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Bigger isn’t always better, although domestic automakers are pretending not to hear you when it comes to compact pickups. Why?
A new year is around the corner, and with every new year comes change. Numerous new models will be added to dealerships across the country, while for 2012 many other models will disappear.
From the Mazda RX-8 to the Honda Element, there are quite a few vehicles we’re going to miss and hope that successors come our way. Other models that caught our interest that will be disappearing from production include the Volvo V50, Cadillac DTS, BMW X6 ActiveHybrid and Ford‘s good ‘ol Ranger.
And at the list of not-so-interesting, but worth mentioning are the Mitsubishi Endeavor, Mazda Tribute, Chevrolet HHR and Ford’Crown Victoria. Oh yeah, and as we mentioned before, Tesla’s Roadster will be gone too.
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the Ford Crown Victoria earlier this year, the venerable Ranger has become one of Ford’s longest running models, having originally made its debut back in 1982 as an ’83 model.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.
Even as General Motors readies their new Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup, Ford and Chrysler are hedging their bets that consumers won’t return to the floundering small truck market, and continue to opt for full-size pickups instead.
General Motors has claimed that the new Colorado will do most of what a full-size truck can do with substantially reduced running costs. GM’s strategy appears to hinge on rising gas prices and a general trend towards more fuel-efficient vehicles. On the opposite end, Ford is killing off its Ranger pickup entirely, and will offer a replacement in world markets, but not North America. Thailand will be a big market for the Ranger (it’s the world’s largest mid-size pickup nation) and much of the Colorado’s development work was done there.
Studies have shown that the current mid-size truck entries are actually costlier to own once depreciation is factored in. Fuel economy advances in the full-size segment, along with the macho image of a full-size truck have helped contribute to the demise of the mid-size pickup.
Chrysler, which recently killed off their Dakota mid-size pickup, is still exploring whether to bring a new smaller truck to market, with spokesman Dave Elshoff telling Automotive News “We believe there is still a substantial market for small pickups,.. “We’re studying the demographics and business case for a small Ram pickup
[Source: Automotive News]
The compact pickup segment is interesting because major updates are rare compared to other sectors of the auto industry. The RAM Dakota hasn’t received a refreshed look since 2007, and the Nissan Frontier hasn’t changed since 2005. The outgoing Ford Ranger hasn’t really changed since 1998.
This isn’t the same story for the Toyota Tacoma which will receive an updated interior, new entertainment options and revised exterior styling, however the engine and frame will remain the same. “It’s an important segment for us because it provides us with young customers,” said Bob Carter, Group Vice President and brand manager for Toyota. Carter explained that with gas prices continuing to rise, compact pickups could see a sales resurgence. Carter supported this theory by explaining the fact that Toyota sold more Tacomas than full-size Tundras through the first half of the year. The Tacomas should start rolling out in October after Toyota’s part supply situation improves to full capacity by September, following the Japanese disaster in March.
[Source: Left Lane News]
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.
It wasn’t exactly a secret. With Thailand being one of the most popular single markets for small and mid-size pickups – the biggest in the world according to GM’s Susan Docherty, it’s hardly surprising the General chose the Bangkok Auto Show to reveal its global Ford Ranger competitor, the Chevrolet Colorado.
However, the actual truck shown, although clearly production focused, still displays some flashy show car gingerbread, namely 20 inch wheels and a body colored tonneau cover. Not much has so far been mentioned about the mechanicals, save that it will be powered by a 2.8-liter turbo diesel engine and probably teamed with both manual and automatic transmissions, at least in its launch market.
Gallery: Chevrolet Colorado
General Motors is fond of releasing ‘teaser’ images for its up and coming vehicles, the latest of which is the picture you see here.
It’s designed to give us a clue as to what the next generation Chevy Colorado pickup will look like. Smaller trucks are very popular outside North America, especially in the Middle and Far East. In fact, GM has chosen Thailand to introduce it’s next mid-size pickup (the Colorado will be unveiled at the Bangkok Auto Show on March 25).
This probably isn’t surprising, as trucks currently account for around 43 percent of all auto sales in that country. Thailand is also the manufacturing point for the rest of the world’s Ford Ranger, which the Blue Oval announced not too long ago.
However, unlike the Ranger; GM is not giving up on the North American market when it comes to small trucks, one source says that the new Colorado was specifically engineered to conform to U.S. and Canadian federal requirements as well as market tastes, though at present, there’s scant information on equipment, engines and features.
Nevertheless, the fact that GM is thinking about keeping a smaller truck for North American buyers is an encouraging sign for those looking to replace their S-10s and first gen Colorados/Canyons. Perhaps Ford should take note from all this, currently the Blue Oval has no plans to replace the hoary (but still popular) compact Ranger in this part of the world, much to the chagrin of many would be pickup buyers.
Ford announced a recall of their trucks and crossovers – including 23,688 Ranger pickup trucks – because of a fuel line near the throttle body shield that could leak fuel and cause a fire, and an electrical system that might short out and, well, cause a fire.
Ford is recalling 8,022 Edge and Lincokn MKX crossovers, as well as the entire F-series range, because of the electrical issue. The Ranger models affected by the fuel line issue are all 2010 models, built between October 2009 and May 2010 at the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota.
No problems have been reported yet, but Ford knows it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially in regards to their cars bursting into flames.
With the Ford Ranger having left the building, General Motors is capitalizing on the death of a legend by going full steam ahead with the development of their next compact pickups, which will replace the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.
While the Ranger will be sold in markets across the globe, save for the United States, the GM twins will be developed as a world platform, with General Motors leveraging the expertise of their divisions in Thailand, which is a significant market for small trucks. Of course, the trucks will have to be built Stateside, since imported trucks are subject to extraordinary duties thanks to the infamous “chicken tax“.
Of course, Toyota and Nissan still make a compact truck, but we can see the appeal of a domestic alternative for a large section of the market. GM had originally planned to kill off their small truck twins, but the recent change of events seems to have made them re-consider their plans.
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.
Take a look at the Ford Territory SUV pictured above. It looks just like our now-dead North American market Ford Taurus X, right? Underneath, the two cars couldn’t be different. The Taurus X is based on the last generation Taurus, a heavy, lumbering, underpowered behemoth, while the Territory is based on the rear-drive Falcon, and is available with an Inline 6 turbo or a V8.
Naturally, the car was available overseas, manily in Australia but not offered to North Americans. Now it looks like our days of being shut out from choice product is over, as Ford’s Australian division has been tasked with developing a body-on-frame SUV based on the Ranger platform (which, coincidentally, has nothing to do with Ford North America’s venerable compact pickup), that will be sold in every market.
While Ford has previously allowed markets to have their own distinct product, a new strategy known as “One Ford” will mean that vehicles must be developed for the global market and a single variant will be sold across the world. This has some distinct benefits for North America, as it means cars like the Focus will be the same as the highly praised European variants, but it spells doom for Australia, where their beloved Falcon rear-drive sedan is a hit, but does not make much profit.
That means that this new proper SUV will almost certainly come to the United States, and production in America has been mentioned as well. The fact that the head of this project is from Indiana (and also signed off on the 2011 Explorer) makes the case even stronger.
The Jeep Comanche has a small but dedicated following of fans, but the venerable brand hasn’t been too interested in returning to the segment – until now. With the Mahindra pickup on the way and demand for the Ford Ranger still at passable levels, Jeep CEO Mike Manley says compact trucks are an area that he is “very curious about.” “I know it’s had a rough time here in the U.S., ” he told Pickuptrucks.com, “but globally it still seems to be an important sector.”
The former Comanche was based on the Cherokee, but we don’t see that happening any time soon with the current Liberty. Instead, the Europe-only Jeep J8 is an enticing prospect, and we would love the above example as a very long term press car.
The Ford Ranger has been on the market for 12 years in its current incarnation, and while the Ford F-Series might be America’s favorite truck, the Ranger doesn’t look like its slowing down any time soon either.
With the April sales numbers released yesterday, Pickuptrucks.com made the startling discovery that in April of 2010, the Ranger outsold some pretty good cars like the Ford Mustang, Ford Flex, Honda Fit, Chevrolet Suburban and the Mercedes C-Class. The Ranger is also beating the Flex, Fit and Suburban in Year-To-Date sales.
We’re not exactly sure what would compel anybody to buy a Ford Ranger, but the low price-tag and durable construction must be appealing for a certain section of consumers. Then again, everyone loves a good underdog story, and a 12 year old pickup beating the entry level Mercedes in the sales race? You couldn’t make that up.
Production of the Ranger pickup truck will end next year, with Ford hoping buyers will move up to the F-150. If demand is sufficient, however, Ford might also look to introduce its upcoming global midsize truck platform (the new Ranger) to the U.S.
In an interview with PickupTrucks.com, Ford product boss Derrick Kuzak confirmed the Ranger was to be eliminated after an incredibly long production run, which has stretched over a decade. With most owners using their Rangers for commuter duty, Ford thinks the move to an F-150 won’t be difficult. After all, the current 2.3-liter 4-cylinder Ranger gets 19/24 mpg, which is likely worse than what an F-150 equipped with Ford’s new 3.7-liter V6 would get. While the use of the 3.7 in the F-150 is still unconfirmed, in the Mustang it gets an impressive 30 mpg.
According to Kuzak,the biggest issue with bringing over the new Ranger to the U.S. is how it would fit into the North American marketplace. “It’s no secret we have a new Ranger coming globally. We’re working on one for all the other markets in the world,” said Kuzak to PickupTrucks.com. “The difference is that all o those other markets only have a Ranger. They don’t have an F-150 above it.”
In other words, Ford would not want to cannibalize sales of the top-selling F-150.
The Ford Ranger continues to be the second best selling compact pickup in the U.S., with 55,600 units moved last year. The Ranger is, however, a distant second to the Toyota Tacoma at 111,824 units.
Ford Europe has just release images and information on the upcoming 2010 Ranger pickup truck. With a sporty new redesign that looks suited for hitting the sand-dunes, this new look is not destined to appear in North America. U.S. customers will get this instead:
“The Ford Ranger nameplate is already established in more than 100 markets around the world,” said Henrik Nenzen, Ford of Europe’s Director of Commercial Vehicle Marketing and Sales . “The new
model delivers even more style, comfort and features, making it an ideal choice for a family activity weekend, or a working week.”
In Europe, the Ranger will be offered in three body styles Single Cab, RAP (Rear Access Panel) Cab and Double Cab. The RAP Cab features normal front doors with suicide-style rear access panels – a design that first appeared on the Ranger in 2002.
Two engines will be offered, a 2.5-liter turbo diesel or a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel, which can paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatics in either 4×2 or 4×4 configuration.
The 2.5-liter engine makes 143hp and 243 ft-lbs of torque, whereas the 3.0-liter engine gets 156hp and 280 ft-lbs of torque. Towing capacity is rated at 6,600 lbs.
As for the less-exciting U.S. Ranger, it will continue to use Ford’s 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 21 and 26 mpg (city/highway). New for 2010 will be several safety updates including Ford’s AdvanceTrac with Rolls Stability Control (RSC) technology as well a standard side airbags.
2010 Euro-Spec Ford Ranger
Official release after the jump: