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Ford Ranger butches up with PX Series II

Tough task: Ford Asia-Pacific exterior design manager Dave Dewitt said he wanted to take the look of the updated Ranger “to the next level”.

Ranger’s Aussie designers had to balance Ford ‘tough truck’ mantra with quality feel

Ford logo24 Mar 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in BANGKOK

THE Australian-based designers behind the heavily revised Ranger utility unveiled in Thailand this week had to tread a fine line between adopting a tough ‘Ford Truck’ corporate family face and imparting a look of quality and refinement.

Unveiled five months out from its Australian launch at the Bangkok International Motor Show, the PX Series II pick-up falls into line with Ford Motor Company’s best-selling F-150 in North America, even though there are no plans to sell the Ranger in the United States or Canada in this generation – and vice versa.

While most of the sheetmetal remains the same as before, the bonnet and front guards are new, as are the headlights, front fascia, grille and bumpers. The dashboard, too, has changed.

According to Ford Asia-Pacific exterior design manager Dave Dewitt, adding a more aggressive face is in response to customer research and feedback on how the Ranger should evolve from the success of the current four-year-old model.

“We wanted to take the front end of the existing vehicle and take it to the next level,” he told GoAuto.

“We wanted a familial face, one that was clearly a Ford truck, with the trapezoidal grille shape, bonnet power dome and bigger bumper shape. We dialled up the toughness by putting in more tension in the design and by increasing the level of sculpture in the design.

“We wanted people to look at it and say ‘Wow, that’s a Ford!’ We wanted people to fall in love with the Ranger all over again.”

Created at Ford Australia’s design facility at Broadmeadows in late 2010 – about the same time that the current model made its Australian International Motor Show debut in Sydney – the facelifted Ranger looks the way it does because of extensive customer research conducted in each of the vehicle’s key markets.

While there is a visual connection between the Ranger and the closely related Everest seven-seater SUV to be launched in Australia later this year, Mr Dewitt said the two vehicles are different enough from the front to convey different messages to buyers, without losing their core brand identity.

“We wanted to create vehicles that meet customers’ needs,” he said. “With the Ranger we needed it to look tough while the Everest also looks seriously capable but with a premium feel as well.”

Mr Dewitt rejected the suggestion that moving away from the watch themes of the current Ranger’s dashboard to a smoother and softer horizontal look of the facelift’s all-new unit (which is essentially the same as that found in the Everest) might emasculate the pick-up truck in some consumers’ eyes.

“Ranger has redefined what a truck is … and the lifestyle market is now huge as a result, but buyers still want a level of comfort and sophistication and style in their interior,” he said.

“Upmarket design is a reflection of how people are using their vehicles nowadays.”

According to Ford’s global chief program engineer for Ranger and Everest, Ian Foston, rivals such as the Volkswagen Amarok were benchmarked for quality and refinement, however no actual competitors were named.

“Research shows customers want something more grown up with more features,” he said. “It’s just what customers want so we looked at key and some adjacent competitors, to come up with the themes inside the vehicle.”

Asked what the greatest challenge was with creating the new look, Mr Dewitt revealed that integrating the hexagonal grille deep into the bumper created some issues in terms of airflow and functionality, but of course they were eventually overcome.

Sold in over 180 countries, the Ranger remains the most broadly available Ford product in the world today. Global sales jumped 20 per cent last year, and increased 22 per cent in Australia, where the Blue Oval came second only to the deeply entrenched Toyota HiLux.

The Ranger is its segment market leader in several countries, including New Zealand, Myanmar and Vietnam.

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