Ford May As Well Ditch The Ranger

Automotive News reports this week what has been long known at Ford, but not articulated lately; that is whether or not the company should plan a replacement for the Ranger pickup.

The compact truck will go out of production next year. The only thing I have heard about it having a future is that Ford has considered building a replacement in Thailand.

But, frankly, it’s a segment that Ford should just walk away from. Don’t spend the money. It’s like minivans, only worse. There is no innovation that I can think of that would justify staying in a dying, commodity segment like small pickups. It would only make sense if Ford could come out with a really useful, small truck that got terrific gas mileage, like 30 mpg.

As the AN article points out, sales of Chevy’s Colorado (a truly terrible truck)were down to 94,000 last year, from 150,000 in 2002. Dodge Dakota sales have been falling like a stone too. Toyota manages one of the best residual values in the industry with its Tacoma pickup by tightly managing production and inventory, but Detroit doesn’t play it that way.

Ford is better off managing its F-Series pickup program, so that it has a value-priced version to sell to would-be Ranger buyers. Even if Ranger buyers go to Chevy, Dodge, Toyota or Nissan for a small truck, it’s not that big a deal. It’s hard to imagine that Ford is making any money on Ranger now. And if it builds in Thailand, it has to pay a tax to import them in.

The Big Three have too much full-size pickup truck capacity now. And Toyota just made things worse with the new Tundra. There will be so much discounting of f/s trucks in the foreseeable future that it will put pressure on all small pickup prices.

At the end of the day, its a commodity business unless Ford can innovate a major fuel economy boost. And I just don’t see that.

Wave good-bye to Ranger. Put the capital into a program that will deliver real profits.

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