Ford Ranger's and Mazda Pickup's Demise Could Boost Mahindra

Ford Motor Co. will stop making the Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series pickup in 2009 when it closes its Twin Cities plant where the venerable Ranger is built.

So far, it doesn’t look like Ford wants to stay in that market, preferring to serve the small non-working pickup market with the Explorer Sport Trac. Building a small pickup in Mexico doesn’t look like it’s on the agenda either.

That will help those that remain: The Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon and Mitsubishi. It should also give a nudge to Mahindra and Mahindra, the Indian automaker that plans to launch [Baseball, Apple Pie and Mahindra, October 25, 2007]a two door pickup (pictured above), four-door pickup and SUV in 2009. All of Mahindra’s vehicles promise to get better than 30 mpg, a substantial cost savings over the U.S. and Japanese rivals.

I won’t miss the Ranger. The current model was being put through its engineering paces during Bush 41’s administration, though it was freshened a few times after that.

The U.S. pickup market seems to have left most of these small trucks behind. There has been so much discounting that Dodge, GM and Chrysler would just as soon sell a big pickup than keeping a small one on the lot. Toyota and Chrysler have been especially dogged in updating their small trucks and marketing them on capability. But I wonder if Chrysler LLC’s new owners will target the Dakota as expendable. Part of the trouble there, of course, is that they are in a partnership with Mitsubishi on the Dakota. Too, ther is talk that Chrysler’s Jim Press wants to make Dodge dealers just sellers of trucks and maybe an SUV. So, dealers won’t want to give up one of the few products it has.

Small trucks tend to be bought by young men, a small percentage of women and the small contractor/handyman customer. Some suburban weekend warriors buy them too, but that trend has been fading.

There will be dogged Ranger fans who tear at their garments and wring their hands. But it’s a good market for Ford to vacate if you ask me.

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