Ranger to End Production in 2009
The Ford Ranger was first produced in 1983, a year after General Motors introduced its Chevrolet S-10 and GMC S-15 small trucks. They all replaced Japanese imports in their lineups and went head-to-head with competitive offerings from Toyota and Datsun (which later became Nissan).
It was lessons learned from the Arab oil embargo and gas crunch of the 1970s that drove Ford to build the Ranger. It was designed to look like the full size F-Series pickup and could carry a four-foot wide sheet of plywood in its cargo box while getting better fuel economy from a four-cylinder engine.
The Ranger became enormously popular. It passed the Japanese and domestic competition in sales to lead the segment from 1987 to 2004 - peaking at 348,000 units sold in 1999.
But as fuel prices slowly dropped and the economy boomed, demand for small pickups began to slide, after peaking around 1.1-million units in 1999. Why buy a small truck when, for a few thousand dollars more, buyers could own a full size?
Ironically, even with gasoline prices rapidly reapproaching inflation adjusted all-time-highs, the Ford Ranger hasn't been able to regain sales traction. It hasn't seen a major mechanical update since 1998, while all of its competitors have been replaced with entirely new platforms and powertrains. Ranger's year-to-date sales are down 20.9% compared to 2006, to only 62,200 units.
Ranger production will be halted at the end of the 2009 model year, when Ford's Twin Cities factory in St. Paul, Minnesota is closed.