The two classic American vehicles are the muscle car and the pickup truck. As each of the Big Three has made newly available versions of their iconic muscle cars (Ford’s Mustang, Dodge’s Challenger and Chevy’s Camaro), it appears that segment is alive and well.
But what about the pickup truck?
The Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram are all big sellers with big engines, big bodies, big beds and big payload capacities. All of them are way up there in pure tonnage, with the right options, hitting the three-ton mark. They’re taller, longer and wider than ever before.
However, as Jeep drivers know, sometimes smaller is better. A heavy truck is a beast, but its weight isn’t always an advantage. They get stuck faster, four wheel drive or not.
In the Jeep world, a small, light, but still powerful truck is the ideal. Seen in that light, a three-ton F-Series may be better off staying in the parking lot.
It’s not just off road that a smaller truck can prove its worth – sometimes smaller is exactly what’s needed on the weekends to do some light hauling. But come Monday, commuting back and forth from work is the main priority. Light loads and economical commutes don’t exactly require a fully loaded F-Series.
But are such considerations reflected in the market?
Ford’s small, compact truck was once a favorite in the marketplace. But Ford points to statistics that show the “small truck” segment has dwindled to 2% of the total U.S. market. To Ford, it’s just not worth it.
So Ford has decided to take an axe to a large portion of its Ranger market. There is a new Ranger this year – it’s just not available in the United States or Canada.
Why did North American consumers abandon small trucks? Ford claims it came from deep discounts – one can buy a full-size truck for about as much as a small one.
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Despite these claims, there seem to be people that want something that isn’t so big. Toyota’s compact Tacoma is still a fantastic seller in this “dying” market. It sold 110,000 last year.
Ford’s Ranger has been the victim of almost criminal neglect since its introduction in 1983. Ford has only occasionally given the Ranger a re-treatment, meaning just sheet metal revisions and minimal changes to the original platform.
Demanding almost full-size prices for a rehashing of a 27-year-old design, it’s no wonder the Ranger’s sales seem like the market has vanished.
On the other hand, Ford has introduced several new takes of its F-series – the generations that have existed alongside the Ranger include one that lasted 16 years, another for seven and another new design in 2005.
That’s three completely new full-sized trucks, while in the meantime the Ranger remained relatively unrevised.
Like Ford’s Crown Victoria (basic structure introduced in 1979 and discontinued in 2011), Ford seems to neglect some models while constantly reinventing others. And again, with the Crown Victoria, Ford claims there’s no longer any market for a full-size, rear-drive, V8 sedan.
It seems it wasn’t the U.S. consumers who abandoned these markets, Ford did. It let its products stagnate, sales fall and then, because the models failed to sell, it concluded there’s no demand.
If, like the F-150, Ford were to consistently update these models and give buyers something new, the market might be right there, waiting with demand and anticipation.
You can’t hand someone the same product day-in and day-out and wonder why he or she succumbs to boredom and disinterest.
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