Chrysler's Future Truck Plans for Dodge and Jeep
By: Mike Levine Posted: 07-03-08 08:00 PT
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Phil Floraday at Automobile Magazine has gotten the inside track on Chrysler’s plans for its pickup trucks. With year-over-year sales of the Dodge Dakota down 49 percent and Dodge Ram sales off 48 percent, what Chrysler does next with its haulers could make or break the company.

In the short-term, engineers are working to add an optional built-in trailer brake controller to the all-new light-duty 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 by next spring, which will integrate the Ram’s ABS system with the brake controller in trailers that have electric brakes. Ford and General Motors have already announced the same feature for the 2009 Ford F-150, 2009 Chevrolet Silverado and 2009 GMC Sierra half-ton pickups.

An integrated trailer brake controller is already available in Ford and GM’s heavy-duty pickups. The Ram’s trailer brake controller will be mounted on the left side of the center stack, where an empty cubby exists today, for easy and intuitive driver access. The integrated trailer brake controller should also be available for the new 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups when they’re launched in the fall of 2009.

Work continues on the Dodge Ram 1500 two-mode hybrid and Cummins diesel model. The Ram’s hybrid hardware was co-developed with GM, Daimler and BMW, and it should return about the same improvement in fuel economy that GM announced for its half-ton pickups: 40 percent in the city and 25 percent on the highway. The hybrid Ram is set to arrive in 2010, as is the Cummins diesel version. Scott Kunselman, Chrysler’s vice president of body-on-frame product development, told Floraday he expects the Cummins will easily exceed 22 mpg on the highway.

The 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups are expected to debut in January at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. They’ll have tougher exteriors but will share identical interiors with the Ram 1500.

Over the long-term, Chrysler is completely rethinking its small-truck strategy.

Chrysler's executive vice president of product development, Frank Klegon, previously said the company was considering moving the mid-size Dodge Dakota from conventional body-on-frame construction to a unibody platform when the freshened 2008 Dakota debuted at the 2007 Chicago auto show. Now, Chrysler VP of Jeep and truck design, Ralph Gilles, tells Floraday he’s been assigned to work on a small unibody truck as a Dakota replacement, similar to the 2007 Dodge Rampage concept. Gilles was responsible for leading the redesign of the new Ram. Design work has become especially serious now that Honda’s unibody Ridgeline has outsold the Dakota so far this year.

An even smaller unibody pickup, similar to the 2002 Dodge M80 concept, is also being studied. Styling would be car-like to differentiate its ultra light-duty capabilities from the brawny Ram pickups.

Mid-size body-on-frame truck buyers concerned about the potential loss of Dakota may find solace in this news. Gilles is also said to be working hard to possibly bring a version of the Jeep J8 military pickup or 2005 Jeep Gladiator concept to market. A Jeep pickup would meet both traditional truck buyers’ needs for a rugged small truck while satisfying long-time calls from off-road fans for a modern Jeep-badged rig.

That’s not all! Read on at Automobile for even more information about Chrysler’s future truck plans.

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