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New Ram Dakota: What we know about the electric Toyota HiLux rival that's coming to shake up the ute market

Stellantis has teased the look of the new Ram electric ute.

It’s been an on-and-off-again rumour for years, but not only is a new Ram ute on the way to take on the likes of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, but it will do so with electric power.

Ram’s current line-up starts with the 1500, which is considered ‘regular size’ in the US but is larger than the HiLux, Ranger and co. In the US, the smaller Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma are all strong sellers, so Ram (and parent company Stellantis) clearly see a market opportunity.

The company dropped its last mid-size pick-up, the Dodge Dakota, in 2011 but in 2020 it reacquired the patent for the nameplate suggesting the new model is likely to be called the Ram Dakota.

However, after reports in early 2021 suggested plans for the Dakota had been dropped, Stellantis dropped a bombshell in its investor presentation in July, confirming that it will build a ‘mid-size’ ute with an all-electric powertrain.

It will join the 1500 in a two-pronged electric ute attack from Ram to counter the increasing competition. Ram is already behind the Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lighting, which are on sale in the US, plus the GM Hummer Ute and Chevrolet Silverado EV which have been revealed in near-production form.

Ram has publicly committed to having the electric 1500 on sale by 2024, but the Dakota may take longer.

Despite seemingly falling behind, Ram CEO Mike Koval told Automotive News in a recent interview that he believes Ram’s late arrival to the electric ute market will be advantageous, allowing it to one-up its rivals.

“That’s really where I think Ram is going to separate ourselves from the rest is with the full knowledge of what our competitors are doing,” Mr Koval said. “We will push past our competitors in terms of those important metrics like towing and hauling and, in the future, charge time, range, and things of this nature.”

That puts a lot of pressure on the Ram 1500 to offer the best range and performance compared to the F-150 Lightning, Hummer and Silverado.

However, for the Dakota if it can arrive in a similar timeframe, there’s no confirmed competition yet from the likes of Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet. This would give Ram a huge advantage, with both the HiLux and Ranger likely to be limited to just hybrid powertrains for the foreseeable future.

Stellantis has confirmed the new ute will actually be based on the forthcoming ‘STLA Large’ platform, a new vehicle architecture that will underpin a range of what the brand labelled ‘AWD Performance & American Muscle’ models. This is likely to include the previously announced Dodge ‘eMuscle Car’, as well as new Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models.

In its investor presentation, Stellantis claimed STLA Large models would boast a range of up to 800km. Power will come from the larger of two electric motors being developed by the conglomerate, which will make up to 330kW. That means in a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive set-up the Dakota has the potential to pack 660kW of performance.

When - or even if - the Ram Dakota makes it to Australia is unclear. The electric 1500 is the obvious priority and won’t arrive until 2024, but Stellantis has said it wants to launch eight STLA Large models by the end of 2026. The Dakota is highly likely to be one of those eight, so expect to see it by the middle of the decade.

While Ram Australia falls under the remit of private importer, Ateco Group and not Stellantis’ local offices, it has seemingly forged a strong relationship with the US brand on the back of strong sales of its locally-converted 1500, 2500 and 3500 models.

So even if the Dakota is launched as a left-hand drive only model, there shouldn’t be any major obstacle that would stop Ram Australia from converting it locally.

Hopefully it’s worth the long wait…