Will the Ranger be Shelved?

by : Anthony Fontanelle

The Dearborn based Ford Motor Company is still struggling to bring the company back to profitability. Crucial decisions needs to be made since time is not on their side as well as the trend in the auto market. One issue that Ford is in the process of deciding is whether they will continue their involvement in the compact pickup truck market.

According to Mark Fields, they are still thinking about whether they will continue their foray in that segment. Fields though did not made public when they are expecting to reach a decision on the fate of their entry to the compact pickup segment - the Ford Ranger.

The Ford Ranger has been in the lineup of FoMoCo since 1983. The compact pickup's point of origin in the United States is Ford's Twin Cities assembly facility in Minnesota. The assembly facility though is scheduled to be closed down as part of Ford's Way Forward. The said program is the turnaround plan for the Michigan carmaker. Since the plant is about to be closed, Ford may move the production of the Ranger to other plants.

Another option for Ford is to take the production of the Ford Ranger to Thailand. The said Asian country is the second biggest market for pickup trucks. Producing the Ford Ranger in that country would give the company an advantage in that market. A drawback though is that since Thailand does not have a free trade agreement with the United States, exporting the Thai-produced to the United States would mean that they would produce very little profit.

Another option open for Ford is to altogether shelve the aging compact pickup along with its . One reason for this option is the declining demand for the compact pickup. Last year, Ford reported that they have sold 24 percent less compact pickup trucks compared to 2005. And the woes in the segment continue as the company reports a four percent slump from January to May this year.

This third option is not an unlikely decision for Ford to take. It can be remembered that when minivans produced by the car manufacturer showed declining sales, the company discontinued the production of such vehicles.

When asked whether Ford will shelve the Ranger, Fields commented that they will be picking their shots. If Ford decides to focus on its strength, then the Ranger may be on its way out. The midsize SUV segment offering from Ford is also showing signs of decline in the past years. Fields though said that what they are taking in from the sale of the Ford Explorer is still substantial which means that the Explorer is safe right now - even safer than the Ranger.

But experts pointed out that whatever Ford does to the Ranger in North America will not affect the Rangers in Europe and Asia. This is because Ford already unveiled a redesigned Ranger pickup for the European auto market last year. This means that they are still doing well in Europe and the redesign is to further increase their buyer base in the continent.

The new Ranger pickup unveiled in Europe at last year's Paris Auto Show is developed by Ford in cooperation with Mazda. Ford has a controlling share in the Asian manufacturer. With the tie up between them, the Ford Ranger for Europe was designed in Japan and was manufactured in Ford's assembly facility in Thailand.