Back then, it was a fresh idea, since many buyers found compact pickup trucks to be too small and full-size pickup trucks to be too large. Borrowing the logic from a children’s story, Dodge created a truck that it hoped buyers would find “just right,” and for many years the Dakota was a relative success.
Time marches on, and the Dakota has found itself a player without a niche in recent years. Compact trucks have grown in size, eliminating an advantage that the Dakota once held.
Worse, the market for compact pickups has declined steadily over the past decade, and now accounts for just five percent of new vehicle sales. In 2000, Dodge sold over 177,000 Dakota pickups, but in 2010 the renamed Ram division moved just 13,000 units.
As industry analyst Jim Hall summed it up, “The tooling was paid off, but volumes got sub-critical.”
Perhaps the final nail in the Dakota’s coffin was this year’s price cut on the full-size 2011 Ram 1500, which makes the newer, full-size Ram cheaper than the smaller and older Dakota. The last 2011 Ram Dakota pickup will roll off of the line at Chrysler’s Warren Truck Plant on Tuesday, August 23.
The future of the workers building the Dakota remains up in the air. Thirty-nine temporary workers have already been laid off, and the UAW believes that number could ultimately reach 150. Chrysler has plans for a car-based “lifestyle vehicle” for the Ram brand, but neither a production location nor a production start date are known at this time.
The 2011 Ram Dakota becomes the second familiar vehicle to be killed off this week, joining the 2011 Mazda RX-8 in the great automotive showroom in the sky.