Thursday, June 26, 2008

Profits drive trucks 

So it appears the Ford Ranger may not end up in the scrap heap. Because of fuel efficiency issues, the relatively gas-sipping Ranger looks like it might stay in production for two more years.

"With high gas prices, the Ranger is looking a lot more attractive," said analyst Erich Merkle of IRN Inc., adding that he was aware that Ford was considering keeping the truck alive.

The Ranger debuted in 1982 as a 1983 model, replacing the Ford Courier. The truck has been lauded for its quality and capabilities, but Ford has not made a significant investment in the Ranger for more than a decade, leaving it to languish.

But at 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, the Ranger is the most fuel-efficient compact pickup on the market today. And despite going more than a decade without a significant redesign, it is still the nation's No. 2 compact pickup after the Toyota Tacoma.

Ford originally planned to end Ranger production this year, but agreed to keep St. Paul open for another year as part of its 2007 contract with the United Auto Workers.

So of course politicians will lay claim to being persuasive about the Ranger. Here's St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman:
"Today's report that Ford is considering an extension of the life of the plant is welcome news to Saint Paul. Since before I was elected, I have been calling on Ford to keep the plant open indefinitely. We have been in constant communication with Ford, and we are thrilled with the news that a plant extension may be on the table. "
Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty have engaged in shuttle diplomacy with Ford's Detroit executives as well. But do we really think this had anything to do with keeping those plants open? Or is it more simply that Ford has found other lines that might be losing more money than the Ranger and intends to close those instead? With sales declining generally but Ranger sales up, you had to think they might keep making them regardless of any political pressure.

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