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Ford may enlist Ranger back to active duty

New union contract opens doors to production of niche vehicle

Published: November 27, 2015, 10:55 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 1:27 PM

2015 Ford Ranger

Ford has reached a new contract with its union south of the border and the deal reportedly includes provisions to invest in new product, and among the names being kicked around are Ranger and Bronco.

The Ranger compact pickup went away at the end of 2011 amid product-planning issues conflicted by the desire to revamp the compact pickup that had a loyal fleet following, taking the product uplevel to the mid-sized segment to keep up with competitors like the Toyota Tacoma, or (the ultimate decision) to fit the full-sized F-150 with a more economical engine to appease fleet operators.

Now, with production of Ford’s compact models moving to Mexico, the desire to keep plants going with new product is reviving talk of bringing back the smaller pickup. The decision is fueled by an increased interest in smaller pickups, albeit mid-sized ones such as the Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier, and not compacts.

It just so happens that Ford actually has an Asian-developed solution (as General Motors found with the Colorado it recently introduced) that is sold in just about every other world region except North America. It’s called Ranger (surprise!).

The T6 Ranger was introduced at Australia’s 2010 Sydney Auto Show and went into production in Thailand in 2011. It is now also produced in Africa, Argentina and China. It comes in the three traditional pickup cabinstyles (regular, extended and crew cabs) in rear-wheel and 4-wheel drivetrains, two ride heights and up to five series (from bare-bones, hose-out interiors to leather-upholstered, technology filled premium models). Mazda also markets a version of the truck as the BT-50.

The truck was powered by a choice of three engines, with the most likely candidate for North America at the time of introduction being the 163-hp 2.5-litre Duratec 4-cylinder. We would assume if the truck were to now be considered for North America, that it would get power from an existing Ecoboost engine – possibly the 178-hp 1.6-litre 4-cylinder unit in the Escape for starters and maybe going up to the Explorer’s 280-hp 2.3-litre “four.”

The existing Ranger also has the full suite of new pickup technologies, including Trailer Sway Control and Adaptive Load Control, as well as current parking and reversing aids.

2015 Ford Everest

Perhaps also of interest in the contract negotiations is the possibility of building a new Bronco – the full-sized 2-door utility that ceased production in 1996 to be replaced by the 4-door Expedition that better served a market that wanted more passenger comfort and better access to the cabin.

The Ranger does have a utility sibling called Everest marketed in the Asia Pacific region, but that vehicle would overlap with North American offerings – both Explorer and Expedition – though if it goes with the 2-door bodystyle (similar to the Range Rover Evoque), it would be a unique presence outside the luxury market.

The other option is to go completely over the top and bring back the Super Duty SUV, effectively picking up where the Excursion left off in 2005 after it took over the vacant Bronco market in 1999. There is probably a smaller niche for such a vehicle in today’s economy-conscious world, though, than there might be for a resurgence in the 2-door SUV “coupe” segment.