• May 13, 2007
And then there was one. All of the Ford Ranger's contemporaries have forsaken the compact segment for the middleweight class. The Ranger is long in the tooth, to say the least, but we love the smaller size and many find it a good blend of truck functionality without the bulk and heft of a full-size. You can buy into a Ranger for $15 grand, which is a reasonable point of entry for a work truck. There used to be F150s outfitted for labor in that price range, but good luck finding a decontented full-sizer now. While the Ranger's platform is now exclusive to the model, it did sire the Explorer, via the Bronco II. Lineage aside, it's typically expensive for an automaker to have a platform that doesn't get shared, but the underpinnings of the Ranger have long been paid for. We suspect that's part of why we're not seeing much action in the trucklet arena from Ford. To engineer a new Ranger would cost money (that's arguably better spent elsewhere right now), and moving the smallest Ford Truck to a new platform raises conflicts with other models.



continued after the jump with photochops to illustrate ideas






One potential move for Ford would be to revisit the familial ties between the Explorer and the Ranger. The Sport Trac is already filling a niche for weekend warriors, and likely swiping some Ranger sales. Shortening the Sport Trac's cab to a two door affair and lengthening the bed would get you 99% of the way there. The IRS under the Sport Trac could be replaced by a leaf-sprung live axle to keep costs down, though it'd require an infusion of cash to engineer the retrofit. Following this recipe would give Ford an offering in the mid-size truck segment that everyone else has fled to. This seems to be the way Ford went in Thailand with the 4-Trac concept. The problem with this scheme, we think, is that a truckier Sport Trac would be an F150 competitor. The size gulf isn't wide between the two, and the optional V8 in the Sport Trac is powerful enough to do some real work.



Another tack may be to develop a unibody "suburban duty" compact pickup off a car platform. Think of the Ridgeline – sure, it's not capable of towing houses like other pickups, but it's a far more pleasant driver, which matters for people who use their trucks mainly to commute. It's a more sensible option for people that will use the truck like a car. While its styling is polarizing, the Ridgeline shows that there's more than one way to build a pickup, and not everyone needs body on frame construction. The C1 platform that the Euro Focus rides on would lend itself well to truckination. Alternatively, think of how good the clean lines of the Flex might look with a bed. Ford's got AWD across their platform range now, which would boost pulling prowess. We would hate to see a car-based Ranger be more of a Ranchero-y type thing, so increased ride height is a must. Of course, the car platforms cost more to build than Ranger (well, what doesn't?), and there's only so much capacity.




Alternatively, an Escape with two thirds of the roof lopped off and no rear doors would make a credible entry, too. The availability of hybrid drivetrain sweetens the pot, too. It's not just passenger cars that can maximize their fuel economy. In fact, we see a hybrid system developed with trucks in mind as a great thing. The low-rpm torque characteristics of electric motors lend themselves to truck work, and a series hybrid layout would ensure that the motors never run out of juice, even if you're towing up the Continental Divide. A more conventional hybrid with a larger engine using cylinder deactivation could also reap efficiency benefits. By recalibrating the cylinder shutoff to keep the "extra" cylinders off until the batteries are depleted or max forza is required, even a truck could be a fuel-sipper.

Of course, all of these alternatives to the current Ford policy of riding out the incumbent Ranger until it has fully withered require money. Executed correctly, however, a re-thought Ranger could create demand, imagine that. We hope that the Ranger continues on and keeps its smallish proportions. There were rumors of a new Ranger dropping in 2010, but we're not sure what the state of that program is. If the compact truck segment is fully vacated when this current Ranger is finally taken out and shot, we think it'll be a loss.


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  • 43 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ford is cutting off their big toe. This little truck is the bread and butter vehicle that sells well. It's unfortunate that consumers can only see "new is better". A good reliable vehicle is being killed because it can't be made to look like it's a new model.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Death trap? Do you mean possible death trap? And of course all of the early four door extra cab pick ups get low ratings anyway. They had not yet learned how to make the cab stong enough. The standard cab and crew cab would do much better.
      Bryan
      • 7 Years Ago
      This goes along with the Explorer story. Now that we see the market changing, I guess Ford was right to not do anything much with the Ranger. It would be easy to move the ranger to the current Explorer platform. However, with that platform going away, it would not make much sense unless the current Explorer platform is paid off. Then it would make sense. I love the little Ranger, its a great truck that will go forever, just as the Explorer will. However, Ford needs to do something with it. An ex-friend of mine told me he loves Ford but the Ranger was too small and the Sport Trac too expensive. So he bought a Tacoma, which is not only hideous, but completely cheap looking inside. The seat positions are horrid as well. He told me what made the deal was the electrical outlet in the bed. I said..are you kidding me? You spent nearly 30k for this turd because it had a accesory plug in the bed?? I think that is one of the most ignorant things I have ever heard in my life. Anyways, Ford needs a new Ranger, It would help sales.
      • 7 Years Ago
      They should at least keep it small. After the dakota went midsize in 97 all other compact trucks followed except the ranger. Keeping it small keeps it in a class by itself.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I am currently driving a 94 Ford Ranger with the 4-cylinder and stick shift. Has 219k on the odometer and I add 60+ miles a day. Still runs like a top and the paint has held up better than some of my newer vehicles. So while I'm more of a GM man, I have to say I have had fewer problems with my Ranger than any of my other cars.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The new Ranger produced in Thailand already has a platform and may acquire platform buddies soon - namely the replacement for the Land Rover Defender. The original defender will need to be replaced soon, as it will no longer meet pedestrian safety regulations. Another option for the Defender is the European Ford Transit van, which already comes in FWD, RWD and AWD forms, so the platform is versatile enough. And if it can do the Landie, it can equally well support the Ranger...
      • 7 Years Ago
      I actually like the Flex version of the Ranger the best.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Eh, I like the current Ranger. Sure, it's outdated, but it's the only compact pickup on the market. I despise midsize trucks, so the Ranger is the only truck smaller than a fullsize truck I'll consider. I like the idea of a small, agile, fuel-efficient truck. Too bad Nissan, GM, Toyota, etc. have abandoned that segment in favour of truck that are too big and bulky for compact trucks and too small to be fullsize trucks.

      I don't like the idea of basing the Ranger off the Flex or Escape. If you're going to build it off a car platform, it should just be a car with a bed, not a bulky vehicle that looks like a truck but isn't. If they're gonna use a car platform, just bring over the next-gen Falcon Ute as the next Ranger (or make a Taurus Ute, but RWD would be better).

      And as much as I dislike the idea, Ford has another option: bring over the rebadged Mazda BT-50 that Ford sells as the Ranger in Europe and Australia. Unfortunately, it's a midsize truck IIRC (and I hate midsize trucks), but it's one of Ford's most economical options, given that the rebadged BT-50 is already a world truck.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My 99 Ranger saved my life when a truck full of illegals lost control and crossed the center line. I ended up t-boning him at a combine speed of over 110MPH (~50 for me and 63MPH(est) when he lost it). My little bare bones short cab/bed Ranger took it. I ended up with a crushed right foot and broken femur (brake pedal) but it could have been far far worse. I remember the whole thing, even the guys being ejected from the bed of the other truck. Two people died that night, but my Ranger ensured that it wasn't three. A DAMN good truck, I don't care what people say.

      http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/611/2150/1600/100_0186.jpg
      http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/611/2150/1600/100_0193.jpg
      (note the windshield in the last one, that is where one of the guys hit)
      http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/611/2150/1600/100_0184.jpg
      • 7 Years Ago
      Take it from GM - forget your current lineup and pull all the good stuff over here from Australia.

      http://www.ford.com.au/servlet/ContentServer?
      cid=1163397392649&pagename=Page&c=DFYPage

      They are building automobiles the way they should be. Cars are (fun) cars (So are the Utes), trucks are trucks.
      • 7 Years Ago
      it is amazing that the ranger would be killed off when it is the Escape that is selling right now. They increased the size of the explorer and it isn't doing so hot anymore. The one thing I do know is that car companies have to figure out how to address America's love for power, their request for more efficient engines, and size. Something has to be done, changing the mindset of Americans and educating them how it is impossible to have big cars with powerful and efficient engines suits everyone's interest.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree with #9, the Escape version makes the most sense, and the updated Escape looks more "truck-like", so even better. Add a tad more rear overhang and VOILA!
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