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Changing course, Chrysler considers a small Ram pickup

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 00:00:00 -0700

Chrysler may develop a unibody small pickup positioned below the Dakota, whose production will end in 2011.

"We're thinking of something that will separate itself from the full-sized truck more than what happens today, both in capability, price and size," said Joe Veltri, Chrysler Group vice president of product planning. "The Ram brand has room to expand into a compact-truck segment."

Veltri, interviewed this month at the National Truck Equipment Association's Work Truck Show in St. Louis, did not provide a time frame for the truck.

He said Chrysler Group has abandoned plans to build a mid-sized truck on a unibody platform.

The automaker revealed that project on Nov. 4 during an eight-hour-plus session with large dealership groups, banks, analysts and the media.

Veltri said that in the 1980s, the compact-pickup segment had annual sales of about 1.5 million units, more than full-sized pickups.

Last year, compact-pickup sales were down 31 percent compared with 2008 to 270,348.

"But everybody started making these trucks bigger and bigger," Veltri said.

"And pretty soon a guy goes into the showroom and says, 'For X dollars more, I can get a Ram full-sized truck.'

"If you look at Dakota today, it is large sizewise. It is very capable, can tow 7,000 pounds, comes with a V8 and a V6. It is a mini full-sized truck. ... Everybody has gotten the formula wrong--expensive, too capable."

Veltri said many buyers in the market want a pickup and better fuel economy, "but they do not need it to tow 7,000 pounds."

By Rick Kranz and Bradford Wernle- Automotive News