CHICAGO -- The Dodge division of Chrysler group will combat a new crop of midsize trucks from competitors with a bigger, more powerful new version of the Dakota.
Chrysler officials claim the new Dakota, scheduled to go on sale late this summer, has more interior room, can tow larger loads and has the most powerful engines in the midsize truck segment.
Dakota is the only midsize truck available with an optional V-8. The new model made its world debut Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show. Dakota competes against the new Chevrolet Coloardo and GMC Canyon as well as new versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
With the headlights in the fenders and a huge chrome grille, the 2005 Dakota's styling is heavily influenced by the Durango sport-utility and Ram pickup.
The two-door model has been dropped. Two four-door body styles will be offered the Club Cab and the Quad Cab, which offers more interior room, but a shorter bed.
Chrysler officials were vague about sales and pricing.
Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler' executive in charge of Sales, Marketing and Service, would say only that the company expects to sell "significantly more" than the 110,000 Dakotas sold in 2003.
"I don't want to avoid the question. What we don't to do is give you a number and then be measured against the number and while you have a huge absolute increase then it looks like you missed the target."
As for pricing, Eberhardt said the price would not increase much.
"If you look at the pricing strategy in the past couple of models we launched, the minivans and the Durango, I wouldn't be too surprised if we follow a similar line. [The price ] Will not be too significantly above the outgoing model," said Eberhardt.
The drivetrains are carried over from the current Dakota. But Dodge engineers designed a new and stiffer frame anda coil-over-shock front suspension for the 2005 Dakota. Production is scheduled to begin in July.