Ford Reveals Big Plans to Pump Up Vehicle Development

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2019 Ford Ranger

Ford has received criticism for killing off the Ranger. But the Blue Oval’s recent moves indicate a major resurgence on the horizon.

This year’s North American International Auto Show has brought us a host of new and exciting products from Ford. In the truck world, we’ve been treated to the all-new Edge and Edge ST, details on the F-150 Hybrid, the all-electric performance Mach 1, and best of all, the return of the Ranger to the U.S. Heck, we’ve even seen the Lincoln Navigator win the brand’s first ever North American Truck of the Year award. But despite this good news, critics always have something to say.

The latest comes from Mark Phelan, an auto critic for the Detroit Free Press. In his latest piece, Phelan takes aim at Ford’s ill-fated decision to remove the Ranger from America in the first place. It’s a move that the brand has worked overtime to correct, developing a new version of the mid-size pickup for U.S. consumption in just two years. But Phelan sees this as a “fundamental problem” for Ford.

2019 Ford Ranger

In fact, he goes so far as to say that “the only thing likely to keep the Ranger from being so late it’s irrelevant is the fact that millions of people have fond memories of Rangers they drove in the past.” Phelan also goes on to say that the only reason Jim Hackett got the chance to replace Mark Fields as CEO is because “Ford product development was slow and aimless.”

Harsh? Yes. But it’s also fairly inaccurate. There’s no doubt that Ford made a mistake when they pulled the Ranger from the U.S. No one in their right mind can deny that. But they’ve admitted and corrected that mistake. The F-150 remains far and away a better product than the competition, with superior specs and features to even the brand new 2019 Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram.

Ford F-150 Diesel

Ford is also answering the call for subcompact SUVs by bringing the EcoSport to America. The 2019 Edge is a vastly improved product with a host of segment firsts. The Edge ST effectively cracks the performance SUV market, another growing segment. The all-new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator are excellent products already racking up awards. Throw in a (hopefully) Wranger-fighting Bronco off-roader, and you’ve got perhaps the best SUV lineup in the business.

Phelan also notes Ford’s reluctance to make a decision in regards to its passenger car lineup. It’s true that they’ve been slow to determine the future of cars like the Fusion and Taurus, but these are uncertain times. But does anyone really know if the current SUV craze will last forever? Or is it just a passing fad, like so many we’ve seen before? Any automaker who completely phases out their passenger car lineup could pay the price if it is. But investing big bucks in them also doesn’t make much sense when sales are declining by double digits.

Ford Edge ST

Instead, Ford is investing most of its resources in trucks and SUVs, which is what consumers are buying. And they’re buying a lot of them. We have no doubt that the new Ranger will prove a formidable opponent in the established mid-size truck market. And unlike Phelan, we also feel that plenty of folks who have never owned a Ranger in their lives will want to buy one.

The results of those investments might not be showing up in current sales, but no automaker is enjoying gains at the moment. With F-Series sales carrying the brand, we expect this flood of excellent new products to right the ship over the next year or so. And perhaps that will silence the critics, but don’t hold your breath!

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other sites.

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