The F-150 became so massive, it created a gap in the market.
After an eight-year hiatus, Ford is finally bringing the Ranger midsize pickup back to America. But why does Ford think now is the right time to relaunch the F-150’s smaller sibling? According to Automotive News, Ford spotted a gap in the US market for the Ranger back in 2014 when the first aluminum-bodied F-150 was built as it was two inches wider and more expensive than its predecessor.
For years, Ford was worried that selling the Ranger in the US would cannibalize sales of the best-selling F-150, which generates the bulk of its global profits. However, the latest generation F-150 had simply become too large and too expensive for some buyers. “It was pretty clear to us there was a price band and a size that would fit under the F-150,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, told Automotive News. “We knew we needed to work to make the business case."
The next year, Ford decided to convert the Ford Focus plant in Wayne, Michigan, to build body-on-frame pickups and utilities instead of low-margin cars, which is where the upcoming reborn Bronco is also being built. Fast forward a few years and the Ranger is about to arrive in US showrooms next month. But while the F-150 is better suited to construction sites or lumberyards, Ford bills the Ranger as a rugged lifestyle vehicle that’s comfortable on sand, dirt or rocks, making it ideal for weekend camping trips or trips to the beach.
“Our research says the buyer isn’t someone who wants an F-150 and can only afford a Ranger; they want something different,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of US marketing, sales and service, said in an interview. “We felt Ranger would be much more of a personal-use, adventure product. It became a relatively easy decision.” The Ranger will face some tough competition, however, as the midsize pickup segment has become increasingly crowded in recent years with trucks such as the successful Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. The new Jeep Gladiator is also a potential threat to Ford as it was also designed for adventure-seeking buyers.
Back in the 1990s, Ford Ranger sales totaled more than 300,000 a year before fading in the early 2000s, which led to the pickup ending production in the US in 2011. Time will tell if Ford can replicate the Ranger’s success in America once again.