In a stunning reversal and victory for compact truck buyers, Ford says it will not end production of the U.S.-built Ranger pickup truck next year, but instead will continue building the current version of the truck indefinitely and will broaden the Ranger lineup with a new six-cylinder engine and exciting new models.
“We took a long look at Ranger sales over the last two years and the numbers are better than we forecasted. Year-to-date, it’s outpacing 2009’s numbers, selling better than the all-new Flex crossover and is only about 2,000 less units than the recently updated Mustang,” said Ford spokeswoman April Fursten in an interview at the New York Auto Show. “[Ford CEO] Alan [Mullaly] said we be nuts to kill the Ranger in the U.S. because more than 7 million have been sold since 1983.”
In January, Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of product development, told PickupTrucks.com that the likely replacement for the Ranger was a fuel-efficient version of the Ford F-150 full-size pickup. Kuzak said most Ranger buyers wanted better fuel economy, not a truck with a small footprint.
Kuzak also said that it was unlikely that Ford’s all-new global midsize replacement for the Ranger planned for overseas markets would be sold in the U.S. because other countries don’t have an F-150-size pickup that could cannibalize small truck sales.
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.
“We were wrong on both counts and we realized it before it was too late,” Fursten said. “We were going to sell the [Ranger] tools and dies to Mahindra to create their next-generation U.S. bound pickups, but that could have come back to haunt us.”
There is one lesson, however, that Ford will carry over from the F-150 to the Ranger to help boost sales even further. It’s going to create several new special-edition models.
2011 Ford Harley-Davidson Ranger
“New for 2011 will be the Ford Harley-Davidson Ranger,” said Fursten. “It proves that big fun can come in a small package, especially if you don't like to ride motorcycles."
The design team for the Ford Harley alliance has code-named it “Piglet” internally.
The Harley Ranger is expected to come with unique 20-inch wheels, a lowered suspension, a rich leather interior inspired by motorcycle jackets and the new fuel-efficient 305 horsepower / 280 pounds-feet of torque 3.7-liter V-6 that debuted in the 2011 Mustang. Only 2,500 will be built and demand is expected to be so high that a special lottery will be held to allocate the trucks fairly to eager Harley enthusiasts.
Fursten declined to comment on what other future models would be added to the Ranger lineup but wouldn’t rule out a King Ranch Ranger as the most expensive small Ford pickup ever created.
“A King Ranch Ranger could appeal to urban cowboys looking for a better image in today’s environmentally friendly times,” Fursten said.