The Dodge Dakota is a mid-size pickup truck from Chrysler's Ram division. From its introduction through 2009, it was marketed by Dodge. The first Dakota was introduced in 1986 as a 1987 model alongside the redesigned Dodge Ram 50. The Dakota was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award for 2000. The Dakota has always been sized above the compact Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10 but below the full-sized pickups such as Dodge's own Ram. It is a conventional design with body-on-frame construction and a leaf spring/live axle rear end. The Dakota was the first small pickup with an optional V8 engine. One notable feature was the Dakota's rack and pinion steering, a first in work trucks. On November 4, 2009, Fiat announced that the slow selling truck would be discontinued in 2011. Dakotas have been used by police and fire departments, as off-road vehicles, patrol cars, or even brush trucks. The Dodge Dakota was conceived by Chrysler management as the first "mid-sized" pickup combining the nimble handling and fuel economy of a compact pickup with cargo handling capacity approaching that of full-sized pickups. To keep investment low, many components were shared with existing Chrysler products and the manufacturing plant was shared with the full-sized Dodge D-Model. The name Dakota means "friend" or "ally" in the Sioux Indian language.The first generation of the Dakota was produced from 1987 through 1996. Straight-4 and V6 engines were offered along with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Four wheel drive was available only with the V6. Both 2 m and 2.4 m beds were offered. Fuel injection was added to the 3.9 L V6 for 1988 but the output remained the same.
The second-generation Dakota was built from 1997 through 2004. It inherited the semi truck look of the larger Ram but remained largely the same underneath. 1998 saw the introduction of the R/T model with the big 5.9 L 250 hp (186 kW) Magnum V8. At the time of its introduction, it was seen as one of the most radical in its class, not only for its styling, but for the fact it remained the only truck in its class with an available V8 engine that rivalled many V8s found in full size trucks with payloads of up to 1500 pounds. Four-door "Quad-Cab" models were added for 2000 with a slightly shorter bed, 63.1 in (160.2 cm), but riding on the Club Cab's 130.9 in (332.5 cm) wheelbase. The aging 5.2 L Magnum V8 was replaced by a new high-tech 4.7 L SOHC PowerTech V8. The Quad-Cab featured a full-size flip up rear seat to provide room for 3 passengers in the back or lots of dry, interior room for cargo. In spring 1998, a new limited edition R/T package was available as an option on the Dakota Sport model. This version is considered a true street/sport truck, only available in RWD. Factory modifications such as a 250 hp 360 cid/5.9 liter V8, heavy duty 46RE 4 speed automatic transmission, performance axle, limited slip differential, sport suspension and steering, uprated brakes, performance exhaust, special cast aluminum wheels, monotone paint, bucket seats, and many other standard options came with the package. Chrome wheels were available on 2002 models. Some of the last models made in 2003 came with the new stampede lower body cladding package and chromed version of the original cast aluminum wheels at no extra charge. This version of the R/T Dakota was produced through 2003, with the newer 2003 R/T trucks designated as their own trimline and no longer as part of an option package on the Dakota Sport trim.
The redesigned 2005 Dakota still shared its platform with the new Dodge Durango SUV (which is now similar to the Ram platform). This model is 3.7 in (94 mm) longer and 2.7 in (69 mm) wider, and features a new front and rear suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. This new generation model also reverted the wheels back to five lug wheels from the prior generation's six lug wheels due to cost and assembly time saving measures. The Dakota is built at the Warren Truck Assembly plant in Warren, Michigan. There were a V6 and two V8 engines available: The standard engine is a 3.7 L PowerTech V6; the two 4.7 L V8 engines are the standard PowerTech V8 and the V8 High Output or HO. The 3.7 L V6 produces 210 horsepower (160 kW) and 235 lb·ft (319 N·m) of torque. The standard output 4.7 L V8 produces 230 hp (170 kW) and 295 lb·ft (400 N·m) of torque. The High Output 4.7 L V8 produces 260 horsepower (190 kW) and 310 lb·ft (420 N·m) of torque. Both the 3.7 L and standard output 4.7 L V8s were available with the 6 speed manual transmission in 2005 and 2006. For 2007, that option was deleted on the V8 models. The facelifted third generation Dakota was unveiled at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. The Dakota received another facelift and interior upgrade along with a few other upgrades including built-in cargo-box utility rails, heated bench seats, best-in-class towing (up to 7,050 pounds), the largest and longest standard bed in the class, and the largest mid-size truck cab. Its new 4.7 liter V8 produces 302 hp (225 kW) and 329 lb·ft (446 N·m) of torque. The standard engine remains the 3.7 liter V6 with 210 horsepower (160 kW) and 235 lb·ft (319 N·m). of torque. Production began in August 2007. On November 4, 2009, Fiat announced that the Dakota will be discontinued in 2011. A new unibody truck called the Ram Rampage is expected to take the place of the Dakota in 2012.