ADMIT IT. We all felt a bit self-conscious sending the Aussie-designed Ford Ranger over to the US.
We feared that they’d point and laugh at its comparatively modest dimensions and tiny engines and decide that Australia wasn’t a nation of croc-wrestling larrikins, but latte-sipping milquetoasts who were terrified of anything resembling torque. Seems we needn’t have worried.
Confirmed: next Volkswagen Amarok will be a Ford Ranger
The American market has gone nuts for the Ranger. It’s only been on sale for about a month, but the Blue Oval is already scrambling to put on extra shifts at the Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, MI, a factory that previously half-heartedly tumbled out a few Focuses for the American public to ignore.
"Based on the orders coming in, and based on the hand-raisers, we think the demand's going to be so strong, that starting in February our assembly plant will be going into massive overtime," admitted Kumar Galhotra, group VP, Ford North America.
The numbers are indeed dizzying. Ford has confirmed expressions of interest numbering over 300,000 and more are piling in every day. The biggest seller in this segment is the Toyota Tacoma, which hit almost 250,000 sales last year, with the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins managing a combined 170,000 units.
That’s the realistic target that Ford was aiming for with the Ranger, but it looks as if it could easily sail past General Motors.
Of course, the Ranger has history here. In its heyday in the mid-Nineties, the Mazda B Series-based pick up often sold in excess of 300,000 vehicles per year before sales of the third gen model tanked in the mid-2000s.
It’s been seven years since Ford has offered a Ranger for sale in the US, so there was naturally some trepidation about how well it would be received, especially at a higher price point than its GM competition. Relying on efficiency when gas prices are pegged low seemed a risky strategy but it’s one that looks to be paying off in spades.
“We think when you put a 10-speed transmission behind a 2.3 EcoBoost we’re essentially going to deliver a truck that gives capability, confidence similar essentially to the bigger engines in the segment with the efficiency of the smaller engine. That’s our target. That’s what we’re going to try and do,” Ford Chief Program Engineer Rick Bolt said during Ranger’s reveal.
The Ford’s not going to have things entirely its own way, however. The Jeep Gladiator pick up is incoming shortly, as is a refreshed Toyota Tacoma, just revealed at the Chicago Auto Show.