Honda Ridgeline is too big… no need for that huge ugly thing. Not sure FWD would be the way to go, but maybe with AWD it could tow 5,000lbs? Given the review of how good the new Minivans handle a truck based on them might be a good thing. The bed in my Dakota at 63″ (5′) seems perfect, with the lift-gate down 8′ stuff fits fine. I pretty much just use my truck for towing a smallish (16 foot) boat and small home improvement projects, its no longer my daily driver due the price of gas.

    The main things I’d look in a replacement for my Dakota would be: more torque (currently 295) and better mileage (currently 13 city/towing). I wouldn’t mind if it was slightly smaller, as losing a foot off the bed wouldn’t hurt. Love to gain paddle shifters and a turbo (ala Ecoboost). Along with areo tweaks, for example I don’t need 10″ of ground clearance, Subaru AWD car height is plenty.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      The only arrangement that makes possible your requirements (more torque and less fuel economy) is a turbo-diesel. That’s it. The only realistic option on the market insofar is the 07-08 Grand Cherokee 3.0TDi. Ze Germans are way too expensive and fragile to do any real work.
      Turbocharged cars are only econimical at near-zero loads. All those lbs-ft and hp should come from burning certain amount of fuel.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Won’t sell. Pickups are fashion statements of manliness, with most of them never seeing any real use. It’s like advertising “mine is smaller than yours”.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Making a product whose looks don’t match its capability has worked in the areas of low end FWD sports coupes so I don’t see why it shouldn’t work for trucks. While some recreational truck owners like to brag about their towing capacity (like some sports car owners brag on stats) there must be a segment of potential truck buyers who just want the looks and enough utility for daily household tasks.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    If FIAT wants to go the uni-body Ranchero/Ridgeline/El Camino route, they’d be better served using the Durango/Grand Cherokee platform.

    Sales won’t be spectacular, given the track records of the Ridgeline and Explore Sport.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I am the perfect customer. I have a 2002 Ford Ranger 2wd, 4cyl, 5spd bought new. The most weight I have ever hauled is 1800Lbs. The most I have ever towed is a tick over 1000Lbs. The truck has spent 99.999% of it’s time with less than 200Lbs in the bed. And yah know what? I have a 2000 CR-V 4wd because this Ranger is allergic to snow. Yeah, I’d buy a FWD based truck in a cocaine minute. Good commuter, home depot runs, etc. The issue is most think a truck should haul more than two people. That’s a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m in pretty much the same boat. My RWD Ranger is also allergic to snow, and rain makes it sneeze!

      It’s a pity that the all weather capability is so lousy, because it’s such an awesomely useful truck. To make matters “worse”, I live so close to work that I only drive it in bad weather. :-)

      I’ve noticed that, when you add a back seat to a compact pickup truck, it looses either its compactness or its truckness…

  • avatar
    geozinger

    This will never be built. This is just the groundwork for the eventual release of the Fiat Saviero (or some variant of it) in the US. Which, if they do that, would make lots of sense. I hope they do.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Too designy, for my taste. Why wouldn’t you just buy a CUV, instead? If you need a pickup for a spring cleanup dump run, just rent it.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Most older (1980-1996) full size station wagons will carry a sheet of 4X8 plywood with the tailgate shut. A ten foot piece of conduit, no problem.


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