mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ford's strange small pickup avoidance...

Ford has decided to shelve it's plans to build the Ford F-100, a 9/10th scale version of the F-150 pickup. Instead, they will dump money into more fuel efficient power plants for the F-150.

I think the F-100 was a bad idea - it wasn't small enough to make a difference. But I'm not sure more fuel-efficient big trucks are the answer either (and it will be interesting to see how GM's hybrid Escalade and Tahoe sell).

Now, I'm a little biased on this. I own a 2006 Ford Ranger, the little pickup that Ford has tried it's damndest to get people to not buy. They haven't seriously updated it since 1993, they never advertise it, most dealers only keep 1 or 2 in stock, and the interior lacks such basic accoutrements as decent cupholders or a mirror on the driver's side sun visor. Yet Ford has managed to sell nearly 30,000 of them in the first 4 months of 2008.

Any time a thread about the pickup market gets posted on various car blogs, people mourn the loss of vehicles like the Ranger. There seem to be a lot of people like me - people who want a cheap truck that they can haul things in when necessary, but don't need the size/price of a bigger truck. A smaller truck like the Ranger is also useful for people who don't want the added bulk of a full-sized truck. The Ranger doesn't get great gas mileage, but it's better than a full-sized truck. Yet Ford hasn't updated the Ranger, will probably kill it soon, and doesn't seem to be interested in bringing in the Thailand-built version it sells in other parts of the world.

Yes, I know car makers are smart and do lots of research. I know that designing and building new models, or even modifying them for US sales, is expensive and time-consuming. Maybe they do know something I don't. But it seems to me like there is a market for small trucks, and that if anything that market is poised to grow, as people want the ability to haul stuff when necessary but have to trade off against $4 gas. It seems like a niche that the right company could fill. The small pickup market might not be as large as crossover SUV's (a category in which Ford has managed to have 3 entries - the Flex, the Edge, and the Taurus X) or full-sized pickups, but there is a lot less competition as well, and a company with the right product could own the market. Ford doesn't seem to want to be that company, and I'm guessing at some point some other company will.


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