Desperately Seeking Dakota: Fiat Chrysler Dealer Council Hot for a Midsize

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
desperately seeking dakota fiat chrysler dealer council hot for a midsize

File this tidbit under the “no shit” banner. Fiat Chrysler has been without a mainstream midsize pickup since the beginning of the previous decade, and the automaker’s dealer council is sick of waiting.

A our own Tim Cain told you recently, 2019 brought the public’s growing desire for midsize pickups into stark clarity. The segment’s hot and, with the addition of the Ford Ranger, growing. FCA dealers want a slice of that action.

While Jeep got into the game in 2019, the Gladiator’s loftier price point and unique off-road persona sets it apart from other midsize offerings.

Phil Bivens, chairman of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles National Dealer Council, told Automotive News recently that a midsize Ram truck remains the largest white space in need of filling at FCA.

“I haven’t seen anything in the product portfolio that suggests that it might be coming, but just like with heavy duty, not everyone wants a big truck like that,” he said. “Not everyone needs that full truck. Then you talk about the 1500, those are still big rigs. With city driving and things, I would love a midsize truck. Would be crazy not to want it.”

Bivens added, “I’ve got a Chevrolet store, and I’ll tell you what — the Colorado has just been wildly successful. Obviously, you can see what the Toyota Tacoma has been doing.”

Despite a new challenger entering in the midsize space, the Tacoma eked out yet another sales increase in 2019. Toyota sells as many Tacomas as it can build on both sides of the Rio Grande.

Midsize pickup market share rose to a 13-year high last year, and, while Ram carried itself to new heights in 2019 on the combined strength of the new 1500 and held-over 1500 Classic, a latter-day Dakota would would further help the automaker battle its rivals. Ram can’t keep the previous-gen full-size in production forever.

General Motors has Colorado and GMC Canyon refreshes inbound for 2021, with money already pledged for a full revamp in due time. The ancient Nissan Frontier gained a new powertrain for 2020, ahead of a long-overdue redesign expected later this year.

Last March, FCA CEO Mike Manley called the lack of midsize pickup “a clear hole in our portfolio,” adding that the automaker is “focused on it.” He revisited the issue late last year, claiming the pending merger with France’s PSA Group offers a “fabulous opportunity” for a new midsizer. Such a vehicle wouldn’t arrive overnight, however, leaving Ram dealers to play the waiting game.

It’s a game they’re used to playing.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 13, 2020

    I wouldn't mind a true compact pickup with a small extended cab even if it were based on a front wheel drive suv or compact car. Keep it simple with just air and a radio without the key fob. Make it with a base 4 cylinder no turbos and a 5 or 6 speed manual and a geared automatic as an option (no cvts or double clutches). Keep it simple and make it with a plastic floor (no thin carpeting). Price it at 15k. I would settle for a Chinese made one that is basically assembled in North America.

    • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on Feb 14, 2020

      For $15k you could get a depreciated full-size truck with all the bells and whistles... but I get what you're saying. Unfortunately the market is there for depreciated trucks, and not for $15k Ace of Base contenders.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 14, 2020

    Really don't want or need a full size pickup even for free. Much rather have a newer compact pickup without a crew cab and have a bed that is more than 4 feet long. I doubt American manufacturers are interested in making anything priced less than 30k and that is not at least midsize. That is why I mentioned the Chinese they might be willing to make a true compact truck even if it means sending kits to the US to be assembled. At 15k or even less than 20k I bet there would be enough people interested in buying one especially if it were not full of electronic nannies and if it were mechanically simple. Since I have other vehicles I would not need a larger one but I do need the open bed and easy access to the bed and easy to park and drive. Most of today's full size trucks have the maneuverability of a 72 Cadillac or Lincoln.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?