The Ford Ranger once belonged to an era of lightweight, compact, domestic pickup trucks. Now, the Ranger occupies a new niche has apparently prompted Ford to bring the model back to the United States for 2019. But many Ford fans and automobile industry junkies are wondering what, exactly, has happened to make this decision seem right for Ford at this particular juncture.
As with any major decision, plenty of factors have to come together to make such a change actually occur in the world. But the first thing that domestic pickup truck owners have to realize is that even though the Ranger hasn't been sold in America since the 2012 model year (for fleet sales; consumer sales ended with the 2011 model year), the Ranger has enjoyed significant success in the international marketplace continuously since then. The popularity of smaller pickups all over the globe seems to make the original discontinuation of the Ranger seem sensible.
But what has changed, now, to make Ford contemplate this return? Firstly, the Ranger itself has grown significantly in the interim. The smallest Rangers of the 2000s utilized a wheelbase measuring 111.6 inches. For the new Ranger, every single version will share a 127-inch wheelbase layout. The new powertrain is also significantly beefier, and the only engine option will be a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four shared with the Explorer and Mustang.
The differences between the old and new Rangers allow Ford to cater it more towards the domestic market, where families and city-dwellers are consistently demonstrating a willingness to choose mid-sized pickup trucks to haul groceries, kids, and perhaps, some light recreational toys. Yet the 2019 Ranger will also be large enough to appeal to rural buyers, who would have passed on the older models because they, simply put, weren't enough.
The steady rise of the crossover SUV-minivan provides a perfect lens through which to view many of Ford's decisions since the automotive industry was bailed out during the Great Recession. While plenty of motorheads may bemoan the crossover's very existence, sales keep rising, and every manufacturer has noticed. Part of Ford's plans for the future involve trimming down their overall number of vehicle platforms from nine to five, and the new Ranger will fit in with the rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive platform that it will share with the Explorer, the Lincoln Navigator, and possibly even the Mustang and the Bronco. All that remains to be seen is whether both market segments decide the Ranger meets their needs.