By on June 3, 2014


Sometime around 2012, a Ram Trucks source told TTAC about an investigation into a smaller pickup for the brand, one that could have even turned out to be a front-drive pickup. “We won’t do another Dakota,” said our source, “but maybe something else.”. By all accounts, that truck would have been based on one of Fiat’s small, unibody front-drive pickups. But now, Fiat seems to want a Dakota of its own.

Automotive News reports that Fiat will get a new body-on-frame midsize truck starting in 2016, which will be a variant of the Mitsubishi L200. The Thai-built L200 is a smaller, body-on-frame pickup with rear or four-wheel drive and both gasoline and diesel engines, making it a good fit for Fiat’s commercial vehicle lineup. And it’s very likely that we’ll never seen it here.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at the most recent 5-year plan that FCA had tried out a smaller truck at clinics, but was unable to wow the crowd, let alone make a business case for such a truck. The L200 isn’t homologated for North America either, and a smaller truck isn’t a great fit for FCA in terms of CAFE either. FCA is already lagging behind other OEMs in terms of CAFE footprint, and small trucks are one of the worst vehicles when it comes to meeting those standards.

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33 Comments on “The Dakota That Could Have Been...”

  • avatar

    I bet they can get 1.5 mpg more by smoothing the transition from bed to cab.

    • 0 avatar

      It is utterly hideous.

      • 0 avatar

        Naw, Corey, it looks ok. Dont know how it’d look with a RAM or Fiat grille though. It’s all over the place here.

        • 0 avatar

          I feel like the bed was an afterthought in design. It’s very piecemeal.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Hi Marcelo,
          They are the third most popular ute here in Australia and are popular. Your other comment is quite true as well, they do look better in person.

          But they aren’t a pretty vehicle.

          They are popular here because they sell them much cheaper than the Toyotas, Fords, Mazdas and Amaroks.

          Here’s an interesting concept photo from Brasil.

          I would think this is closer to what the next Mitsubishi Triton will look like. Considering Brasils input into the Colorado maybe they might have some input into the next Triton.

          • 0 avatar

            Just a re-touch, I think. I don’t think sales here are slow for price, the Triton is actually more expensive than most of the competition. Here it lags behind S10, Hilux, Ranger, Amarok and I believe it disputes 5th place with the Frontier. I think the car is actually built here now, so there could well be Brazilian input into it as there was, apparently, in the Ranger, S10/Colorado and Amarok.

    • 0 avatar

      They’d probably sell more of them too.

      Heck- they might even sell a few hundred!

  • avatar

    We ain’t never gon’ seen it here, Cletus!

  • avatar

    Imagine one of these in full-on Plymouth Arrow (truck) orange/yellow/red livery!

    • 0 avatar

      That’s brilliant – never seen one in real life but I’d rock it. Just the sheer rarity is great.

      • 0 avatar

        I had one of those as my first car. The stripper model, not the cool one in the picture.

        It was terrible to drive, and badly underpowered. It steered like a cow, and often couldn’t out-accelerate one. I felt the lack of A/C daily.

        With an empty gas tank and bed, I could lift up the back of the truck and scoot it around like a wheelbarrow fix a parking job. But it didn’t have the power to break the wheels loose on pavement, unless you turned the steering wheel and popped the clutch.

        Still, it was incredibly useful and carried tons of stuff for us, and I learned how to handle non-ABS slides and RWD fishtailing in it.

        I’m glad I drove it. I’m even more glad I’m not driving it anymore. The fact that this little POS set my reference frame is probably one of the reasons find the difference in suspension feel between a Prius, an F-150, and a BMW Z3 to all be “just fine”.

        Dodge D-50: all of the drawbacks of using a Cessna 150 as a daily driver, but without the ability to fly.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m glad you qualified that as a “stripper model”. The one I owned (see below) had air conditioning and enough power to outrun the Renault Fuego Turbo (I know, that’s still not all that great, but the Turbo Fuego was one of the quickest SMALL cars of the day).

          I’ll admit I’m not a weightlifter, so I didn’t even try the stunt you mentioned, but I will point out that it easily carried everything I wanted it to carry, with loads up to 800 pounds AND two passengers beside me in the cab.

          One thing you glossed over though; you admitted the thing was fun to drive, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable. Then again, back then NO truck was really *comfortable*.

    • 0 avatar

      While I never had the Plymouth, I did have the Mitsubishi from which it was built. It was known as the Mitsubishi Sport pickup, as compared to the Mighty Max which was their less-expensive but more haul-friendly model.

  • avatar

    I saw one of these recently here in Vegas, with Mexican license plates. Kinda odd looking, but at least not the same old same old.

  • avatar

    By the way, you’d be surprised how many oddball, not-in-USA cars you see in Vegas, all with Mexican plates. I’ve seen the above truck, some weird Nissan SUV, newer Peugeots, a non-US variant on a Toyota Echo, even a SEAT hatchback.

    • 0 avatar

      I bet if you drove that to Ohio you would get pulled over immediately.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to live in Tucson, AZ. If you went to the mall on Sunday, you could see all those vehicles and more. Many Mexican families would come up from Sonora and Sinaloa to shop. The most common Mexican registered car that I would see was the Nissan Tiida.

  • avatar

    So ugly only it’s mother could love it!

  • avatar

    Lack of a “new” Dakota from Dodge means they will lose me as a customer. I love the size of my current 2002 Dak, its the fuel mileage I can’t stand. I’d take the same truck with 4 banger diesel tomorrow if someone could sell one here in the states.

    Currently I’m in Brazil doing some work and can’t get over the number of Fiats and other FWD car based “trucklets”. As a coworker said: they are like mini-El Camino’s everywhere here! Even Chevy makes one. They are cute but wouldn’t cut it for towing.

  • avatar

    This pickup is common here in Brazil. It is outclassed by the competition unfortunately as to my eyes it looks pretty good. Ranger, Amarok, Frontier, S10 (Colorado) all have advantages over it. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s kind of soft. The previous L200, also on sale here is a real work truck.

    Derek, this is new to me. Fiat has been in talks with truck makers for a long time. Mahindra, Tata, even Dodge before the tie-up were frequently mentioned. Fiat never took an interest as this kind of truck would never appeal in Europe though it has a strong and very profitable market here.

    If it does come about there will be 4 pick ups in FCA’s line up. The car based Strada, a strada-based but bigger PU similar to Honda’s Element technically speaking and midway between a Strada and the truck shown here in size, this truck and the RAM.

    I think it’s too much, unless Dodge is in fact looking for a new Dakota.

    • 0 avatar

      I think really it’s Marccione looking for a JEEP truck somewhere between the Wrangler and the Cherokee in size.

      • 0 avatar

        If that’s the case it is under development in Brazil. Said to be about the size of the original Ranger and built like an Element, I have seen around the Fiat factory and out in the street. Seems like it could be built at any moment just won’t be because of what I wrote in my piece on FCA’s 5 yr plan from the Brazilian perspective.

        • 0 avatar

          there’s nothing too much wrong with the Mitsubishi Triton.

          I wouldnt pee on a VW Amarok for a work truck.

          The Ranger is too expensive for what it is. The Mazda twin is cheaper but boy is it ugly.

          The Colorado isnt too bad but it isnt as good as its cracked up to be.

          The Isuzu dmax isnt too bad really having real truck dna.

          Nissan Navara isnt very reliable but their V6 twin turbo is a whirlwind.

          Chinese, Korean and Indian? lol

          • 0 avatar

            * there’s nothing too much wrong with the Mitsubishi Triton. — That’s nice.

            * I wouldnt pee on a VW Amarok for a work truck. — Why? According to what I’ve seen and read elsewhere it appears quite capable. Maybe not the best, but certainly not the worst, either.

            * The Ranger is too expensive for what it is. — That I might grant.

            * The Mazda twin is cheaper but boy is it ugly. — Maybe from your point of view. What’s ugly to you might be pretty to someone else. That’s why every brand offers a ‘unique’ look to their vehicles.

            * The Colorado isnt too bad but it isnt as good as its cracked up to be. — How would you know? Have you driven one yet?

            * The Isuzu dmax isnt too bad really having real truck dna. — And doesn’t the Colorado share that DNA?

            * Nissan Navara isnt very reliable but their V6 twin turbo is a whirlwind. — Individual tastes. If it were me, I’d ignore that ‘whirlwind’ if I couldn’t trust the vehicle overall.

            * Chinese, Korean and Indian? lol — I’ll admit the reputation of Chinese-built vehicles doesn’t seem so great, but Korean vehicles are proving themselves here in the States. With Indian-built vehicles, that seems a factor of the manufacturer itself as Mahindra has proven itself in at least one market here in the US. Considering that the Mahindra trucks and SUVs are based on the Kaiser/Willys Jeep license somewhere around 1950, you could almost call them direct descendants of that old Willys. I’m actually disappointed that certain regulations (and other issues) prevented Mahindra from entering its trucks in the US market.

  • avatar

    I take back everything I said about wanting a mid-size pickup. That thing is horrifying.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This is an ironic role reversal, since—not long ago—Mitsubishi had the Raider here in the States, which was a rebadged Dakota.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    And before the Dakota there was the D-50 a Mitsubishi Mighty Max. I guess it is time for a Fiat/Chrysler to be rebadged from a Mitsubishi. Repeat the cycle.

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