By on July 6, 2012

The small pickup market may be dwindling, but Chrysler may be looking at getting back in to the segment – though their next small or mid-size pickup won’t be a body-on-frame vehicle like the now-cancelled Dakota.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler’s Joe Veltri said that

“The trucks today, they are big, they are fuel-inefficient…the formula, in my opinion, doesn’t meet the needs of the market.”

Citing the strength of the small/mid-size truck market in previous years, Veltri said that their undoing was the narrow price gap between them and their full-size companions. Veltri feels like younger buyers, who enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking, as well as older buyers looking to downsize, would be interested in a truck with a smaller footprint and better fuel economy.

While sales of the Toyota Tacoma are up 27 percent year over year, sales of the Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline are down. The next Chevrolet Colorado will be a body-on-frame vehicle, though no firm timetable has been given for the truck’s re-introduction. The new small pickup would be branded as a RAM truck, but there’s no indication of whether it would use a front-drive unibody platform similar to upcoming Jeeps, or if it would be rear-drive based.

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46 Comments on “Chrysler Looking At Unibody Pickup...”

  • avatar

    Make it small enough to be notably easier to get around town than a full size yet with a bed large enough to handle loads and they could be on to something. Make it near-full size and there’s no point.

    • 0 avatar

      My Ranger had a 6′ bed that was quite adequate with the tailgate down. But the wheel-wells were a major inconvenience. Make the bed 6’x4′ (with a few CM to spare) with a completely flat bed, and you have something that’s super-useful while still being relatively small.

  • avatar

    There isn’t a small pickup in the US market anymore. With the Ranger having been retired anyway. I always loved small pickups and would love to see them come back at a low price point no matter how they have to do it.

  • avatar

    Maybe if they are thinking of doing something like a Fiat Strada (there’s a comparo of mine on the pickup on TTAC). Or the mythical (insofar as it doesn’t exist yet) Doblò pickup.

    Though Americans would think these are micro pickups and not small.

    • 0 avatar

      Marcelo, are you in Brazil?

      What do you think of the Chevrolet Montana? This is car-based, or at least it appears so. Maybe even front wheel drive. I do agree we Americans would think it micro instead of small.

      • 0 avatar

        Hi NewLookFan. It’s indeed car based. Based on the 2nd generation Opel Corsa, or 1st generation Brazilian Corsa. Though the rather ugly new sheetmetal it is a 90s car underneath. You can read all about it here on TTAC. Link follows below.

        THough it is indeed a car with a bed, it’s neither good as a car or a pickup. As a car ’cause the ride is bad. As a truck ’cause it doesn’t use coil springs in the back but rubber bushings. Experience has it that if you load it up to the max (officially 600kg IIRC) those bushings are gone in short order.

        THe real mini worktruck here is the Fiat Strada and Ford Courier. The VW Saveiro is a car for young urban cowboys. The Montana is neither here nor there. The Strada outsells all its competitors even if you lump them all together. Imagine that, the Fiat truck is the ‘real’ truck.

        Also add a link to a Strada x Saveiro comparo I wrote for TTAC.

      • 0 avatar

        Marcelo, looked at the Montana blog; how disappointing. On the surface, the Montana is the type of vehicle for me even though the sheetmetal is rather busy.

        Oh well, maybe a Fiat Strada. Or maybe a Dodge Rampage based on a Fiat Strada.

  • avatar

    Bring back the Rampage!

  • avatar

    I’d be down with the idea of a small, cheap unibody pickup. But please Chrysler, I know everyone in the adverts wants a Sync-let-me-talk-on-the-phone-text-and-change-mp3-at-the-same-time-technology, but you don’t need anything expensive or complicated. Keep It Simple Stupid.

    • 0 avatar

      But that electronic stuff is cheap to make, doesn’t weigh anything, and it’s being used on other vehicles so it’s a no-brainer to put it as an option or make it standard. The hard part is making something that looks ok, is big enough inside, small enough outside so it gets reasonable mileage, and passes the safety requirements. Those were all big reasons that bigger trucks only cost a couple of thousand more than a small one, and the mileage penalty is no big deal to most people. A friend bought one of the last generation Dakotas, and it was an ok truck, but it cost too much and when it got hit by a drunk, it was replaced with a full sized Ram. About $2500 more on the sticker, and just about 1.5 MPG real life difference. Why would anyone want the smaller one?

      • 0 avatar

        “About $2500 more on the sticker, and just about 1.5 MPG real life difference. Why would anyone want the smaller one?”

        The Dakota made sense when it was competing against import pickups that could only fit 2.5 people max., had only 4 cylinder engines (or a maybe a straight 6), and with beds too small to fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood in. Later the import manufacturers got closer to size and power to the Dakota with their offerings so it got bloated and got a V-8 which made it compete with the full size Dodge pickups.

        The Dakota still kind of made sense for people in more suburban/urban areas versus the full size truck but it was probably the Durango SUV that really kept the platform going.

        (As an aside Chrysler screwed up on the Durango in that they had the SUV idea for the Dakota platform several years prior to the Ford Explorer yet they didn’t give the go on the idea and subsequently suffered the SUV sales losses until the Durango finally launched in 1998 after the refreshed 1997 Dakota.)

      • 0 avatar

        “About $2500 more on the sticker, and just about 1.5 MPG real life difference. Why would anyone want the smaller one?”

        Uh, because it takes up less space and fits in smaller places? And costs $2500 less? (Dunno about you, but $2500 is not pocket change to me.)

        Seriously, this is not rockjet* science. Bigger does not mean better. When I’m backing down the driveway of a couple of my job sites, bigger is a major pain in the ass. It’s a leading motivator for me to find a smaller work truck, for the jobs where I don’t have any need for the capacity of the full-size.

        *typo, but too perfect not to keep.

  • avatar

    If they can give me a manual transmission, a real 4×4 transfer case, and decent ground clearance, I will be very interested.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    The wife and I love our ’10 Ranger…which is the only vehicle which I purchased again (had an earlier Ranger). We hope to nurse this one for many years, given the fact that it’s the smallest truck out there. And, given its reputation, we think it’ll be good for at least 200k or more.

    Hopefully, someone will continue the tradition of smaller trucks. I’d love to see those small Toyotas/Nissans/VW trucks of yesteryear.

  • avatar

    Jeep pickup ala Comanche, but with actual interior room…

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    A Magnum without the cover for the bed? Call it the Lariat?

  • avatar

    Makes sense.

    Ford has been platform sharing across segments. Look at the Taurus, Flex, and Explorer.

    Chrysler-Fiat already has RWD platforms that they could borrow from.

  • avatar

    Really surprised this didn’t happen sooner. What replaced small pickups? CUVs?

  • avatar

    I’ve driven the little pickups alot and the only problem is if you are beyond a certain height and girth – it’s not a comfortable vehicle. The seat is crammed back against the cab wall and the seat is too low and so forth.

    Take a small AWD CUV (aka the first CR-V for example) and make it into a pickup truck. Don’t make a car and make it into a pickup truck aka the Dodge or Rabbit trucks. The car might be tough enough for light duty work but the seating just doesn’t work for me personally.

    Also any real load in the back unloads the FWD tires and makes gravel driveways or snowy roads a challenge so at least give it an AWD option – something simple again like the CR-V but with an option to keep it in AWD via a switch like the RAV4.

    Four cylinder and manual transmission preferred. If Chrysler is going to do the project then base it on the four cylinder FWD/AWD CUVs. Offer them in four door/pickup ala Subbie Brat versions and two door/long bed versions. Seems like it would be cheap to do both.

    Keep it cheap and offer – just offer – the Honda EX equivalent (better creature comforts and trim).

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a RWD Ranger for years and years. It was a pain to drive in rain, snow, ice, and any other kind of weather. I never took it off-road, so a traditional 4WD system wouldn’t have gotten me much.

      FWD or AWD would have been ideal for the Ranger. The traditional Ranger has most of its weight on the front wheels, but most of its power on the rear wheels — which is a recipe for traction problems unless you happen to be carrying a load at the time. In contradiction to my principles, I used the machine for basic transportation rather than carrying heavy loads most of time, so this was a big deal over the 8 years I owned the vehicle. FWD would have been much better, and a Subaru-style or Ford Escape-style AWD system would have been ideal.

      The Ranger really was obsolete. Ford wanted to sell F-150s rather than sell efficient and practical Rangers that were small enough to get around the city in which I live, and actually matched my needs. I spent a year looking for the perfect compact family pickup truck, but nobody sells compact pickup trucks anymore in the USA. Then I spent another year looking for the perfect compact family station wagon. Then I gave up and bought an old Escape. An AWD Ranger with a flat bed (and who cares whether it’s unibody or BOF) would have been an awesome replacement.

      Maybe Chrysler will sell me one? But, I’m out of the pickup market. My identity as a compact pickup-man has been stomped by attempts to segment the market and then get rid of the less profitable segments, so now all I want need is a trailer hitch on a compact family car. And I’ve been interested in alternative fuels in 2005, and I’m loved the EV I drove the other week. So I guess I’m no longer the kind of guy that car companies want to sell compact trucks to — even though I miss my Ranger and will probably buy and restore a used one the instant I need is capabilities.

  • avatar

    Whoever makes the new Ranger first wins

    • 0 avatar

      If it’s unprofitable to built in N.A., then why can’t we get Thai or S.A. pickups?

      • 0 avatar

        Because building and selling the truck isn’t where Ford or GM would “lose” money. The money they would “lose” is a result of selling people cheap simple trucks, instead or F-150s and Silverados.

        Also, they gain some economies of scale by having fewer platforms to engineer.

        Just like Ford and GM couldn’t “make money” by selling their good small cars in the USA, but are now happy to bring their A Game here – now that it’s clear the old segmentation strategy was a nail in the coffin for both companies (though Ford recognized it first and saved themselves for the most part).

        Yes, this is Monday morning quarterbacking… But my dad figured it out in the early 1990s and called it right around the time he bought a Honda – so it couldn’t have been too hard to foresee.

  • avatar

    If these guys keep making disposable cars, recyclability rules will soon follow.

    Cheap, framed, simple, and Hilux level durability will be a home run. This soon to be rust pile idea won’t fly after a few years when the market realizes its a car with a bed made to look like a truck.

  • avatar

    Sounds very appealing but I like my BOF S-10. I doubt if I would trade it in for a car with a bed. What I would like is my 81 Datsun king cab new again. Talk about a workaholic.

  • avatar

    I bought my S10 new eleven years ago, and have only 61K on it. Hopefully it will last me a decade more (a tall order considering my past GM experience). So for me there should be plenty of time for a major manufacturer to be bold and come to our market with an appealing small truck. I absolutely wouldn’t replace my S10 with a mid size or larger truck. I agree with some other posters here that a replacement for me would have to be small, simple, and reliable. There were a lot of S10, Ranger and other small trucks sold in the 80’s; I think there’s enough demand for one manufacturer to make a go of small trucks now.

    The trick is to put the same effort in making the small powertrain efficient as they do in the large pickups. I’m tired of hearing excuses.

    A Rampage would be good start.

    • 0 avatar

      It wouldn’t be too tall of an order to keep your S10 running. I have a couple of friends who still drive old S10 trucks, one a 1993, another a 1994. They managed to keep them running all this time and still use them as daily drivers.

      I worked on both of them and between the two they both needed fuel-injector replacement, spark plugs, alternators, fan-clutches, radiators + overflow bottles, HVAC motors, AC-rebuilds, instrument panel repair, exhaust pipes and mufflers, brakes, serpentine belts, idler pulleys, brake release pulls, shocks, center console repairs, driver-side window motor replacement, and windshields.

      It’s doable. The owners and I did all the repairs in their driveways except for the AC rebuild and that was only because I don’t have a vacuum pump. They bought all the parts from local shops like Autozone, CarQuest, NAPA and O’Reilly’s.

      You can keep anything running as long as you replace the worn out and broken parts.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Marcelo, we loved small trucks in the US. Fan boy levels of love spread across the various brands. They were honest, cheap to own, cheap to run vehicles with a mild hauling/towing capacity. The cooler containing the days catch does NOT go inside my little SUV.

    • 0 avatar

      Write your feelings to Fiat. Links this page and others like it here from TTAC. I believe Fiat is your best hope to get such a truck in America. THe Japanese don’t do them anymore (the smallest are Hilux, Frontier which are Colorado-Ranger size). WHo knows, if enough people feign an interest it might whet Fiat’s appetite. Afterall, Fiat Brazil exports the Strada to Italy. That’s Italy mind you, not (with all due respect) Eastern Europe. If it passes in Italy, to make it legal in the US could be just a stone throw away.

  • avatar

    I’m really partial to my Hardbody Nissans, and have more than a little disdain for Chrysler, but I would definitely rock a Fiat Strada, Ram badge or no.

    That’s exactly the sort of small truck we need. Anyone who thinks that a cheap Ram or F-150 fills the small truck need has their head lodged in their exhaust port.

  • avatar

    I almost replaced my ’06 long bed Ranger with a brand new Tacoma. I then remembered how often I was happy to have the extra foot longer.

    Toyota (and GM ?) used to make compact trucks with 7′ bed with a 4 cylinders. This would replace both my daily driver and my pickup.

    Today’s Tacoma has a I4 that has the same torque, more HP and better MPG than my Ranger’s V6 ! Give it a 7′ bed and I’m buying.

  • avatar

    because Honda’s unibody midsize truck worked out so well …. wait, what.

  • avatar

    The Ridgeline was an overpriced optioned-out SUV aimed at the affluent buyer with the desire for a truck bed rather than a practical pickup. Marketing a truly useful and economical unibody pickup in the US would be an uphill battle since Americans are conditioned into buying much more than they really need. How often do most of us need to haul more than bagged mulch, plywood or a Labrador Retriever ?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Unibody construction in a pick up doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling living deep in the rustbelt. It is hard enough keeping a BOF’s frame intact. I like my 600$ rat 94 Ranger.But it is an antique compared to my brother’s 09 Tacoma 2wd base model. That is a very nice middle size truck.

    • 0 avatar

      Unibody in a pickup: My dad had an old ’60s Ford Fleetwood F100 Standard Cab. He didn’t keep it more than 2 years. Went back to buying BOF trucks, many of which were donated to me to live out the rest of their automotive lives in my care.

      The Rampage, VW and the Ridgeline most recently are all unibody but the public didn’t get any warm fuzzies for them either.

      To me it would make more sense to take the excellent Jeep Grand Cherokee 4X4 unibody and add a 6ft bed behind the back seats, ala Ridgeline.

      I know that is not going to happen for any number of reasons, but to me the possibilities there seem endless and enhance the curb appeal of the JGC even more.

      Think of the utility. Think of the possibilities. Think of the engine/transmission combos and niche appeal. I bet there’s money to be made there, but with a Dodge unibody maybe not so much.

      • 0 avatar

        That F100 was still BOF, just with the bed joined to the cab

      • 0 avatar

        outback ute, I should have been more clear. Thanks.

        The bed and the cab were joined at the cab and presented the owner with problems not otherwise experienced by BOF vehicles where the body and cab were able to swivel or twist separately from each other.

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