Press: There's An Emerging Market for Very Small Trucks
By: Mike Levine Posted: 01-23-08 01:18 PT
© 2008

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While many overseas journalists attending the North American International Auto Show scratched their heads and wondered at the new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, they might find themselves welcoming its baby brother to their shores in a few years while you park one in your driveway.

"I think there's an emerging market for very small, very fuel efficient trucks. Not just in America, but also worldwide," Jim Press, Chrysler vice chairman and president, told during a roundtable discussion at the North American International Auto Show.

Mr. Press is familiar with small trucks. He spent 37-years working for Toyota, leading the Japanese company's growth in the United States before joining Chrysler in September 2007.

Toyota, of course, is also thinking along similar lines (Chevrolet, too). The company brought its A-BAT Compact Concept Truck to this year's Detroit Auto Show - stating loud and clear that it believes there's an opportunity for a small pickup positioned below the Toyota Tacoma midsize truck for Gen-Y and empty-nesters.

But it's Mr. Press who is putting more of a global spin on this vehicle instead of aiming it solely at American consumers.

Mr. Press says that in Thailand, where he has a second home, "half the vehicles sold there are small pickups. They're both family cars and work trucks, but it's one vehicle. There's an opportunity to develop future products to satisfy those needs."

Mr. Press also acknowledged sales shortcomings with the current Dodge Dakota midsize truck, saying the reason its sales are down, along with sales of midsize pickups from other manufacturers, is because recreational buyers are shifting out of the segment and buying other vehicles like crossovers because they don't need an open bed.

Dakota full year sales plummeted 33% in 2007 from 2006, and a recent refresh for the 2008 model year hasn't helped. December 2007 monthly sales were down 44% compared to December 2006.

Since Mr. Press is still fairly new to Chrysler, we'd recommend he start considering designs for a small hauler by pulling the Dodge M80 concept out of cold storage.

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