Ford Eyes Return to Small Pickup Segment

Transit Connect Ranger

At the recent launch of the all-important 2015 Ford F-150, longtime Ford marketing leader Dave Scott told James Healey of USA Today that Ford was giving serious consideration to the idea that the U.S. market could support a smaller entry-level pickup. But it would have to meet some specific criteria.

According to USA Today, Scott noted that it would likely have to be a compact pickup, smaller in size than the recently debuted full-frame Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups, and may even be better served on a unibody platform. In order to succeed, the truck would also have to offer as much as 25 percent better fuel economy than the full-size pickups and cost $5,000 to $6,000 less than a base-model half-ton.

According to USA Today, Scott did note that Ford has many vehicles that could potentially work but did not name them, although he did say that the global Ford Ranger — a popular midsize pickup around the world — would not be a good choice because it sits too close in size and capability to the current half-ton product.

From our standpoint, and from the description Scott provided, it looks like Ford is considering a modified version based off the current Transit Connect or Transit, or possibly both. Either could provide a solid, capable unibody platform for a new-style Ranchero or F-100 pickup truck. And it wouldn't surprise us if we saw something (maybe a concept at one of next year's auto shows?) not long after dealerships have gotten comfortable with the all-new 2015 F-150. We have no doubt that if the response to the GM midsize pickups and the redesigned 2014 Toyota Tacoma (as well as the new Honda Ridgeline coming in 2016) brings more people into the smaller truck segment, Ford will be ready to pull the trigger on a new type of downsized pickup.

Illustration by Mark Stehrenberger

 

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Comments

I am not in the market for such a vehicle whatsoever. But when I was single and didn't have kids, I had a Nissan Hardbody pickup for awhile that I really liked (I test drove a Ranger and didn't like it at all). Nobody makes anything that small now, so maybe it would do well.

The old Ranger isn't much smaller then the new Chevy colorado extended cab to extended cab. Ford needs to bring the Global Ranger here they just don't want to jeperdize any of their full size sales. I say call it the F-100 then they can group it with F Series sales.

I think Ford should base a small truck off of the Transit Connect platform. It doesn't make sense to base it off of the Transit. That would have potentially more cargo area in the bed. If you made it off if the Connect and gave it a flat bed with drop down sides like a European vehicle it would be the best use if space for the platform. To appeal to personal use buyers you could put a conventional bed shape on it. I don't have a problem with the unibody idea but u would like to see an indent or crease line between cab and bed to mimick separation.
This would be a great vehicle for those that don't want or need a full size truck. I know there will be a lot if negative comments on the potential build if this vehicle but you got to understand it's intended use. It is NOT going to compete with full size. In all reality it will have NO competition.

It's not going to happen because the government mandated safety equipment makes it impossible to build cars as small as they were even just a decade ago, now also because of the CAFE requirements, because manufacturers can't make profits on cheaper vehicles because the cost of doing business is too high, and also because of the concerted effort to get rid of the pickup truck as we know and love it.

They're on the right track talking about a true compact truck. Something super-efficient, cheap, and not even close to the capacity of an f-150. I'd definitely be interested in a 4x4 regular cab for 17,000 or so. The new gm twins look nice, but just too close to full-size in price and efficiency and not close enough in capacity.

Ford cannot build a truck and not make money. unlike GM they can build whatever they want and if it fails the taxes payers will fit the bill

I could see the Transit Connect being used with a variety of bed configurations for local use especially as a flatbed and with a refrigeration unit. It wouldn't be that difficult to attach a pickup bed as well and sell it to individuals, auto parts delivery, Orkin, and a host of other uses. Its not like the Transit Connect can only be used in its current state or as a pickup and that it would cost a lot to adapt it for other uses. The chassis of the Transit Connect is similar in adaptability to the midsize commercial Isuzu and Mitsubishi Fuso in that it can be adapted to a variety of uses for different types of business and individual needs. This could be a very smart move for Ford.

Ford is scrambling because their F series sales are falling! But then again, all their sales are falling! They have changed their earnings forecast by as much as $2 billion dollars.

The advantage that the Ranger had is it was a compact truck. I haven't seen one beside a Colorado, so I can't comment on how they compare in size, but the Ranger had a distinct price advantage.

The Colorodo isn't too much smaller that a Silverado and the pricing reflects that.

A new compact, as opposed to midsized truck, would be great. Talk about filling a missing niche in the automotive world. It would need to be inexpensive and fuel efficient to work. When I say inexpensive, I mean starting around $14000. The cheapest truck I can think of at the moment is the Nissan Frontier, which starts somewhere around $18000. The truck would obviously not match up to an F150 capability wise, but would be for the person who goes to home depot or has a couch they need to move. Towing would probably be maybe 3000 lbs max, and would be useful for a Gardner or poolman who has a small trailer with work supplies. Again, it would be inexpensive and have great fuel economy, but the trade off would be capability, which is okay for a lot of people. If the mpg approached around 30, it would put the truck approaching daily driver status for many. Ford thought their transit connect would fill the void that the ranger left behind, and they were beyond wrong. A van is still a van. Even soccer moms shy away from them and instead go for Suv's. Most people would choose a truck any day of tthe week over a van because of the image, which does matter when it comes to spending hard earned money. Hopefully we see a small truck from Ford.

The old Ranger isn't much smaller then the new Chevy colorado extended cab to extended cab

@Jack

I owned two of the old rangers; a reg. cab and an extended cab. The extended cab truck weighed less than 3500 lbs. The new GM mid size weighs much more.

The new GM has a much more sophisticated drive train and chassis. The Ranger really needed a six speed manual option but Ford never made that upgrade.

That said it was not the lack of new technology or the vehicle quality that killed that segment for Ford. It was indifference from truck buyers. Back then Ford built a great truck called the Sport Trac and could not give it away.

Oh no you don't Ford! You said that market was not profitable and everyone wanted a full size F-150. Stick to you word and keep selling that and stay out of this market! You screwed up so deal with it, nobody wants your raggedy trucks in the mid size market. Go sell your F-150's to everyone.

Left hand drive Falcon Ute, please!

I think the Transit Connect would be a fine platform for a cheap compact truck, but a rwd platform would be nice for some hoonage and shenanigans. Basically a Mustang with a truck bed would work for me.

The Falcon is being discontinued in 2016.

Starting msrp on a transit connect is 22,000. IF they go with that platform, it won't be cheap. I think they need to go smaller than transit. I hope they give us something like fiesta size. I don't know if they could possibly a truck off a little car platform (i'm no engineer), but that is the size I'd like. If they can build a 4 door car and offer it at 14,000 msrp (fiesta) then I think they could build a regular cab 4x4 pickup a little longer than the fiesta and offer it at 17 to 18,000. Doesn't need to be able to tow much at all, just off-road capable with a bed that can take a beating. Maybe I'm dreaming though. You can easily pay 17 to 18,000 for a new side by side today, so it's hard to imagine ford could sell a little pickup for that price.

I'd rather see Ford build a basic truck on a new modular platform. Build something around the size of a Wrangler JK and offer the Ranger and a Bronco on that platform. Keep it cheap, and market it towards those who want something a bit more rugged.

There seems to always be talk of what manufacturer is going to what in the US.

The simplest way to resolve this problem is for the consumer to actually decide what style of pickup they want. It seems the manufacturers in the US dictate what you guys are driving more so than in many other countries.

Why not just allow imports into the US and the consumer will decide what kind of vehicle they want? The chicken tax and barriers will always have the US market with a "we might try this or that" approach.

And if Ford or GM or FCA can't compete because they are selling the incorrect products then so be it. The strongest manufacturer will survive and the consumer will get what they want.

", although he did say that the global Ford Ranger — a popular midsize pickup around the world — would not be a good choice because it sits too close in SIZE AND CAPABILITY to the current half-ton product."

Take the PR spin out of the above, no it is not as yet popular, but getting there

A Mini Pickup would not work, it would look small, vulnerable in crashes and be very limited in capability. They already have that with the Transit Connect Van

@BAFO
Of all people, you are the hypocrite to talk about small trucks. You haul air with your truck most of the time, except to occasionally haul fishing gear. Go buy a minivan and then change your name to Soccer Mom from Oz.

Was the PT Cruiser considered a tuck by some wheelbase measurements? I thought I read an article about the PT Cruiser being considered a truck for fleet MPG purposes. So anything small can be called a "truck" by the manufacturer due to engineering around the government rules.

in response to this:
It's not going to happen because the government mandated safety equipment makes it impossible to build cars as small as they were even just a decade ago, now also because of the CAFE requirements, because manufacturers can't make profits on cheaper vehicles because the cost of doing business is too high, and also because of the concerted effort to get rid of the pickup truck as we know and love it.

Ford would be making a huge mistake making this mini mini Pickup . Better to stick too the Transit Connect Van at least it is halfway acceptable.

The illustrated concept looks bit like a BMC Mini Moke of the mid 1970's

Converting the Festiva into a 'pickupback' would be the way to go. Simple and to the point. Not a big commitment from Ford, in the style of aftermarket conversions. It would test the waters enough, before dropping billions on full scale development.

I know some fleet buyers that would pounce on them. Especially those delivering chemicals, gases, medical, paints, windshields, and awkward size/shape parcels, not fitting inside subcompacts or not safe to carry inside with the driver. Lot of services industries like exterminators to window cleaners/janitorial.

Except fleet buyers don't expect to pay very much.

Also, according to the USA Today article, GM will use the Colorado to draw shoppers and tire kickers into the dealership but the dealer and salesmen will stear them to the full-size Silverado and Sierra because the dealerships will work harder to sell the bigger, more-profitable trucks.

On PUTC we're only talking about North America and whether it makes sense to sell it here not whether it should be sold elsewhere.

Obviously a small truck like this would have worldwide appeal.

Ranger would not sell in F150 volume here and F150 would not sell in Ranger volume outside NA.

Europe loves manuals diesels and wagons. We don't. It's that simple. Know your customer.

The market isn't big, but the advantage to a truck like this is it would not cannibalize existing higher profit margin sales and it could be sold worldwide. That helps the business case tremendously.

Needs be to the size of the first gen ranger. Has to get 35 mpg. Has to have a manual. Put the 2.2 diesel in there as the top motor. Weight should be less than 4,000lbs.

Thoughts, if Ford did a Ranchero type truck/car, bring it back modernized, would it sell?

"It's not going to happen because the government mandated safety equipment makes it impossible to build cars as small as they were even just a decade ago, now also because of the CAFE requirements, because manufacturers can't make profits on cheaper vehicles because the cost of doing business is too high, and also because of the concerted effort to get rid of the pickup truck as we know and love it.

Posted by: BD | Oct 5, 2014 9:33:03 AM"

How wrong you are, BD; there are some cars on the market today FAR smaller than what we had in the '80s and '90s. I can think of several right now that are remarkably small and yet still meet Federal safety standards. The Smart and the Fiat 500 are just a couple examples of such.

And quite honestly the American automakers NEED to figure out how to make cars less expensive; the average price of a car now approaches $30K while the average pickup truck exceeds $40K. Some of the most popular new cars today are smaller ones priced in the low $20s, which is why you see brands like Fiat, Nissan, Honda, etc. all coming out with sub-$20K models.

@Robert Ryan: "A Mini Pickup would not work, it would look small, vulnerable in crashes and be very limited in capability. They already have that with the Transit Connect Van"

I disagree with your conclusion. For one thing, the Transit Connect is proving quite popular as a van in light-duty service and to be blunt, there is no modern pickup truck in the light-duty segment; not when they're too big to even access some venues and are rated to tow in the tons. Light duty specifically means light duty--a load capacity of maybe 800 pounds PLUS passengers--and I'm talking only one or two passengers so maybe 1000# overall. Yes, I do know that there's a Ram 1500 model that "light", but the truck itself is still twice as large and twice as heavy so can't in itself be considered a "light duty" truck.

Unlike most of you, I've actually talked to people outside of the trucking community. The people I've talked to who want a pickup truck have all said they want one the size of the '80s models--even the last Ranger, Dakota and older Colorado were much too big for their purposes. These people are all driving compact or sub-compact SUV/CUVs.

I agree with everything they said. 25% better fuel economy and $5,000-$6,000 less than a base model half ton. If the new F-150 gets 24mpg (just a guess) 25% better would be 30mpg. I would buy a Ranger sized small truck if it got 30mpg in 4X4 trim. The only thing they would need to do compared to the previous Ranger is stretch the super cab for forward facing seats. With all the Eco Boost engines they have, 1.6L, 2.0L and the 2.7L as a premium engine would make that truck haul more than just cargo......

Actually the last gen Ranger with a crew cab with a six foot bed would be perfect. Put a 4 cylinder diesel or a 4 or 6 cylinder eco boost with a six speed (man. or auto). Call it an F-100 and use the Ranger name as the top trim level like they did in the 70s with the fill size truck.

Yeah an F100 would be good. Remember this?
http://www.motortrend.com/features/auto_news/2009/112_0901_ford_f_100/

In all honesty for this vehicle to work it will need to sell a significant numbers in Mexico as the US market wouldn't be large enough. NAFTA would have to manufacture vast number of them to make them viable.

If Ford was able to manufacture vehicles to import from non NAFTA nations without attracting the chicken tax then I do think these vehicles would be attractive for Ford.

It wouldn't matter if Ford only sold 20k a year.

These will not sell in the EU as small vans are preferred. Latin American countries seem to want these style of vehicles due to economic reasons.

I really think Ford will end up importing the Ranger sooner or later because of the Colorado.

From a business perspective I do think a global Ranger variant would be a better proposition than this micro pickup.

I do hope this is the case.

Problem with all these "concepts" is that they are 2-door 2-seaters. Look at the truck market, full-size AND mid-size, like 75% of trucks are 4-door models with seating for four or more. They could make a decent 4-door pickup off the Flex or Explorer platforms, they have decent AWD systems and plenty of payload and towing built into the chassis already. They just have to engineer for crash standards with half the roof missing.

I'll believe it when I see it. As long as they keep the dimensions of the old Ranger I'll be happy. An extended cab with the step side bed is appropriate.

@Big Al from OZ: "In all honesty for this vehicle to work it will need to sell a significant numbers in Mexico as the US market wouldn't be large enough."

Personally, I disagree. While the market may not be large enough to impact full-sized trucks, I do believe the market is far larger than anyone here wants to imagine; I personally know several people who WANT a true compact pickup truck just in my own home town of around 7,000 people. I would say quite a few people who currently own compact and sub-compact SUVs would love to have an open bed model instead.

I am in the market for such a pickup, as long as it's four wheel drive, club cab, and manual transmission.

This discussion is impressive, no name calling or bashing. (Except Tom#3). That said, I believe that a small diesel pick-up could be an interesting way to go. I would take the GM approache, make it look like a small F150 (the F075 ??)

Ford, you've been telling us this for years. Most of us already know the midsizers are too big and too expensive. So.... stop talking and start producing.

The Transit does what it needs to do, and it does not need a honking V8 to do it. For me, a smaller truck than my Silverado would be great, but it needs to have a real bed. So without a 6.5' option, a mini truck would be DOA for my work on a small farm.

We'll see what transpires. I plan to downsize to something smaller, but it may be a decade until hard work (or crappy Old GM engineering) kills the Chevy. 11 years so far and it's still going pretty strong.

I'd like to see a true compact truck capable of at least 30 MPG on the highway.

My old '89 Mighty Max would get between 32 mpg is going easy on the freeway or 22 mpg if I was driving it like a racecar with jackrabbit launches in the city and going 95 on the freeway. Why is that so hard to reproduce? I put 1,000lb load of mortar in the back and it didn't even bottom out the springs. Something that size is what I would like to see this day and age.

Bring back the Bronco in a tad smaller size.

Like GM had to be certain that they got this right with the Colorado and Canyon and to be sure that there was still a market for midsized trucks as well as proving themselves worthy of a second chance, eventually Ford won't let GM have the spotlight to itself, but they too will have to get this right before they give it the go to bring the Ranger back into the U.S. portfolio.

Ford missed the boat. Their attitude about "F-150 or nothing" has left a bad taste with many. They basically said (in 2011) that Ranger buyers should either buy an F-150 or a Focus:

"Buyers of compact pickups basically could be divided into two groups," said Mike Levine, Ford Truck communications manager, "those who bought them for their relatively good fuel economy and cheap price, and those who needed fuel economy plus utility."

Ford's position is that the proliferation of inexpensive, fuel-efficient small cars caused frugal buyers to leave the compact pickup behind and move into compact cars like the Fiesta and Focus

The Ford Explorer would provide a great platform for this. Stretch it about 12 inches, Stiffen the rear and give it a box. Cut it off about 12" behind the front seats and Voila Small truck with big capabilities!!! EB2.3 as base engine!!!

really question if Ford is going to build a smaller pickup, Ford stated that they were not interested in building any smaller trucks and that those that didn't want the F-150 could buy a Fiesta, Focus, or Escape instead. Ford could be putting this information out to see what interest there would be in a small truck, but I think this is more of a Plan B contingency in case sales of the new F-150 are lower than expected and the midsize truck market gains some traction. Ram has released similar information about potential smaller trucks.

I do see a market for a Transit based truck and it would be a minimum investment to take a Transit chassis and convert it to a flat bed, pickup bed, cargo box, and a variety of of configurations. The Transit would easily lend itself to different uses. We will see what happens but I don't see Ford pulling the trigger on this anytime soon.

Considering that the new F-150 is coming out with more V6 Powertrains than it ever had in the past, it would be a dead heat competition with any Next Generation Ford Ranger V6 lineup, so in order for the Big wigs to continue to make huge profits off of it's Full Sized line up, Ford will probably wait another year or 2 to consider the Mid Sized option.

@Roadwhale,
As you have spoken to others outside the Pickup community, I would suggest then there is a market for these, but Globally? No. It would be something built for NA , something like US Pickups are now

@RoadWhale,
I do see a market in the US, but not as large as the one you are considering.

I do think if there was no chicken tax and Fiat, or GM could import some similar products from Latin America that would be great.

It could even help Latin America with LatinNCAP. If the US did do more business with Latin America they would not be aligning to the global standard with the UNEECE.

It would of given the US some, even though a little more leverage for it's 'go it alone' vehicle regulations.

This would test the water. In Australia because of the dynamic way our vehicle market is set we can import only 1 000 vehicles at a profit.

Here's an example of a vehicle the size of a midsize pickup but can carry around 4 000lbs, with a 10' bed, getting over 25mpg. This is with an older style diesel as well.

This is possible when you have a true and free market, not a protected and sculpted market.

Cut and paste;
"The K2700 last year dominated its light truck segment: with 718 units sold, it took 48.1 per cent of the light truck market, leading the Ford Transit at 543 units (36.3 per cent) and the Volkswagen Transporter at 231 units (15.5 per cent).

Kia has forecast 600 to 700 sales between now and the end of the calendar year, but believes the K2900 could do even better than the K2700.

“We'd like to think that we can get up to the 970 that K2700 did in 2006,” said Mr Reid."


http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/D828ADE5BCD8F7B4CA25740800821D3D

BAFO I like your link to the Kia trucks. The problem in the US is everyone is worried about image. I agree that a lot of US made trucks should have more capabilities for there size. For me the new GM twins may work. I need to tow about 6000 lbs. I like the utilitarian look of the Kia. If it came in a CC and could tow that would be awesome.



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