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Ford Ranger goes Stateside

True-blue Ford Ranger carries high hopes for the Blue Oval in Detroit

Ford logo25 Oct 2018

IT MIGHT be late to the party, but Ford’s Australian-developed Ranger pick-up has gone into production in America’s automotive heartland – Detroit – just in time to take advantage of one of the fastest-growing vehicle market segments in North America.
 
Sales of rival mid-sized pick-ups collectively are up 22.5 per cent in the United States this year, and many pundits believe the arrival of the Ranger in showrooms in January could push the segment into overdrive and give Ford another strong string to its bow.
 
Ford invited more than 3000 employees at its newly refurbished Michigan Assembly Plant to test drive the one-tonne truck yesterday before getting started on mass production of the one-tonner this week.
 
The company shipped in tonnes of dirt to build a temporary off-road test track in a car park at the plant for workers to trial the all-wheel-drive Ranger that is making a comeback to the US market after an eight-year hiatus.
 
The Ranger is also entering the Chinese market for the first time this year. Ford is hoping the pick-up will help to reverse its fortunes in the world’s biggest automotive market where Ford sales have plummeted this year and red ink is mounting.
 
Ford last night announced $US208 million ($A294m) third-quarter loss in its Asia Pacific Region – a decline of 6.7 per cent. The decline was attributed wholly to China, where sales of Ford vehicles have declined 30 per cent this year and the trade war with the US is biting sales of imports such as the Ford Explorer and Lincoln range.
 
Ford has responded by restructuring its Asia Pacific operations, separating the Chinese market into its own division with direct reporting to the Ford board in Detroit, and creating a new business unit, Ford International Markets, for the remainder of the region, including Australia and New Zealand.
 
The troubles in China impacted Ford’s global performance in the September quarter, cutting its net income by $600 million, to $1 billion, even though revenue rose by $1.1 billion to $37.6 billion.
 
The picture was brighter in North America where Ford increased quarterly revenue and profit, to $22.3 billion and $2.0 billion respectively.
 
At Ford’s Michigan plant in Wayne – in the suburbs of Detroit – Ford has spent $850 million ($A1.2 billion) to retool the former Focus factory to build the Ranger and related Bronco SUV.
 
Michigan Assembly Plant manager Erik Williams said: “We have been waiting for this day for a long time. The Ranger is back home in the US, and our employees at Michigan Assembly Plant are thrilled to be able to build it for our customers.”
 
Compared with the Thai-built Ranger that is sold in many markets, including Australia, the US-spec vehicle will be launched in a limited range with two body configurations – four-door SuperCrew and two-door SuperCab – with just one powertrain choice, Ford’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder hooked up to the company’s new 10-speed automatic transmission.
 
The Ranger will be available with two- or four-wheel drive, and three trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. An off-road FX4 package is available.
 
So far, there is no word on diesel or V6 petrol alternatives, nor the upmarket Raptor flagship just launched in Australia.
 
Sitting below the top-selling Ford F-Series full-size prick-up range, Ranger will go into battle against rivals such as the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier and GMC Canyon.
 
The Tacoma leads the market segment by a large margin, accumulating more than 183,909 sales in the first nine months of 2018 – up 24.7 per cent.
 
Second-placed Colorado also has enjoyed a serious jump in sales popularity, up 26.2 per cent to 104,838 units to the end of September.
 
By contrast, full-sized pick-up sales are up only 1.4 per cent.
 
Ford sales in the US in September were down 11 per cent because of falling passenger-car sales – down 26 per cent. 
 
The Blue Oval company this announced it was effectively bailing out of the passenger car market in North America, instead concentrating all its efforts on SUVs, crossovers and trucks in future.
 
Production of the Ranger-based Bronco is expected to start next year as a 2020 model.
 
Ford has confirmed the born-again Bronco which will share underpinnings with the Ranger and its related SUV, the Everest, but have unique styling.
 
US reports suggest Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is planning to join the medium pick-up party with two vehicles – a Ram that some pundits are calling 1200 and a pick-up version of the Jeep Wrangler.

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