LA JOLLA, CA – Ford has its sights set on wooing Toyota Tacoma buyers to its reborn Ranger pickup, on sale next month in the U.S.
In the eight years since Ford exited the small pickup segment with the nameplate, Toyota has taken a commanding lead in group market share. Wards Intelligence data shows the Tacoma accounted for 47% of all small pickups sold in the U.S. through October, or 204,443 of the 438,612 sales.
The Ranger’s market share in its most recent sales year, 2012, was 7.0%. That same year the Tacoma’s share was 50.8%.
The Ford small pickup’s market share peaked in 1999 at 32.2%.
“When we left the segment, most of our customers went to Tacoma, and I believe we have a very capable product that will pull some of them back,” Chad Callander, consumer marketing manager for the Ranger, tells Wards during a ’19 Ranger media drive here.
While it typically is true that buyers of domestic-brand vehicles don’t cross-shop import-brand models, Callander has a feeling that will not be the case for the Ranger.
So far, 80% of the pickup’s hand-raisers – those who’ve asked for information about the new Ranger via email or snail mail – are not Ford-brand vehicle owners, he says.
“That’s a very compelling statistic for us,” he says of the hand-raisers. “That tells us that we have an opportunity to expand the Built-Ford-Tough lineup and bring some customers into (our pickup).”
It’s not clear how many of the 80% may be owners of other domestic-brand vehicles.
After a two-year break, General Motors re-entered the small-pickup segment in 2014 with new generations of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.
The remaining players in the group include Asian brands Toyota, Nissan and Honda.
Nissan is the only automaker besides Toyota to have remained in the group in the past decade, although its Frontier is the oldest model in the segment – not fully redesigned since 2004.
Wards Intelligence places the Honda Ridgeline (returning in 2016 after a one-year absence) in the small pickup segment despite its unibody platform vs. the body-on-frame construction of competitors.
Unlike the Tacoma and GM models that offer 4- and 6-cyl. engines and manual and automatic transmissions, Ford will offer the Ranger with just one engine and transmission: its 2.3L EcoBoost turbocharged gasoline 4-cyl. mated to a 10-speed automatic. The engine, already used in the Ford Explorer, Mustang and Focus RS models, makes 270 hp and 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm) of torque in the ’19 Ranger.
Part of the reason for a single powertrain is “it isn’t an all-pickup buyer,” Rick Bolt, Ranger’s chief engineer, says of potential customers. “They’re not used to buying for a specific need. They want flexibility. They want to protect for the future. They don’t necessarily view a truck as a tool. It is a piece of gear, but not quite a work tool.”
Bolt says the Ranger’s turbocharged 4-cyl. means customers don’t have to upgrade to a V-6 should they decide to buy a boat.
The new Ranger has a character more in line with utility vehicles as Bolt says people coming out of a CUV or SUV are not conventional truck buyers. They want the same high levels of comfort and supple ride-and-handling from utilities, even when they opt for a pickup.
He sees demand for traditional trucks waning. “I’ve been driving pickup trucks most of my life – I’ve got a (Ford F-Series) Super Duty to tow my race trailer. I know what a real truck is,” Bolt says. “I think more and more people are moving in this direction, where (they) don’t (want) to give up the comfort just because it’s a truck.”
Callander says there may be some fullsize-pickup buyers who will downsize to the Ranger, but a more likely source of sales is people coming out of cars or CUVs.
“They want that garage-able, park-able, maneuverable urban vehicle,” he says.
Ford exited the small-pickup segment in 2012 due to concerns the Ranger was cannibalizing F-150 sales. Callander says that isn’t a problem anymore as fullsize pickups have grown bigger and more expensive.
“It’s really created this opportunity” below the F-150 to return with a small pickup, he says.
A Ranger 4x2 SuperCab model with a 6-ft. (1.8-m) box begins at $24,300 for an XL base grade, $27,940 for an XLT and $32,210 for a top-of-the-line Lariat.
Four-wheel drive adds roughly $4,000 to those prices, while the SuperCrew 4-door body style is about $2,200 more than the SuperCab configuration.
Destination and handling adds $1,095 to all Ranger prices.
In contrast, pricing for the 2WD ’19 F-150 with a V-6 starts at $28,155 for a regular cab model, $32,240 for a Super Cab and $34,695 for a SuperCrew. Opting for a V-8, long box and 4WD can add thousands more, while specialty grades such as the Raptor, King Ranch and Platinum begin above $50,000 and the luxe Limited grade is more than $67,000 to start.
F-150 destination and handling is an additional $1,495.
Ford is building the new Ranger at its Wayne, MI, assembly plant. The vehicle goes on sale in the U.S. in January, although some configurations may have late availability, Callander says.