Dodge will combat a new crop of mid-sized trucks from competitors with a bigger, more powerful version of the Dakota.
Chrysler group officials claim the new Dakota, scheduled to go on sale this summer, has more interior room, can tow larger loads and has the most powerful engines in the mid-sized truck segment.
The Dakota is the only mid-sized truck with an optional V-8. It competes against the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon and new versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
The model made its world debut at the Chicago Auto Show last week.
With headlights in the fenders and a huge chrome grille, the 2005 Dakota's styling is influenced by the Durango SUV and Ram pickup.
The two-door model has been dropped, but two four-door body styles will be offered: the Quad Cab, which has more cabin room but a shorter bed, and the Club Cab.
Chrysler group officials were vague about sales and pricing.
Joe Eberhardt, the Chrysler group's executive vice president in charge of sales, marketing and service, said the company expects to sell "significantly more" than the 111,273 Dakotas sold in 2003.
"I don't want to avoid the question," he said. "What we don't want to do is give you a number and then be measured against the number."
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," he said. "The price will not be too significantly above the outgoing model."
The 2004 4x2 model has a sticker price of $17,630, including freight.
The drivetrains are carried over from the current Dakota. But Dodge engineers designed a new stiffer frame and a coil-over-shock front suspension for the 2005 Dakota. Production is scheduled to begin in July.