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Chrysler still eying return to compact pickup segment

Chrysler is still considering a compact pickup truck.

Chrysler is once again hinting at the possibility of a new compact pickup truck to slot beneath the Ram 1500. Chrysler killed off its lone small truck offering, the Ram Dakota, last year.

Compact pickup trucks once enjoyed annual sales well over 1.5 million units, but sales have been on the decline over the last decade as automakers' so-called small trucks have ballooned in both size and price to rival traditional full-size pickup. However, Chrysler believes the market is ready to embrace a new generation of compact trucks and is seriously considering a Dakota successor.

"The trucks today, they are big, they are fuel-inefficient," Joe Veltri, Chrysler's vice president of product planning, told the Detroit Free Press. "The formula, in my opinion, doesn't meet the needs of the market."

He added: "Based on our data, young males still aspire to own a pickup."

Veltri hinted that Chrysler's Dakota replace could switch to a more fuel-efficient unibody platform, but stopped short of giving any details on a project that might be in the works.

However, as reported on these pages before, it is believed that Chrysler is working on a new "lifestyle" pickup truck that will be based on the same front-wheel drive platform as the company's next-generations minivans. Chrysler is developing a new all-wheel drive system for its new minivans, so that system would presumably be offered on the Dakota replacement.

No word on when the Ram brand might launch the new compact pickup, but with the Ford Ranger officially dead and the new Chevrolet Colorado delayed until 2015, the timing might not get better than the next 24 months.