They’re related, but how closely: Unveiling of the North America-specific Ranger raises questions about how much of their truck might come to the impending NZ-bound update?
COMMON bones notwithstanding, talk of North America’s just-revealed Ranger one-tonne utility being a good barometer for what an impending update of New Zealand’s favourite ute will bring here pure conjecture.
This is from Ford New Zealand in reaction to speculation that the models are less as Ford would have it – kissing cousins - and more brothers in arms.
However, the Auckland-domiciled brand is cautious to not fuel such chat.
In response to being asked if there is any truth to talk sparked by the model being shown off ahead of its full debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, brand spokesman Tom Clancy offered: “It would just be conjecture at this point.
“Ford Ranger is sold in more than 180 global markets, yet the Ranger introduced at NAIAS has been honed for the North American market.
“That includes the chassis, powertrain, much of the body and technology – along with the Built Ford Tough durability testing regimen – is unique to that market.”
And that’s it?
“There are similarities in that the new Ranger just revealed at NAIAS will be the best-looking, most-capable truck available in its class… just like ours, which will be revealed at a later date.”
Detroit has never denied what’s obvious: That the North America-specific model is based on this country’s favourite truck.
Also, even though it has pointed that the vehicle bound for the US and Canada is tailored to the North American market and is built there, it also readily agrees it’s a derivative of what we see.
Ford Motor Company North America executive vice-president and president Raj Nair highlighted this during the US Ranger’s reveal.
He said the Asia Pacific Product Development Centre in Broadmeadows, Melbourne, played a significant role in preparing the US-market Ranger. The same office, of course, also shaped the Ranger we know so well.
Yet there are clear differences.
The US-built Ranger takes an engine not offered in any Ranger here – the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit from the Mustang and Focus RS.
The US market editions also tout autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – a feature presently restricted to the Wildtrak here – pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitoring, depending on variant.
The American truck also has a 10-speed automatic transmission, co-developed with General Motors, in place of the six-speed that presently offers here.
Such treatments could well pay off handsomely for Ranger here, of course.
Certainly, anything that keeps it on a high will be good for Ford New Zealand.
Ranger is of especially high priority to the brand; being its best-selling model by considerable – and, some would argue, uncomfortable – margin.
It regularly appears to account for more than 60 percent of monthly Ford volume. That’s unprecedented by any commercial model. By comparison, the second-best selling ute, the Hilux, generally achieves no more than 22 percent of Toyota’s monthly count – not just nowadays but even when it ruled the sector.
Even so, with the market taste for utes remaining unsated, Ford is riding a remarkable winning streak – four consecutive years the top ute, three as the country’s overall No.1 best-selling vehicle.
The pick up/chassis cab four-by-four segment was the second strongest of 2017, accounting for 14 percent (22,175 units) of all new vehicle sales (excluding heavy vehicles). They were bettered only by medium sports utility vehicles, which commanded a 17 percent share, some 26,515 units.
Last year was Ranger’s best here - it commanded 9420 registrations, compared with 8106 for the Hilux and 7797 for the Toyota Corolla.
Australia’s medium ute market is also ramping up – though there Ranger was second to Hilux last year – and now America is back in the game.
Since 2014, the mid-size pick-up segment in the US has grown 83 percent, paving the way for the Ranger to return later this year for the first time since US production of the previous-generation model concluded at the end of 2011.
Styling-wise, the US Ranger stands apart from ours in having LED headlights and tail-lights, a twin-power dome bonnet, a twin-bar front grille insert, restyled steel front and rear bumpers, wheel arch extensions and a reshaped tailgate in which the word 'Ranger' is embossed.
The interiors are more alike, though the North American rig’s centre stack has been mildly restyled and it has a different gear lever.
DETROIT SHOW IN PICTURES: latest images from the NAIAS on pur news page.