New Ford Ranger pickup expected at auto show

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is expected to roll out an all-new Ranger pickup Sunday at the Detroit auto show. The vehicle scheduled for the 2019 model year builds on the pickup sales frenzy in the U.S.

The Blue Oval pulled the midsize truck from the U.S. market in 2011, deciding then to focus on its full-size F-150. The company hasn’t exactly suffered without a small truck in its lineup — selling 897,764 F-Series trucks last year — but the Ranger could still give Ford’s U.S. sales a boost.

Newer versions of the truck are sold in roughly 180 markets around the world. The new U.S. models are expected to look similar to those currently sold elsewhere, though Ford officials have said the U.S. model planned to go on sale in 2019 won’t be a copy-and-paste version of the truck sold around the world.

The company said at last year’s North American International Auto Show that there’s immense consumer demand for the truck. The Ranger will play catch-up to Chevy and GMC which have capitalized on a revived small pickup market with their successful Colorado and Canyon models.

“We’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable, yet fun to drive,” said Joe Hinrichs, then Ford’s president of The Americas, at the 2017 show. “Ranger is for truck buyers who want an affordable, functional, rugged and maneuverable pickup that’s Built Ford Tough.”

The truck will be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. This year, it will replace the Focus and the C-Max there. Focus production will move to China. The C-Max will be discontinued once Michigan Assembly is retooled to make the Ranger and the 2020 Bronco.

Ford sold more than 6.6 million Rangers in the U.S. over its 29-year history. Sales peaked in 1999 at around 350,000 but dropped steadily until its final year in 2011, when Ford sold 70,832.

Analysts have said Ford might cut into F-150 sales by releasing the Ranger in the U.S., but Ford executives have said F-150 shoppers are typically completely different from those who’d look to buy a Ranger.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau