In early 2011, I found myself quizzing a car company boss by the name of Mark Fields, who then was responsible for Ford’s business in Canada, the United States, Mexico and South America.
At the time, I wanted to know why Ford had chosen to expunge the pint-sized Ranger pickup from its lineup in Canada and the U.S. after the 2011 model year. Ford, I noted, had sold hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Rangers over the years. In Canada, the Ranger was often a top-10 best seller. One year, Ford sold some 350,000 Rangers in Canada and the United States.
“Mark,” I asked, “you’re selling 20,000 Rangers a year in Canada alone. Aren’t you leaving a big hole in Ford of Canada’s lineup?”
He said the investment to meet safety and emissions standards didn’t make sense. Ford would keep buyers happy with the full-size F-150.
I noted that in early 2011, the starting price for a Ranger was about $18,000, and a savvy Canadian could easily score a Ranger for around $14,000. That was much cheaper than even the cheapest F-Series, I argued.
I also pointed out that Ford made piles of cash on even the old, bargain-basement Ranger. And I added that for close to 30 years, Ford had spent next to nothing on engineering and tooling the Ranger. Moreover, Ford had used the Ranger basics in the early 1990s as the platform for the Ford Explorer SUV, raking in billions in profits more. It seemed to me, the Ranger had earned a proper re-do.
Yet Fields and his colleagues chose NOT to spend money on a small pickup that delivered modest profits compared to the then- and current cash cow, the F-Series. I argued to Fields that there was (and remains) a market for a small pickup – something affordable, fuel efficient and useful for trades workers, hobby farmers, weekend renovators, part-time cowboys and urban movers.
Fields became visibly agitated and his handlers fumed at my impertinence. I, of course, was just a journalist doing a job – which is to ask questions and provoke comment. However, my questioning made not a whit of difference. Ford spiked the Ranger for nearly a decade.
And so here in 2019, given my history as a Ranger inquisitor and advocate, I am ecstatic to see that Ford has resurrected the Ranger for Canada and the U.S. It’s a handsome enough pickup, though at a base price of about $29,000 (minus available discounts), it’s expensive.
It’s big, too — almost as big as a full-size F-Series from the 1990s. That heft and footprint, not to mention the pricing, I think explains why so few Canadians have warmed to the Ranger so far. Ford of Canada sold just 755 copies in the first three months of 2019. Only the Honda Ridgeline had a worse showing among the smaller pickups.
For some context, Toyota Canada sold 2,640 Tacomas during the same period. Next came the Chevrolet Colorado (1,788), its GMC Canyon sibling (1,288) and the Nissan Frontier (959). In the U.S., however, the Ranger is performing reasonably well, though it’s not nearly as popular as the much smaller Ranger of the ’80, ‘90s and 2000s.
Look, the Ranger as a stand-alone work of engineering and design is good and it is better suited to U.S. buyers than Canadians because of its size and capabilities. The bodywork is very handsome, the cabin is comfortable and well-conceived and driving this mid-size truck is more than pleasant.
I applaud the engineering, too. Four-wheel drive is standard in Canada, as is a 10-speed automatic gearbox and a decently fuel-efficient 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine (270-horsepower/310 lb-ft of torque; 11.8 litres/100 km city, 9.8 highway). It can tow up to 7,500 pounds, has an 1,860-lb payload and Ford offers buyers all sorts of upgrades and accessories.
Or you can get a more expensive model, with more equipment. If you want the biggest SuperCrew cab and a kiddy-size five-foot box in back, then you must jump to the XLT version, which starts at $34,710. The fanciest Lariat Ranger lists for $39,165, plus fees and taxes, minus any sales sweeteners – which as of this writing, could be worth $4,000 or so.
You get the picture. The new Ranger is not a small, thrifty, bargain-basement runabout pickup – not like in 2010. Now it’s quite fancy, has a sizable footprint and is about as capable as a 1996 Ford F-150. I, however, would like Ford to go back to the future, to offer a sub-$20,000 compact pickup that fits our cramped and crowded cities, but handles the everyday shores of homeowners and tradespeople.
Alas, the clamour for such a pickup continues to fall on deaf ears.
2019 Ford Ranger
Base price: $28,977.
Engine: 2.3-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged (270-horsepower/310 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: 10-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.8 litres city/9.8 highway.