Perusing the November sales stats, I came upon a surprise of at http://www.media.ford.com – The biggest sales increase posted by any Ford model was for the Ranger. Yup, the homely old (last rebodied in 1992, and the chassis dates from the early 80s) Ranger. The eminently practical little hauler that happily drays a half ton on it’s back while getting 24 MPG if you wisely spec the 4 cyclinder engine and 5 speed manual transmission. And as three decades of Ranger experience shows, will keep hauling for the next couple decades and 200+k miles. Easy to park, easy on gas, and doesn’t feel like you should be paid Teamster wages to drive it… What’s not to like?

Ford disagrees, and as a Ford stockholder, I disagree with Ford. Ford quit taking orders for new Rangers on September 15th, and the Twin Cities Assembly Plant that builds the Ranger was scheduled to close on December 13th, but latest I’ve heard will now stay open ’til the 16th. Ranger inventory is tight- I did a dealer inventory search around Minneapolis and found only a handful with the popular four cylinder engine, and a dozen or so with the thirstier V6. That’s not much inventory for a metro area of three million, and prorating those numbers nationwide suggests there’s only a week or two’s supply of Rangers unsold. In the auto biz where 60 to 90 days of inventory is considered “normal”, that’s an indication of a hot selling model.

Why? Granted, some of these sales are probably to fleet buyers like the phone companies that love the Ranger and are stocking up for the next decade or so. The same thing happened when Ford discontinued the C series cabover truck that the utilities loved- Ford got about a years worth of orders when they announced that execution. But looking back, one sees a steady increase in demand for Rangers these last few months, so this isn’t just fleets “stocking up”. Ranger sales have perked up to around 100,000 a year, which just happens to be the viability point for keeping an existing model in production. Ford and the other automakers have helped boost the Ranger’s appeal by jacking the list prices of there cheapest full size pickups to the $25k range, while you can still drive a Ranger off the dealer’s with change from $20k if you don’t get crazy with the options.So with worker’s real income falling and higher gas prices threatened, is it any surprise that an under $20k light truck that gets 24 MPG is selling like hotcakes? Ford, open your eyes, and keep building the old Ranger- Until you can tool up Twin Cities Assembly Plant to build the 3rd generation Ranger with the diesel power option that the rest of the world already has available!

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