by Patrick Rall
This morning, Friday December 16th 2011, the last Ford Ranger rolled off of the assembly line at Ford’s Twin Cities Assembly plant in St. Paul, Minnesota ““ ending a 29 year run that saw millions of compact pickups sold.
The first use of the name Ranger was for the Edsel Ranger, which was produced by the former Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln Division of the FoMoCom and sold through its Edsel marque in 1958. These original Rangers, which obviously had no truck inclinations, were built on the shorter Edsel platform, and shared with the Ford Fairlane and the Pacer.
As a pickup, the Ford Ranger name first appeared in 1965, as a sub model/trim package on the F100 and F250 2WD pickup trucks. 1982, the compact Ranger pickup was introduced as a 1983 model. The Ranger was first built to replace the Ford Courier, a Ford-badged version of the Mazda B-Series, which was originally designed to compete with compact trucks from Datsun and Toyota.
Through its 29 year run, the Ranger was one of the bestselling compact pickups in the US, and at times, the low cost Ranger was one of Ford Motor Company’s top sellers. In fact, it had a string of being the best-selling compact pickup truck in America from 1987 to 2004, with the best year being 1999, when Ford moved 348,358 units of the small pickup.
Even though the Ranger was on pace to comfortably exceed the 2010 sales numbers in the 2010 calendar year, with a 26% improvement over the first 11 months, the steady decline in popularity of small and midsized pickups in the US led Ford to pull the plug at the end of the 2011 model year.
That end officially came a few hours ago as the Twin City plant built the very last Ford Ranger. The last Ranger built in Minnesota was built with a buyer already set, as the folks at Orkin pest control made the moves to purchase what could be the very last Ford Ranger ever built and sold in the USA. Orkin has used the Ranger (always white, with the red logo on the door) for many years now, so it is fitting that the final Ford Ranger will go to a company who has relied on the popular compact pickup for so long.
The Ford Ranger name will live on in other markets through the newly designed unibody Ranger pickup, but Ford has no plans to offer the new, larger Ranger in the North American market, as it’s too close in size and functionality to the F150. In fact, Ford plans to use entry level versions of the F150 to effectively step in and entice those buyers who would have previously looked to purchase a Ranger.
In the most popular days of the Ranger (and the rest of the compact pickup segment), Ford offered slightly less capabilities than the larger half ton trucks like the F150, but they did so at a comfortable price difference. However, as time went on, incentives and advancements in technology allowed Ford and the rest of the industry to steadily decrease the price of the entry level half-ton trucks. The Ranger slowly became less interesting to prospective buyers as those consumers could buy an F150 with similar features and far more capability than the smaller Ranger.
Another factor that lead Ford to bring an end to the American-sold Ranger was the fact that when polled, many Ranger owners purchased them because they were inexpensive and fuel efficient. These are people who really don’t need a pickup at all, but they wanted the low purchase price, low insurance costs and better than average fuel economy of the Ranger. In addition to the F150 for those possible Ranger owners who actually need a truck once in a while, Ford expects that new low cost models like the Ford Fiesta, Fusion and Escape will meet the needs of those consumers who don’t want a truck ““ but something that is low priced and efficient.
Whatever happens to the light truck segment, it is safe to say that the Ranger will be missed. She was a good truck. And we at FTE will miss her when she’s gone. But we’ll always have memories. And happy ones at that. So Ranger, rest in peace. You deserve it.