Ford brings back Ranger, Bronco

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The Ranger and Bronco will return to the Ford stable.

The Ranger will come back to North America in 2019, and the Bronco will be back the following year in 2020.

Both will be produced at the Michigan Assembly Plant, with production on the Ranger starting in late 2018. Ford did not specify when production on the Bronco would start.

Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford, said Monday it's the right time to bring back those vehicles, despite factors like fuel prices that might affect sales in the future.

"There's clearly customer demand for it," he said. "It is the right time, I'm very excited by it... It will be a true, tough Bronco. A real off-road vehicle."

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of The Americas, echoed Ford during the official announcement, saying customers have called for the vehicles.

“We’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable, yet fun to drive,” said Hinrichs. “Ranger is for truck buyers who want an affordable, functional, rugged and maneuverable pickup that’s Built Ford Tough. Bronco will be a no-compromise midsize 4x4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.”

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis, said Ford picked the right shot by bringing back the trucks.

"Sales of trucks and SUVs show no signs of slowing, and by reviving nameplates that customers are familiar with, they have the chance to differentiate themselves in a category that's becoming increasingly crowded," she said. "The fact that the company also recently announced new details about their EV and mobility strategy shows Ford's commitment to meeting the needs of the entire market."

Ford discontinued the Ranger, a small truck, in 2011, but newer versions are sold in 180 markets around the world. They currently are built in Argentina, South Africa, Thailand and Nigeria.

The Bronco, which drew national attention as the getaway vehicle for O.J. Simpson, was discontinued in 1996 after being built for 30 years at Ford’s plant in Wayne. Its successor, the Expedition, was also built in Wayne before moving to Kentucky Truck. Ford showed a Bronco concept at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Ford said he's not concerned one of the new models will steal sales from the other.

"I think the best thing is when you cannibalize yourself," he said. "I'd rather do it than have someone else do it."

Ford, Hinrichs and Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, spent a majority of Monday's press event highlighting Ford's work in mobility, autonomy and electric vehicles.

Ford said the market for electric vehicles is continuing to grow around the world.

"You don't know the conditions into which these vehicles are going to be launched into the marketplace," he said. "You have to take the long view in terms of where the world is going."

Fields and Ford envisioned a city in which their products work with infrastructure in different cities to make life easier for commuters.

"Think of it as a transportation operating system that’s controlled by the city – but that we can bring assets to," Fields said.

Ahead of its Monday auto show reveal, the automaker announced Sunday a refreshed F-150 that it will bring to market.

The new pickup ditches the three-bar grille that has been Ford’s signature design for over a decade, and brings a diesel engine to the light-duty truck lineup (previously offered only in heavy duty) for the first time in its nearly 70-year history.

Ford crested the 800,000 sales bar for the first time since 2005, leading truck market sales with the F-150 and its new for 2016 F-250 Super Duty brother. The Ford beat out its biggest competitor — the Chevy Silverado by over 250,000 units sold, and it beat General Motors’ Silverado/GMC Sierra twins by about 24,000.

The 2018 F-150 is due in showrooms in the fall 2017, but the diesel version won’t be available until the summer 2018. Built in England by Ford, the diesel will deliver impressive towing ability and is the same oil-burner found in Land Rover’s SUVs.

The F-150 will be the first light-duty truck to get pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection as well as adaptive cruise control which can come to a complete stop – then accelerate again. The 2018 model will also have an available Wi-Fi hot spot that can accommodate up to 10 devices. The F-150 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

In addition to the seven new grille choices, the 2018 F-150 will sport six new wheel options (from 17- to-22 inch) and more interior color and material choices. All these options across five model trims – XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum – make for hundreds of potential pick configurations.

While 2018 F-150 pricing won’t be released until later this year, it won’t differ much from the current model which starts at $28,025 for a base XL and tops out at over $64,000 in Platinum trim with all the goodies. The F-150 is built in Dearborn, Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri.

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau