Detroit auto show: Ford debuts 2019 Ranger with all-terrain options

Detroit Free Press |

--It's the Return of the Ranger on Sunday as Ford reveals an all-new midsize pickup bearing the popular name at the Detroit auto show.

A "torture tested" 2019 Ranger offers new technology and all-terrain options designed to woo outdoor adventurers.

Expect a fresh exterior, steel front and rear bumpers mounted to the steel frame for enhanced durability, a 2.3-liter engine, a front "bash plate," a 10-speed automatic transmission unique to the segment and a power-train specifically designed to satisfy rugged consumer tastes in North America.

It's a sweet homecoming after a years-long absence.

Americans snapped up Rangers from 1982 to 2012. Ford stopped selling the vehicles in the U.S. after sales slowed. Now consumer trends have shifted again, and Americans are showing a strong desire for smaller pickups. This truck segment includes the Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado.

This new generation Ranger carries up to five passengers and offers driver assistance technologies that provide stability in low-traction settings. A dial bears labels for mud, ruts, sand, grass, gravel and snow.

"We have a feature called 'trail control' that is essentially off-road cruise control. It monitors and assesses slippage on loose terrain. This manages acceleration and braking," said Chad Callander, Ranger consumer marketing manager. "This is unique."

The 2019 Ranger is designed for off-roading and family camping and kayaking trips.

"This is for people living in the city who want to get off the grid," said Todd Eckert, truck group marketing manager for Ford. "We're not trying to make a small F-150 pickup. This customer is less work intensive than the F-Series customer."

Thegrille and windshield design improve aerodynamics and reduce wind noise. Short overhangs are meant to clear obstacles while driving off-road. A steel bumper with an available trailer hitch receiver can tow campers, ATVs and boats. It comes in both 2-and 4-wheel drive. Power outlets allow charging of laptops and cell phones.

"Ford is bringing back the Ranger at the perfect time," said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds. "Last year, small trucks had their best year since 2009, and the familiarity of the Ranger nameplate will help Ford quickly attract interested shoppers. More than a quarter of Ranger owners trade in their trucks for a small truck from another brand, so this move gives highly loyal truck buyers a reason to stay in the Ford family."

The vehicle has been a bestseller in South Africa, Europe and New Zealand -- where it is often used as an easy-to-maneuver work truck.

The Ford Ranger is second only to the Toyota Hilux in worldwide sales of midsize trucks outside North America, Eckert confirmed. Consumers in more than 180 countries can purchase the Ford Ranger now.

Overall, midsize pickup sales have seen a steady increase in the U.S. over the past five years, from 244,857 in 2013 to 452,335 last year.

One in five midsize truck buyers lives California, with strong sales also in Arizona and Nevada.

"Ranger has always held a special place in the hearts of truck fans," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford executive vice president, product development and purchasing.

The latest version provides "a torque target on par with competing V6 engines, but with the efficiency of a four-cylinder" he said. When you pair that with its 10-speed transmission, you've got one of the most versatile, powerful and efficient powertrains in the segment."

The new Ranger for North America comes in entry-level XL, mid-level XLT and high-level Lariat trim series, with options for exterior design, off-road packages and cab configurations. All vehicles come with automatic emergency braking, which can prevent rear-end collisions when warning of obstacles and initiating braking.

The new Ranger, available to consumers in early 2019, will be built at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. Ford Focus production will move from Michigan to China.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 or Follow her on Twitter: @phoebesaid.


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