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Ford Ranger: The compact pickup warrants a comeback

The last Ford Ranger pickup truck built in

The last Ford Ranger pickup truck built in North America rolled off the assembly line at the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minn. (Dec. 16, 2011) Credit: Ford Motor Company

There's been a lot of debate about whether Ford should get back into the entry-level pickup truck segment. Whether you call it compact or midsize, common sense dictates that many people are interested in a downsized pickup. Unfortunately, Ford has been clear from the beginning: Its data doesn't support investment in a midsize pickup anymore, and besides, most Ranger buyers simply stepped up to F-150s. We think that point is debatable and would suggest there may be more interest in this segment nowadays than ever before.

So far, General Motors is the only company talking about a "three-truck" strategy, where it will offer three clear pickup choices to consumers: small (Colorado and Canyon), medium (Silverado and Sierra) and large (Silverado Heavy Duty and Sierra HD) lineups.

But others could follow. We've been hearing that Nissan could jump into the heavy-duty segment (it makes heavy-duty platforms for the NV lineup). Likewise, we think it would make sense for Ford to experiment with a "small truck," especially since it has two strong and durable van platforms in the Transit Connect and larger Transit that could offer a new, more creative interpretation.

Imagine a new type of smallish pickup truck, possibly with a reinforced unibody chassis and a more modular, reconfigurable rear section. The only thing limiting the possibilities would be Ford's imagination. It has an excellent selection of engines, the load floor could be ridiculously wide and low, and the payload and hauling numbers could be class leading without much re-engineering.

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