Mitsubishi Motors' North American arm plans to re-enter the pickup truck market with a vehicle to be jointly built by DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group, which owns a stake in the Japanese car maker, Associated Press (AP) reported.

AP said the trucks will be built at Chrysler's Warren Truck Assembly Plant near Detroit, where the mid-size Dodge Dakota pickup and full-size Dodge Ram are made.

Mitsubishi's version will be a mid-size model and share technology with the Dakota, but the vehicle makers reportedly said each version will have a distinct design, the AP report said.

AP said Chrysler, whose German-American parent owns 37% of Mitsubishi Motors, will begin production of its next-generation Dakota next year while Mitsubishi plans to introduce its new truck in 2005.

AP said that Mitsubishi last sold a pickup in North America, the compact Mighty Max, in 1997. Spokeswoman Janis Little told the news agency that the model was discontinued because of waning demand but continues to be built overseas and added that Mitsubishi opted not to import another pickup because "it's been difficult to find one that met American tastes."

Mitsubishi has yet to release the name, price or estimated volume for the new truck, Little told Associated Press.

AP's report noted that Mitsubishi's US business is off dramatically this year - to the end of November, sales were down nearly 24% from a year ago, as observers say an aging product lineup and lacklustre consumer incentives have hurt business.

CSM Worldwide analyst Mike Wall told AP that a mid-size pickup will give Mitsubishi an entry in a field already occupied by models such as the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.

"This won't pull them out of the doldrums per se, but it helps fill a gap in their lineup," Wall said, according to Associated Press.