Ford Ranger fans may get the vehicle they want after all. As a bonus, a Bronco SUV may be included.
Ford truck fans have been growing restless over the past year, particularly as GM reintroduced both the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado, a pair of midsize pickup trucks. Both models have reignited a segment some had given up for the dead or at least had ceded to Toyota and Nissan.
Although the Ford F-150 certainly has retained its large following as it transitioned to an aluminum-based body, Ford Ranger fans are still looking for something smaller. Talk that the Ranger might make its return have surfaced in recent months especially as Ford contract talks with the UAW suggest that the Ranger and a Bronco SUV variant are in the works.
Michigan Assembly Plant
The contract talks have been tentatively approved and certain details have been announced. For example, the union has already won higher wages for the rank and file, but they’re still looking to secure production for at least one of its manufacturing plants, particularly the Michigan Assembly Plant. That plant current produces the subcompact Focus and the hybrid C-MAX, models that will now be produced in Mexico.
The two-model exit means that other models will step in. And as Crain’s Detroit Business and the Detroit Free Press have reported, they’ll be the Ranger and Bronco, appearing in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
What isn’t clear is just what sort of Ranger and therefore what type of Bronco models we shall see. When Ford discontinued its compact Ranger in 2011, it replaced it with a larger, midsize model. The global Ranger as it is known is sold in most markets, but not in the US and Canada. Until recently, Ford had long insisted that the Ranger was gone for good and that the F-150 was its sole truck of choice. Unhappy Ranger fans have been voicing their displeasure with that decision.
Global or North American Ford Ranger
The global Ranger might also be an odd duck for the US market as it is of unibody construction, much like the Honda Ridgeline. Traditional pickup trucks have long maintained body-on-frame architecture (also known as ladder frame) as this has lower replacement costs and is better suited for towing.
Notably, the Ridgeline has never been a strong seller. Discontinued in 2014, a new Honda model is in the works, but it won’t do much to steal Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma owners — or Ford Ranger owners for that matter — looking for a replacement truck.
An all-new model based on body-on-frame architecture exclusive to North America is still possible, despite the enormous cost for producing such a vehicle. Typically, launching a new platform costs at least $1 billion and unless Ford sees the certainty of strong sales, that cost would normally be considered prohibitive.
But by including a Bronco SUV in the mix, Ford gains a second model line. It would also go up against the lone remaining body-on-frame midsize SUV — the Toyota 4Runner, itself based on the Toyota Tacoma.
Cutting Costs, Transferring Models
The $1 billion plus cost of the Ford Ranger and Bronco will be partially offset by transferring much of the make’s car production to low-labor-cost Mexico. Besides the previously mentioned models, the Fusion will also be built exclusively in Mexico. The full-size Taurus may simply be canceled or Ford might do what was once unthinkable — build the Taurus in China and ship those vehicles here.
When will the Ranger and Bronco news become official? Likely once the rank and file has ratified the contract. A vote is scheduled this week and with increased pay and bonuses along with job retention guaranteed, overwhelming approval is likely.
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Photo copyright the Ford Motor Company.