Over the years, Dodge has become at least as well known for its many truck models as for its prodigious passenger car output. In 2009, trucks were spun off into the Ram brand, named after the brand's most popular truck, the Dodge Ram. However, it should be noted that even though the Ram trucks are marketed separately from Dodge cars, Ram President Fred Diaz has stated that "Ram trucks will always and forever be Dodges. Ram will always have the Dodge emblem inside and outside and they will be 'vinned' (from the acronym VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number) as a Dodge. We need to continue to market as Ram so Dodge can have a different brand identity: hip, cool, young, energetic. That will not fit the campaign for truck buyers. The two should have distinct themes."
Pickups and medium to heavy trucks
1934 Dodge K-34 stake bed truck
Ever since the beginning of its history in 1914, Dodge has offered light truck models. For the first few years, these were based largely on the existing passenger cars, but eventually gained their own chassis and body designs as the market matured. Light- and medium-duty models were offered first, then a heavy-duty range was added during the 1930s and 1940s.
Following World War II and the successful application of four-wheel drive to the truck line, Dodge introduced a civilian version that it called the Power Wagon. At first based almost exactly on the military-type design, variants of the standard truck line were eventually given 4WD and the same “Power Wagon” name.
Dodge was among the first to introduce car-like features to its trucks, adding the plush Adventurer package during the 1960s and offering sedan-like space in its Club Cab bodies of the 1970s. Declining sales and increased competition during the 1970s eventually forced the company to drop its medium- and heavy-duty models, an arena the company has only recently begun to reenter.
Dodge introduced what they called the "Adult Toys" line to boost its truck sales in the late 1970s, starting off with the limited edition Lil' Red Express pickup (featuring, a 360 c.i. police interceptor engine and visible big rig-style exhaust stacks). Later came the more widely available Warlock. Other "Adult Toys" from Dodge included the "Macho Power Wagon" and "Street Van".
As part of a general decline in the commercial vehicle field during the 1970s, Dodge eliminated their LCF Series heavy-duty trucks in 1975, along with the Bighorn and medium-duty D-Series trucks, and affiliated S Series school buses were dropped in 1978. On the other hand, Dodge produced several thousand pickups for the United States Military under the CUCV program from the late 1970s into the early 1980s.
1989 Dodge Ram pickup
Continuing financial problems meant that even Dodge’s light-duty models – renamed as the Ram Pickup line for 1981 – were carried over with the most minimal of updates until 1993. Two things helped to revitalize Dodge’s fortunes during this time. First was their introduction of Cummins’ powerful and reliable B Series turbo-diesel engine as an option for 1989. This innovation raised Dodge’s profile among serious truck buyers who needed power for towing or large loads. A mid-size Dakota pickup, which later offered a class-exclusive V8 engine, was also an attractive draw.
Dodge introduced the Ram's all-new “big-rig” styling treatment for 1994. Besides its instantly polarizing looks, exposure was also gained by usage of the new truck on the hit TV show Walker, Texas Ranger starring Chuck Norris. The new Ram also featured a totally new interior with a console box big enough to hold a laptop computer, or ventilation and radio controls that were designed to be easily used even with gloves on. A V10 engine derived from that used in the Viper sports car was also new, and the previously offered Cummins turbo-diesel remained available. The smaller Dakota was redesigned in the same vein for 1997, thus giving Dodge trucks a definitive “face” that set them apart from the competition.
The Ram was redesigned again for 2002 (the Dakota in 2005), basically as an evolution of the original but now featuring the revival of Chrysler’s legendary Hemi V8 engine. New medium-duty chassis-cab models were introduced for 2007 (with standard Cummins turbo-diesel power), as a way of gradually getting Dodge back in the business truck market again.
For a time during the 1980s, Dodge also imported a line of small pickups from Mitsubishi. Known as the D50 or (later) the Ram 50, they were carried on as a stopgap until the Dakota’s sales eventually made the imported trucks irrelevant. (Mitsubishi has more recently purchased Dakota pickups from Dodge and restyled them into their own Raider line for sale in North America.)