Recently by Eric Peters: Girlie Cars of the Recent Past
Heres the first known victim of the latest CAFE (government fuel efficiency) increase to 35.5 MPG: The compact pick-up truck. And the American truck buyer.
OK, thats two victims.
Ive just discovered that Ford has dropped the Ranger Americas last compact-sized truck – for 2012. But not from its lineup. Just from its U.S. model lineup. Not only will the Ranger continue to be sold in export markets, the 2012 model will be a heavily updated model which, among other things, will offer a new diesel engine something you cant get in any current pick-up in the U.S. thats not at least a 2500 series behemoth with a price tag well over $30,000. Meanwhile, the Aussies, among others, will get a brand-new Ranger, revealed at the Thailand International Motor Expo last month. It is a handsome-looker, with an available quad cab body and an all-new interior.
The 2.2 liter, four-cylinder Duratorq TDCi diesel-equipped version offered with either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic sounds like just the ticket for the U.S. market, too.
But, we lose. Its not coming here.
The official reason for not giving American buyers the opportunity to buy this truck is that supposedly Ranger is too close to F-150 and so redundant.
Which makes no sense, especially since as recently as the 2010 New York Auto Show, Ford Spokeswoman April Fursten told www.pickuptrucks.com that We took a long look at Ranger sales over the last two years and the numbers are better than we forecasted. Year-to-date, its outpacing 2009s numbers, selling better than the all-new Flex crossover and is only about 2,000 less units than the recently updated Mustang . Fursten added that (Ford CEO Alan) Mullaly said we be nuts to kill the Ranger in the U.S. because more than 7 million have been sold since 1983.
I dont get it, either.
The Ranger may not be a best-seller, but its a consistently solid seller. And its been a staple of the Ford lineup for three decades.You dont just throw away brand equity like that. Also, its the only compact truck on the market, so Ford has the market all to itself.
Well, it did.
Ranger has a reasonably fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine capable of 22 MPG city, 27 MPG on the highway. The best the much larger F-150 can do is 17 city, 23 highway. That 4-5 MPG split may not sound like all that much but to many people in this economy, its a difference that matters. (I own a compact, four-cylinder pick-up myself that I bought precisely because I did not need a V-6 nor want to feed a V-6.)
And with the new Duratorq diesel, the upated 2012 Ranger is probably good for 30-plus on the highway, which would surely draw buyers attention. And not just because of the better mileage. The diesel would be better-suited to pulling and off-roading. You know, the kinds of things that people who buy trucks tend to be interested in. And theres longevity. Assuming its a solid design, a decently cared for Duratorq engine ought to last longer than the truck itself. Another selling point.
Price is another factor. The current Ranger (2011) starts at $18,160. The base 2012 F-truck starts at $22,990. Thats a more than $4,600 difference. A huge difference. Ford is going to make you pay more for gas and make you pay more for a new truck. A lot more.
I expect a lot of people are not going to be happy about this.
Size also does matter to many people.
Not everyone wants a 1500 series truck. The F-150 is a big truck. Even the regular cab model stretches 213.2 inches bumper to bumper vs. 189.4 for the regular cab Ranger. Thats about two feet (and about 500 pounds) more truck than a lot of buyers need.
A compact-sized truck makes a great runabout. Its easier to maneuver and park. And its pretty good on gas. Whats wrong with this picture? What would make Ford think that the compact-sized Ranger, which has sold well for decades, is wrong in concept? Actually, not wrong in concept because after all, Ford committed major resources to significantly update it for 2012. Which certainly implies that Ford sees a future for the truck.
Just not here.
The only thing I can come up with is CAFE. The federal governments fuel efficiency edicts. But wait, isnt the Ranger more fuel-efficient than the F-truck? Wouldnt a diesel Ranger be even more so? Yes, and yes. So?
Bear with me.
CAFE is about fleet averages, which are measured based on annual production totals. So, the more of a given vehicle that gets less-than-par MPGs (35.5 MPGs by 2016) the lower a car companys overall fleet average CAFE score. By getting rid of the Ranger, Ford will produce fewer trucks overall that dont make the CAFE cut, which will help float the final number.
Ford is not going to drop the F-truck, a best-seller. But the merely ok-selling Ranger is expendable.
But dont blame Ford. Or at least, dont be too hard on Ford. It did what it probably had to do. Faced with the Hobsons choice of keeping Ranger in the U.S. lineup and losing probably millions courtesy of CAFE fines or dropping the truck and losing a few thousand buyers some of whom Ford knows it can probably up-sell into a new F-truck the decision was predictable.
Its just too bad that, once again, American consumers get to pay more and get one less choice to make themselves courtesy of the Clovers in Washington.