Contrary to the interest voiced in reinventing small pickups for the U.S. from Chrysler, Nissan and Scion, Ford is keeping plans to end production of the U.S.-built Ranger next year and offer only full-size F-Series pickups, though there's still a chance the Ranger could be replaced in North America with Ford's upcoming global midsize truck.
Last year, Ford sold 55,600 Rangers in the U.S. It was the second best-selling small truck behind the Toyota Tacoma, which sold 111,824 units.
"Today, a lot of customers who buy Rangers are the people who use it as a commuter vehicle," Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of product development, told PickupTrucks.com last week at the 2010 North American International Auto Show. "But with the new Ford Fiesta and Focus coming into the lineup, those kinds of customers will have other alternatives to the Ranger."
Kuzak said another reason for eliminating the Ranger is Ford's effort to improve the fuel economy of its F-Series pickups.
"We're going to continue to make the F-Series significantly more fuel efficient while still providing the level of capability that the F-150 provides today," Kuzak said. "There will be no compromise for better fuel efficiency. The vast majority of Ranger buyers are not using the full capability of the truck. We have to compare those customers choosing a very affordable and fuel-efficient F-150."
A 2010 Ford Ranger with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission is rated at 19/24 mpg city/highway.
We expect much of the mileage improvements will come from new engines for the F-150, such as the new 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost that's said to provide the power of a V-8 with the efficiency of a V-6, and a new 3.7-liter V-6 that our sources also tell us is set to go into the F-150. Our sources say a four-cylinder EcoBoost F-150 is also planned.
Still, Kuzak said it's possible the U.S. might get a direct replacement for the Ranger.
"It's no secret we have a new Ranger coming globally. We're working on one for all the other markets in the world," Kuzak said. "The difference is that all of those other markets only have a Ranger. They don't have an F-150 above it."
The new global Ranger, code-named T6, is being designed in Australia. The current U.S.-built and overseas Ford Ranger models share only their names.
Would the global Ranger work in the North American market?
"That's what we're still looking at," Kuzak said. "We're still trying to finalize that decision."