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Ford bets big on US Ranger, Bronco factory

Stars and stripes: An additional 2700 workers will be added to Ford’s Wayne plant in Michigan to build the next Ranger ute and related Bronco SUV.

Aussie-developed next-gen Ranger, Bronco central to Ford’s $2.12b US factory upgrade

18 Dec 2019

FORD Motor Company is splurging in excess of $US1.45 million ($A2.12b) on upgrading two of its Michigan manufacturing facilities and creating 3000 new jobs, with the majority of these recruited for production of the next-generation Ranger ute that is designed, engineered and developed in Australia, and will form the basis of a reborn Bronco SUV.


The Wayne plant in Detroit’s western suburbs will receive $US750m of funding, 2700 new workers and the equipment necessary for production of the Bronco and what Ford describes as “an all-new Ranger”.


Earlier this year, leaked images of the comprehensively redesigned ‘T7’ Ranger – that Is expected to go on sale in 2021 and share a platform with the second-generation Volkswagen Amarok – revealed it to share much of its styling with the heavy duty F-250 pick-up.


Subsequent reports suggest the new Ranger will be offered with V6 engines in both petrol and diesel, although whether these will be Ford or Volkswagen-sourced remains to be seen. Thailand is expected to continue supplying the next-gen Ranger to Australia.


Highly camouflaged development mules of the Bronco, resembling chopped Rangers, have been spotted testing in the Australian outback but the official line from Ford is that the model will not be produced in right-hand drive and therefore not sold alongside the Ranger-based Everest large SUV here.


Images of a ‘baby Bronco’ leaked from a Ford dealer conference in Las Vegas late last year, showing what could be a future small or medium SUV based on the Focus platform and pitched against Jeep’s car-based Renegade or Compass.


Aside from a body-in-white shot seemingly captured in a production facility somewhere, the clearest preview as to the full-sized Bronco’s styling is the Bronco R prototype racer commissioned as a 50th anniversary Baja 1000 project and entered into this year’s gruelling off-road race in Mexico, only to retire following a series of mechanical failures.


One component of the Bronco R that did not fail was the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 petrol engine of undisclosed capacity that Ford Performance off-road racing supervisor Brian Novak says “are representative of what the production Bronco will offer”.


Besides Ranger and Bronco production, the Wayne plant will house a “modification centre” that the Blue Oval says “will complete Ford’s first autonomous vehicles starting in 2021, including installing the vehicles’ unique self-driving technology and unique purpose-built interiors”.


Up the road in Dearborn, another $US700m of investment and 300 jobs will enable Ford to ramp up electrification of its F-150 pick-up, with battery cells assembled into packs to power both hybrid and full-electric variants.


The announcement comes just a day after Detroit rival General Motors announced a similar-sized $US1.5b ($A2.18b) investment in its US manufacturing base, of which $US1b ($A1.45b)  would be ploughed into upgrades of the Wentzville plant in Missouri in preparation for the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.


Sharing much with the Brazil-developed, Thai-built and Australia-tweaked Holden Colorado that launched here in 2012 and shares a platform with the Isuzu D-Max, the current-gen North American Colorado and Canyon have also been seen development testing on Australian roads.


GM will go it alone on the new Colorado after parting ways with Isuzu, but It is not yet known whether the next-generation ute will be sourced for Australia from GM’s Wentzville plant or continue to be made in Rayong, Thailand. The Colorado is also produced in Brazil and marketed as the Chevrolet S10 for the South American market.


GM factories in Thailand and Brazil also produce the Colorado-based Trailblazer off-road SUV.

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