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Quite possibly, according to remarks by Volkswagen of Canada’s Media Relations Manager, Thomas Tetzlaff.
Hyundai‘s U.S. CEO John Krafcik has said that “because the brand resonates with families,” and feels “this is a segment where we have the lowest market penetration,” company product planning, at least in the short term, is focused on crossovers, especially seven-seater CUVs which seem to be the hottest thing going right now.
As a result, the possibility of a Hyundai van or pickup isn’t something that’s likely in the cards. That said, given that Hyundai and sister company Kia are attempting to differentiate their lineups to avoid stealing sales from each other, there’s a better chance of the latter introducing a truck, as Kia attempts to become a bit more of a “niche” brand with sportier and slightly more off-beat product offerings. Kia isn’t entirely a stranger to trucks, having unveiled a mid-size concept back in 2004 called the KC-4 Mojave (shown above).
However, due to shrinking demand for smaller trucks and fluctuating gas prices, the Mojave was left stillborn. Nonetheless, with the recently unveiled utility themed Soulster concept creating a buzz and Kia more firmly established as a legitimate player in the U.S. volume vehicle segment, could the idea of a pickup be floated again?
With the retirement of the Ford Ranger and fuel prices creeping upwards, the idea perhaps makes more sense now than it did in 2004, especially as today, Kia also has far more resources and engineering expertise at its disposal.
[Source: Pickup trucks.com]
Today, the very last North American spec Ford Ranger pickup rolls off the Twin Cities assembly line, marking the end of the era for the once-popular compact pickup.
Like the Ford Crown Victoria earlier this year, the venerable Ranger has become one of Ford’s longest running models, having originally made its debut back in 1982 as an ’83 model. Yet like the Crown Vic, the Ranger has perhaps become a victim of several factors, including a lack of change, minimal marketing, shifting consumer tastes and ever more stringent safety and emissions standards.
Born in an era where compact pickup trucks were one of the fastest growing automotive segments in the US, the Ranger replaced the Mazda sourced Courier and proved hugely popular, consistently ranking among the top of the pack in terms of sales. It was extensively revamped for the 1993 model year and gained a Mazda counterpart in the shape of an enlarged B-Series for 1994. With both four-cylinder and V6 power, manual or automatic transmissions and two or four-wheel drive, the tough, attractively priced little Ranger and its twin proved shrewd buys for much of the 1990s. Yet despite an increasingly lack of change (save for mild facelifts), sales continued to grow during the decade, peaking in 1999 at some 348,358 units.
However, since then demand for Ford’s compact pickup and small trucks in general has been shrinking, rapidly. From 6 percent of the market back in 2000, small pickups represented just 2 percent of all North American vehicle sales last year, by which time the B-Series had been dropped and Ford was shifting less than 60,000 Rangers annually.
Nonetheless, despite prosaic technology and almost a complete lack of promotion, those numbers aren’t bad, especially considering that in terms of price and fuel economy, a 2011 Ranger didn’t differ that much from an entry-level F-150.
Both dealers and customers say that the strategy to discontinue the Ranger and push remaining buyers towards the F-150 isn’t a particularly good one; especially as updated small trucks are being planned by Ford’s rivals, notably GM with its new Chevy Colorado and possible Jeep and Scion.
Like the Crown Vic, which essentially owned the fleet market, Ford’s decision to drop the Ranger will likely give a chance for competitors to make serious in roads in a segment that was dominated by the Blue Oval for years.
Not only that but with fuel economy and financial belt tightening on the radar for many Americans, the concept of an affordable, practical, cheap to maintain gas sipper (in terms of the real cost of motoring, the four-cylinder, five-speed Ranger remains one of the most economical vehicles on the road) is today, more relevant than ever.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, certain models of Ford pickups and SUVs have a defective switch which can cause the brake, taillights and rear turn signals to fail, potentially resulting in accidents, specifically rear end collisions.
As a result, the automaker is recalling certain 2004-2011 Ford Ranger pickups, 2002-07 Super Duty pickups, including F-250 through F-550 models, as well as 2002-05 Excursion SUVs.
In total, some 20,450 trucks in the US are affected, in addition Ford is replacing some 6000 defective switches that were sent to dealers as replacement ‘in-service’ parts.
The company plans to notify owners of the recall, who will have the defective switches replaced, free of charge. It also says, that despite the number of trucks being recalled, so far no accidents resulting from brake or taillight failure on the affected vehicles have been recorded.
Although Chrysler is maintaining that it’s current priorities still lie elsewhere, the concept of a Jeep pickup remains near and dear for the brand’s CEO John Manley.
Although he said there are currently no resources available to work on a Jeep pickup at this time, Manley reiterated that “the idea continues to progress because of interest in the vehicle.”
However, in order to eventually get the green light, such a project might need to be tailored to markets outside North America, particularly parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, where small, crew cab, four-cylinder pickups have been popular for decades.
What form the Jeep truck will take remains to be seen. A production version of the Wrangler based ‘Gladiator’ concept might be one, which would surely make it one of the most unique trucks sold anywhere in the world.
In order to compete in international markets, said truck would likely boast a 1 metric ton payload capacity (2,205 lbs), though a business case for it would also hinge on the ability to produce and sell it in various markets, taking into consideration manufacturing locations available as well as import/export laws and tariffs.
If a Jeep pickup does ultimately get the go ahead it probably won’t be for the next few years, as Chrysler continues to focus on more immediate product introductions in the wake of its corporate re-structuring. Nevertheless, Manley remains quietly optimistic about the truck’s prospects. “It’s something of huge interest to me,” he says.
[Source: Pickup Trucks.com]
Yet another bump on the increasingly rough road for the Mahindra pickup has emerged,this time in the form of fuel economy figures published by the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the EPA, the four-wheel drive version of the TR40 with the automatic transmission and four-cylinder diesel; in four-door form, has been rated at just 19 miles per gallon in the city; 21 on the open road. By contrast the hoary old Ford Ranger, gets 14 mpg in the city, 18 on the highway, with it’s prosaic 4-liter V-6. It’s also rated at the same 5000 lb towing capacity as the TR40.
As you look at other pickups, the TR40s mileage is even less impressive – Ford’s full-size F-150 for example, equipped with the new 3.7-liter V-6; gets 16 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway.
The EPA findings come as another blow to the already well-publicized Mahindra/Global Vehicles fiasco. GV has stated for months, that the trucks would get around 30 mpg and fuel economy has been a major aspect of the US marketing campaign. Now with figures released that fail to measure up, the credibility of Global Vehicles is in doubt, and the truck’s chances for success are hampered.
Nevertheless, Global CEO John Perez said in a recent statement. “good fuel economy will be an important part of the truck’s appeal, and we’re eager to see the fuel economy for all of the models, especially the two-door, two-wheel-drive model, which Mahindra told us to expect would achieve close to 30 mpg.”
Perhaps he’s referring to Imperial miles per gallon instead of US measurements – even still, 21 mpg US results in 25 imperial miles per gallon and the Mahindra truck would have to get at least 25 mpg US on the highway to achieve the hallowed 30 mpg (Imperial); there’s also the factor of variables such as climate and different testing conditions to consider.
The MPG fiasco, is just another aspect of this whole thing which smacks of complete disorganization and chaos. For over two years, US buyers have been promised this truck and now with Mahindra and GV tied up in court battles and some 350 dealers having forked out the money for a franchise, so far with nothing in return, things are looking increasingly bleak.
The only potential benefit, is that with Ford; GM and Dodge pulling out of the small truck market, there’s potential room for a few new competitors; whether the TR40 will actually become one of those, still remains to be seen.
In yet another development of the Global Vehicles USA/Mahindra Pickup saga, Global’s CEO John Perez is adamant that the small, diesel engined pickups will be available to U.S. buyers by spring 2011.
In a letter sent out to a number of interested buyers, Perez stated: “I know you are wondering when you will have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of these amazing, authentic, robust, fuel-efficient trucks at a Mahindra dealer near you,” and ”while I cannot give you a firm answer on timing, I can tell you in my estimation, trucks will arrive in the spring of 2011.”
According to Perez, winter is the worst time to launch a vehicle, with September/October being a preferred choice, followed by March or April (like the hugely successful, original Ford Mustang for example).
Yet despite his optimism it looks like this little truck might already be a lame duck in our market. Maindra brass have said there is still no ‘planned date’ for a U.S. introduction and with Mahindra’s certification from the EPA set to expire on December 31st next year, time is running out and along with it patience and interest from potential buyers.
“I am disappointed and broken hearted by this mythical ghost truck,” said one, while another declared that the whole thing was “starting to sound like the bigfoot saga.”
Following on from the crew-cab version, Volkswagen has now shown a regular cab model of its Amarok light-duty pickup. Although VW still calls it a design study, expect a production version to look very similar when it goes on sale sometime in 2011.
For commercial buyers, in many respects the regular cab Amarok makes more sense than the crew cab does. For starters it has a 26-inch longer bed, allowing them to haul more stuff, but the best part? Equipped with a standard 2.0 liter four cylinder diesel engine it’s said to deliver up to 34.1 miles per gallon, while generating 122 horsepower and 250 lb-ft.
VW execs continue to deny rumors that the Amarok is headed for North American dealerships, which is a shame because we have to think it would find ready market starved for quality compact trucks.
[Source: Pickup trucks.com]
Although it had yet to be confirmed, there were many hints that Ford‘s venerable compact pickup, the Ranger would end production in the North American market in 2011. Well now that’s been officially declared by Ford, with no replacement in sight.
According to Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s current Vice President of Global Product Development, there are several reasons why the Ranger won’t be replaced here even though a next generation ‘global’ Ranger will be offered in other markets. Kuzak says that this ‘global’ Ranger is approximately 90 percent the size of the current F-150 and that buyers, particularly in the U.S.; would rather spend that little extra to get a full-size truck. But he also said that in overseas markets that 10 percent in size can make a difference, along with the ability to meet different legislative requirements in various countries as well as being able to engineer the truck for both left and right hand drive (aspects that weren’t really considered for the current F-150).
Kuzak also went on to state that the small truck market in North America has been declining for years and now represents just two percent of total vehicle sales (it once accounted for around 10 percent). He also says that people who bought Rangers were also looking primarily for cheap wheels, so their needs can be served by cars like the Fiesta and in the commercial sector, the Transit Connect.
Kuzak didn’t comment on the fact that the decline in small truck sales might be due to a lack of enthusiasm and investment from automakers, with Ford not having updated the Ranger in any significant way since 1993. And yet it still managed to sell a respectably 75,000 units annually.
Ford is also hoping they can move Ranger owners up into the F-150, which as of 2011 will boast a V6 engine that is more fuel efficient than the Ranger’s four-banger.
Given the fact that GM might be considering a new true compact truck in view of the 35 mpg CAFE standards; Chrysler has given the green light for a next generation Dakota and even Scion is looking at a compact truck to complement its lineup of ‘youth oriented’ vehicles, perhaps ditching the Ranger at this time isn’t the best strategy for Ford.
Rumors have been circulating for some time, but now Global Vehicles CEO John Perez has come out and said it - Mahindra delayed EPA certification of its TR series pickup so it could end the agreement with GV as the official US importer.
Perez says that the original contract between Mahindra and GV contained a sunset clause which stated that should the trucks not be be ready for sale in the U.S. within three years – people could just walk away and Mahindra would not be subjected to any lawsuits.
Now that clause has come to mean something slightly different: GV, having invested several million dollars up front to secure a distribution network for the trucks is now out in the cold and Mahindra is washing its hands clean, leaving angry customers and considerable uncertainty over the future of the pickups in the U.S. market.
At present, GV is in the midst of a lawsuit against Mahindra, over delays of the vehicle’s introduction – which stems back to a falling out between the two parties. Mahindra wanted GV to make adjustments to the original dealer program, but GV refused. Mahindra then essentially ceased communication with the U.S. importer and delayed the vehicle’s introduction, leading to GV filing a lawsuit.
Now, with Mahindra having voided GV’s contract and statements that it engineered that delay, things have gone from bad to worse. As a result, there appears to be no solution for importing the trucks to the U.S. at present and as the lawsuit is dragged through the U.S. legal system – those dealers that signed on wonder if they’ll ever get their trucks. Stay tuned for further developments.
In what seems to be a never ending saga, it appears there might finally be some significant developments as it relates to Mahindra’s U.S. bound small pickup. According to some sources; the Environmental Protection Agency has finally given Mahindra the emissions certification required to sell its diesel engined TR series pickup Stateside for the 2011 model year.
It perhaps couldn’t come at a better time. Repeated delays over the vehicle’s launch date and mixed communications between Mahindra in India and it’s U.S. distributor Global Vehicles, have resulted in litigation proceedings being instigated, however with the EPA breakthrough, it looks like there might now be a ray of hope.
According to Max Butler, vice president of marketing with Global Vehicles USA, “we’re very excited about getting certification. Our dealers are excited as well. This is great news.”
Mahindra plans to offer the small truck in TR20 (two-door) and TR40 (crew cab) configurations. The trucks will be powered by a modified version of the ‘Hawk’ 2.2-liter in-line four-cylinder diesel, which will employ exhaust urea injection to help meet U.S. smog requirements. Estimates rate the pickup at a 1.3-ton hauling capacity and fuel mileage at close to 30 mpg. No word on official pricing yet, but it’s believed that when the trucks finally arrive, they will sticker in the $22,000 range.
[Source: Pickup trucks.com]
Well it ever get here? Based on the latest scuttlebutt regarding the U.S. launch of Mahindra’s compact pickup, it’s looking less likely with each passing day. Global Vehicles USA, the licensed distributor for Mahindra vehicles in this country has filed a lawsuit against the Indian manufacturer for repeated delays in bring the trucks over, which is costing Global a pretty penny, since GV has already signed up approximately 350 dealers and spent nearly $35 million in preparation for launching the Mahindra pickup Stateside.
According to Mike Geylin, spokesman for GV USA, Mahindra has repeatedly dragged its feet regarding the launch date and the lawsuit “seeks to compel the Indian company to honor it’s contractual obligations and begin shipping [the vehicles] pursuant to existing and long standing orders placed by Global Vehicles on behalf of its dealers.”
Mahindra spokesman Pawan Goenka stated that “we are going as per (our) original plan for the launch of the pickup truck (December 2010), but can’t say on the actual time of the launch as it will depend on the outcome of the litigation.” The soap opera continues…
[Source: Pickup trucks.com]