The Ranger is Dead – Long Live the Ranger
By Igor Holas
Much has been written about the folly of allowing the venerable Ranger wither on the vine and lose its sales crown to Toyota’s Tacoma. Many writers, editors, and bloggers took it upon themselves to come up with new and innovative ways to call Ford shortsighted and use the Ranger’s demise as a case in point that Ford is in the fast lane to bankruptcy. However, behind the scenes, Ford is readying a duo of new trucks to be released in the wake of the Ranger’s demise, and is also planning an ultimate return of the Ranger to the US market.
Internal sources have recently confirmed that the Ranger will be discontinued after the St. Paul assembly plant is shut down next year. We also had it confirmed that, at least for several months, Ford will not be producing any truck smaller than F-150 in North America, and will be just selling down inventory of already-built Rangers. However, Ford is not to be absent for long in the mid-size segment.
Our sources indicate that for the past decade, Ford has been working on a new mid-size truck. This truck was to answer the competition’s move from truly small trucks to something bigger – about the size of an old F-150 – offering more space, better ride, more capability, and more power. The new truck under development was to be released several years ago, but it fell victim to the changing of the guard among Ford’s top brass and the volatile product development plans. The project moved to and from the back burner several times as Ford shifted its attention to more “important” causes. As a result, not only did the Ranger miss the move from small to midsize trucks, it was left on the market way past its expiration date, and will leave the scene without a direct successor. Luckily, however this new truck is finally again settled on the front burner and will be released in the fall of 2010 as the 2011 F100 midsize truck. It will be built alongside its bigger brother in the Michigan Truck Plant.
The new Ranger built in Thailand will not become truly global and will not be sold in North America
The underpinnings of this truck are familiar – a shortened and lightened F¬-150 frame with numerous shared components. The truck will copy Dakota with a V6 and V8 engine lineup, but position its V6 engine as the key power plant – restricting V8 to limited-volume trims. The truck will be a little bigger than its competition with dimensions just slightly smaller than the 1998 – 2003 F150. Unlike the Ranger, the F-100 will finally include a true five-seating double-cab, upscale version of which will serve as a Sport Trac replacement.
This new truck platform will spawn one more vehicle: a new Ford Bronco. Secretly (until now), Ford has been preparing an answer to the success that is the Wrangler, and the threat that is the Hummer H4. The Bronco will stay true to its original roots and be a capable off-roader with two solid axles, true 4×4 and a truck frame. After the 2004 Bronco concept which was built on the Fiesta platform, many diehards were worried the Bronco would become a soft-roading lifestyle SUV for the urban youth market. While I and some others saw potential in this move, it seems Ford is playing it safe with the Bronco name and affixing it to a true, rugged off-road capable SUV. Like the Wrangler, the Bronco is to feature a removable top and folding windshield. It could debut alongside the F-100 in 2010, or a little later.
The Bronco is to make an honest return to its off-road roots. Ford is aiming at the Wrangler and the upcoming Hummer H4 with this new truck.
Finally, by the end of 2012, the Ranger is scheduled to return to the US showrooms. Last year, the F-100 was evaluated as a potential global replacement for the Ranger, but it was not awarded this prestigious position. Instead, Ford’s Australian branch was tasked with developing a brand new small truck platform dubbed T6. Unlike the current “Thai” Ranger or the upcoming F-100, the T6 “Global” Ranger is to return to its humble compact roots. The size will be very close to the current North American Ranger, and it might even shrink. The result is to be a one world-beating small truck that is happy to run on four-cylinder power. This new truck is to replace all the different Rangers around the world, along with the Bantam, Courier, and other locally-designed Ford compact trucks. While 2012 is a ways away, the T6 Ranger is being developed with US sales in mind.
So here you have it folks. Ford will discontinue the Ranger next year – it will happen. However, within a year, Ford will replace it with the F-100, add a new Bronco, and about a year after that revive the Ranger as what it is today – an honest, humble, hard-working compact truck without any pretense.
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