When Ford announced last month that it was moving Focus and C-Max production out of the Michigan Assembly Plant after 2018, it said that it was looking for other products to build at the facility and such proposals would be part of discussions with the UAW on a new contract. According to a report in The Detroit News, one of those vehicles could be a new Ford Ranger midsize pickup. We’re a long way out from a decision being made, and both the UAW and Ford’s board of directors would have to sign on, but the report says it’s in the air.
The last Ranger was built in the now-shuttered Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, MN, in December 2011. After 29 years on the market, slow sales for the truck itself and the midsize truck segment doomed it, annual Ranger sales numbers having dropped from a peak of roughly 350,000 in 1999 to just 70,832 in 2011. The midsized truck market is still coming out of its own doldrums, with 211,797 sold through July 2015, the Toyota Tacoma accounting for 50.1 percent of that, followed by the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, and GMC Canyon. Even with analyst predictions that the market will grow to 300,000 in the near future, compare that to the fullsize truck market that has already sold 1.2 million units this year.
The Wayne plant has built trucks before over its 57-year history, but it would likely need more than just the Ranger to keep it afloat; it builds five vehicles now, pumping out 265,000 units last year. According to Bloomberg, this could also mean the possible return of the Bronco.
If we do get a new Ranger, it probably won’t be anything like the old Ranger. Ford still makes it for 180 global markets, but if you’ve seen one you know it’s a different animal. The wheelbase on the 2015 Ranger sold in Australia is fifteen inches longer than our 2012 Regular Cab model, about an inch longer than the 2012 Supercab. It has a bulkier design, weighs 700 pounds more, and can be had in numerous configurations we didn’t get like a five-seat Dual Cab. A new version for us would also need updating for US regulations, and Ford would want to make sure it could be built with price and size separation from the fullsize F-Series.
But the idea has been on Ford’s mind for at least two years, and a company exec told USA Today last year, “We think we could sell a compact truck that’s more like the size of the old Ranger, that gets six or eight more miles per gallon [than a fullsize truck], is $5,000 or $6,000 less, and that we could build in the U.S. to avoid the tariff on imported trucks.”