When Stellantis reached a tentative settlement with the UAW on Saturday there was a surprise buried in the agreement. As part of the deal, the automaker will build a long-awaited midsize pickup at the Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant it recently closed. And the new truck is likely to get a hybrid, possibly even an all-electric powertrain.
The old Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant that Stellantis closed earlier this year will get a new lease on life. As part of its tentative contract with the United Auto Workers union the automaker said it will use the factory to build a new midsize Ram pickup.
“Eight months ago, Stellantis idled Belvidere Assembly Plant, putting 1,200 of our members on the street,” stated UAW Vice President Rich Boyer. “From the strength of our strike, we are bringing back those jobs and more. Stellantis is reopening the plant, and the company will also be adding over a thousand jobs at a new battery plant in Belvidere.”
A long-awaited successor to the old Ram Dakota
It’s been more than a dozen years since the old Fiat Chrysler stopped building the Dakota — the midsize truck originally sold by Dodge before the Ram brand was spun off. Ever since, company officials have said they were exploring ways to bring a new version of the pickup back to the lineup, especially as competitors like Ford and General Motors returned to the revitalized midsize segment.
The news that Stellantis is getting back in the game was revealed by the UAW as it outlined details of its settlement with the Euro-American automaker. Last year, former Ram boss Mike Koval said he had shown off a midsize concept to the brand’s dealers during their annual meeting in Las Vegas. So far, however, specific details, starting with the size and name of the new truck, have yet to be released.
Some industry watchers are speculating Ram actually might go with a compact model, perhaps based on the Rampage it currently produces in Brazil. This long-dormant segment has gotten a sudden boost from a pair of recent entries, the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Options, options, options
More likely, others suggest, based on comments by UAW officials, Ram will adopt a midsize footprint, putting it in competition with the likes of the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tacoma — and Stellantis’ own Jeep Gladiator.
A compact truck would almost certainly be based on a unibody platform, rather than the body-on-frame approach used for full-size trucks, such as the big Ram 1500. With a midsize truck, Ram might opt to go the traditional route, as it did with the Gladiator. But it could also go unibody, as Honda has done with its Ridgeline.
Several reports have even suggested the new Ram truck could use a downsized version of the skateboard-like STLA-Large architecture that will underpin the all-electric Ram 1500 Rev. It has the flexibility to be downsized for a midsized truck.
Hybrid or all-electric?
Earlier this year, Koval told Headlight.News that Ram was looking at a possible midsize all-electric pickup. That could make the STLA-Large architecture the logical choice.
To make it possible to go all-electric, MoparInsiders.com claims that the State of Illinois has lined up 250 acres of land alongside the existing, 280-acre Belvidere plant. It reports that land would be used to build the new battery plant that the UAW’s Boyer referred to.
In a comment about the planned truck, UAW President Shawn Fain said, “We are bringing both combustion vehicle and battery jobs to Belvidere.”
Fain didn’t offer any more details but his comment raises the question of whether Ram plans to build both gas and all-electric versions of the midsize truck going into Illinois. It’s also possible that the coming vehicle will be offered in gas and hybrid forms, much as Ford did with the compact Maverick.
The name game
If so, it seem less likely Stellantis will use the STLA-Large architecture which is primarily designed for all-electric applications.
As to possible names, there appear to be a number of options. Some expect Ram will bring back the Dakota badge, much as Ford revived Ranger when it relaunched that midsize pickup for the 2016 model year. Alternatively, the automaker could go with Ram 700, the name of a midsize truck it’s currently marketing in Mexico. Ram Rampage and Ram 1200 are still other options.
We hope to find out more in the coming days about Ram’s plans.