The mid-size truck market is picking up again.
It's been a long time coming. About seven years, in fact, since the last one rolled off the line in Minnesota. But the wait is over as the new Ford Ranger has officially started production in these United States.
The fanfare kicked off on Monday when some 3,000 employees poured into Ford's revitalized Michigan Assembly plant to witness the first new Ranger come off the assembly line, and even drive it on a makeshift off-road circuit set up in the parking lot. The factory has been at the core of the Blue Oval automaker's operations since 1957 when it started building station wagons.
Ford shut down the plant in Wayne, Michigan, earlier this year when the last Focus rolled out, and has spent $850 million to retool it in order to produce both the Ranger and the forthcoming new Bronco – a model line which was built at the same factory from 1966 through '96 when it started building Expeditions and Navigators.
"Ford truck fans demanded a midsize pickup that's 'Built Ford Tough,' and we're delivering with our all-new Ranger," said Ford operations chief Joe Hinrichs. "At the same time, we're revitalizing our Michigan Assembly Plant and securing good-paying jobs for our hourly employees here in the US."
The Ranger and the Bronco will be among the first in an onslaught of new Ford vehicles in the coming years. By 2020, the automaker aims to replace 75 percent of its US lineup. The Ranger rejoins the mid-size pickup market that's been held down until now by the likes of the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier. With Ford back in the game, FCA is slated to launch a new mid-size truck of its own to pick up (so to speak) where the Dakota left off in 2011 – around the same time that Ford discontinued the previous Ranger.