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End of the road for Ford’s Ranger in the U.S.

Production stoppage will close a Minnesota assembly plant, but the automaker says 800 workers will be transferred to other facilities


December 16, 2011
by The Canadian Press

DETROIT—The end of the road has come for Ford’s smallest pickup in the U.S.

The Detroit-based automaker says it will stop producing its Ranger, which it introduced in 1982 to fight small pickups from Japan.

But after peaking in the mid-1990s, sales of the Ranger have fallen over the last decade, hurt by neglect as Ford focused on more profitable large pickups. The Ranger’s styling grew stale, it lost its fuel economy edge and the price wasn’t much lower than beefier siblings like the F-150.

Other companies aren’t so sure it’s time to ditch small pickups. Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. all plan to continuing selling small pickups in the U.S., citing high gas prices and loyal buyers.

Sales of small pickups topped out at 1.2 million, or eight per cent of all vehicles sold in the U.S., in 1994, according to LMC Automotive, a consulting group.

About a quarter of those were Rangers, which appealed to guys for their manly styling and zippy ride. But sales have been sliding ever since. LMC expects small pickup sales to total 297,000 this year—two per cent of the market.

Pricing has also been a problem. The Ranger started out as a cheaper alternative to bigger pickups, but as Ford gradually added features, like upgraded transmissions or satellite radio, prices crept up. A top-of-the-line, two-door Ranger with a V6 engine starts at $22,340, or just $600 less than a base model F-150.

Automakers’ incentives, including zero-per cent financing and other deals, erased that price premium altogether, making bigger trucks more appealing.

The end of Ranger production means the closure of the St. Paul, Minn., plant.

But Ford says many of the plant’s 800 workers will be able to transfer to other facilities.

The plant has produced more than 6 million cars and trucks since 1925, when it was opened by company founder Henry Ford.

Ford will continue to sell a new version of the Ranger outside the U.S. Those trucks will be built at plants in Thailand, South Africa and South America.