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Ram may be odd brand out if Ranger returns

by Bill Cawthon on

The unconfirmed rumor that Ford might bring the mid-size Ranger compact pickup to the United States could leave Ram brand in a bind.

The Ranger is currently built in Thailand, South Africa, and Brazil; the rumor mill has a North American version built in Michigan, replacing the Focus and C-Max, which are moving to Mexico.

Ford-Ranger-Blue-Web

The shift could be part of a job-saving deal with the UAW, which was angered by the reassignment of the cars.  Ford is coming into the home stretch of negotiations for a new, four-year contract. The current agreement expires on September 14.

The Ranger, which is sold almost everywhere in the world except North America, would need to altered to meet U.S. safety and emissions requirements, as the Fiat 500 was. The move is more feasible now that the new F-150 is bringing in higher transaction prices.

If the Ranger does return, Ram will be the only pickup maker without a mid-size truck.

With the addition of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, sales of mid-size pickups have soared 62% through July. Every existing model except the Nissan Frontier, which is due for a major refresh once the new Titan is on the market, has posted big gains. The Toyota Tacoma, the current market leader, has had a 20% sales increase in the first seven months of 2015. GM has delivered 66,455 Colorados and Canyons.

It doesn’t appear that the mid-size trucks are cannibalizing sales of their larger siblings. Sales of the Tundra, Silverado and Sierra have all outperformed the market this year.

So does Ram sit on the sidelines? For now, the answer is most likely “Yes.”  The Fiat Strada (Ram 700 in Mexico) would be expensive to adapt for the U.S. market and is most likely too small. The Mitsubishi L200 Triton, built in Thailand, would have trouble competing with the others, all of which are built in the U.S., and it’s only made with a four-cylinder diesel engine.

There’s also the issue of durability of the market. GM has been here before and the long-term results weren’t pretty. Ford would be adapting an existing vehicle so the investment in adding U.S. production isn’t nearly as costly as developing a whole new truck.

Ram CEO Bob Hegbloom’s focus is on increasing Ram truck sales to commercial buyers, so a re-birth of the Dakota is not just not on the back burner: it isn’t even on the stove.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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