Here's why, in short: The new Ranger that was just introduced at the Australian International Auto Show in Sydney is a good deal larger than current versions—so much larger that it might overlap, to shoppers, with smaller F-150 models.
Almost-F-150-sized Ranger wouldn't fit so well
"We're moving it to a position of real capability," explained Schirmer, saying that Ford wanted to provide "performance leadership with this model," which also unfortunately meant bringing it to a size that would come too close to overlapping with the F-150 model lineup in North America. Although the new Ranger is about six inches narrower than the F-150, it's within just two or three inches in length.
Where it will be sold, in markets ranging from the Asia-Pacific region to South America and South Africa, the new 2012 Ranger is powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, or a 3.2-liter in-line five-cylinder turbo-diesel, making 200 hp. The larger engine makes 347 pound-feet of torque—as much as some V-8s. Those engines come mated to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions; a version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission are also offered.
While the exterior of this truck bears a strong likeness to the 2011 F-150, the interior carries some design cues that are part of Ford's new global look (with a central controller and high-mounted screen), as well as some detailing borrowed from the F-150 as well as Bosch and DeWalt power tools and G-Shock watches, according to the automaker. The new truck comes with the all the updated connectivity features including an iPod connector and Bluetooth, as well as steering-wheel controls.
Shrinking demand for compacts
Overall, the compact truck segment is less than a quarter the size it was just a decade ago—from one million per year down to about 230,000.
Ford's Schirmer attributes this to several things; one of them is that the Ranger's longtime luster in company fleets has started to fade. A lot of Ranger buyers were fleet purchasers, choosing that model only because of price, Schirmer said. "It was often times only a purchase because it was an inexpensive Ford product, not as a pickup." Which, at the same time, always limited what could be done to keep the model updated.
Then on the personal-use side, many Rangers were bought by commuters, who didn't really need a truck. There, too, it was because buyers simply wanted a low-price, fuel-efficient Ford. "It just happened to be a pickup truck," Schirmer quipped. "If you need a pickup to work, you're buying an F-Series."
And those pricing boundaries might have been getting somewhat muddled as of late. According to the Detroit News, it might only cost $20 a month more to get into an F-150.
Larger F-150 family makes sense for Ford
"Ford wanted more people to be in the F-150 family," said Jesse Toprak, vice president for industry trends at TrueCar. "There are going to be net losses" in terms of sales, added Toprak, but he thinks that the decision will save them money on both the production side—with economies of scale—and with marketing, giving them a clear product message.
As Ford strives to produce even more F-150 models to fit customer needs—including better fuel efficiency—the Ranger "becomes less relevant in North America," according to Schirmer.
However, the F-150 isn't yet as affordable or as fuel-efficient as the Ranger. It's close in some trims, but the base Ranger's 22 mpg city, 27 highway EPA rating is still well ahead of even the base 2011 Ford F-150 V-6, which has been rated at 16/23.
Ford is anticipating that many business buyers will move into a Transit Connect, or into a base F-150 V-6, while other buyers might either move up to an F-150 or into a more fuel-efficient Focus or Fiesta. "We're not as heavy on the truck side as we once were," said Schirmer.