Reports: Ford may resurrect Ranger, Bronco in US – USA TODAY
Ford (F) is considering re-entering the small pickup truck segment by bringing the Ranger back to the U.S. and may also reintroduce the Bronco sport-utility vehicle, according to several reports.
Ford is weighing building the Ranger later this decade at the Michigan Assembly Plant near Detroit, the Detroit News reported.
The company may also revive the Bronco nearly two decades after the vehicle was phased out in the wake of the infamous O.J. Simpson chase in a white Bronco on national TV, according to Bloomberg and Automotive News.
The automaker has declined to discuss the reports.
Potential production of the Ranger and Bronco may be a subject of negotiations between Ford and the UAW. Hourly worker contracts expire in September and talks are ongoing.
The company has been left without an offering in the small pickup category, in which the Ranger competes, as gasoline prices have contracted. General Motors (GM) in 2014 introduced new mid-size pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, while Toyota recently overhauled the Tacoma.
Ford discontinued the Ranger in 2011, throwing all its weight in the pickup segment behind the larger F-series lineup, which remains the most popular vehicle in the U.S.
If Ford brings the Ranger to the Michigan Assembly Plant, it would at least partially replace production of the Focus compact car, Focus electric car, C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, which are likely moving to Mexico plants.
The company has insisted it won’t close the Wayne, Mich., plant, which employs about 4,500 workers, and that it will build future, unidentified products there.
“We actively are pursuing future vehicle alternatives to produce at Michigan Assembly and will discuss this issue with UAW leadership as part of the upcoming negotiations,” Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said in a statement.
UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said he was not aware of talks involving the Ranger being produced at the Michigan Assembly plant.
The expectation is Ford will choose to make larger or more expensive vehicles in Michigan with a higher profit margin while shifting production of lower-margin small cars further south where labor costs are lower.
Making the Ranger in the U.S. would address another long-standing criticism of Ford by those who have called for its return ever since the last Ranger rolled off the line at the Twin Cities, plant in St. Paul in December 2011. The Ranger is a strong seller in the rest of the world. To meet strong global demand, Ford builds the Ranger in Thailand, Argentina, South Africa and recently announced plans to add a satellite African plant in Nigeria in the fourth quarter.
Ford has for years flatly denied it has any interest in selling the Ranger in the U.S. again, saying it was low volume and customers are better served by the larger F-150 full-size pickup. Ford chose to make the F-150 more fuel efficient with an aluminum body and smaller engines, rather than continue to offer the smaller Ranger in the U.S.
But the small pickup segment has seen a resurgence with GM’s decision to enter the market again and Toyota’s new Tacoma. The Nissan Frontier also competes in the segment.
“It’s hard to believe the world’s largest truck maker would leave an entire truck category to its competitors in the U.S.,” said Karl Brauer, an automotive analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “Despite Ford’s initial doubts about GM introducing a lower-profit midsize truck to compete against its full size trucks we know Ford is watching sales of the Canyon and Colorado very closely. Unless those GM trucks were rejected by the market everyone knew Ford would follow suit. They weren’t, and Ford is.”