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China to take Ford Ranger in 2018
Ranger goes global as China joins US in queue for Ford’s Aussie ute
14 Apr 2017
THE Australian-developed Ford Ranger has received another major boost with an announcement by Ford president and CEO Mark Fields that the one-tonne pick-up will be sold in China from 2018 to take advantage of the burgeoning ute market there.
This means the Ranger will now be sold in the world’s two biggest markets, China and North America – markets off-limits to the highly rated ute in its current generation – making it a truly global model.
It also means more work for the Melbourne-based Ford Asia-Pacific Vehicle Development Centre that is now tasked with developing a China-specific version to suit that country’s roads and customer tastes.
The team is now working on the next generation Ranger and related Everest and Bronco SUVs at its Australian engineering centres in Broadmeadows and Geelong, as well as at the You Yangs proving ground at Lara.
The move also helps to partly explain the 50 per cent funding boost announced late last year by Mr Fields for the Australian design and engineering operation for 2017, taking it to $450 million.
Ford’s latest decision on Ranger is designed to take advantage of a growing appetite for such vehicles in China where ute sales grew 14 per cent last year.
Pick-up sales still account for less than 2.0 per cent of the 20-million-plus vehicle market, but Ford says China has already become the world’s fourth biggest light truck market.
It says it plans to pioneer the emerging pick-up segment with “world-class, stylish and refined pick-ups”.
In a recent survey by Ford, Chinese vehicle buyers said pickups traditionally had been perceived as lacking comfort and modern features.
“Chinese customers, however, have had more exposure to modern trucks through TV, film and the internet, and have become more interested in pickups with more SUV-level comfort and refinement to support their work needs and expanding outdoor lifestyle,” Ford said.
Apart from changes attitudes of Chinese consumers towards such vehicles, China has eased restrictions on light trucks in city centres, making them more attractive to private consumers.
Ford Asia Pacific product communications manager Sinead Phipps confirmed that the Chinese version of the Ranger will be made in Ford’s Thai factory, alongside those headed for Australia and a large number of other countries.
One of Ford’s two joint venture partners in China, Jiangling-Ford, already makes the Ranger-based Everest in China.
It seems feasible that if the Ranger takes off as expected in China, local production would be a logical transition. This would bring Ranger production sites to five – Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, the US (from 2019) and China (maybe).
Outside of the US where the Ranger is not sold yet, the Ford ute is already number two to the long-time market leader, Toyota HiLux.
Ranger is the top-seller in Europe, South Africa and New Zealand, and has been threatening HiLux in Australia where the Ranger is not only Ford’s number-one model but also the nation’s number two in overall sales in some months.
Announcing the plan to sell Ranger in China, Mr Fields said Ford was launching its Built Ford Tough truck brand in that market.
He said the Ranger would join the recently launched, American-built F-150 Raptor under the Built Ford Tough umbrella there.
“We see a significant white-space opportunity with Chinese buyers increasingly looking for more capable, more refined and more stylish pickups,” he said.
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