In 2011, the Ford Ranger was phased out in order to stop the tiny truck from cannibalizing sales from the F150. Ford has claimed their halo truck to be the number one selling pickup truck for as far back as I can remember (24 years apparently). The Detroit firm has come under increasing pressure from its competitors in the full-size pickup market space. The Ranger's sales numbers have been on the downturn since the late 90s, mostly due to the lack of a bona fide model refresh since 1993; yes, there have been numerous refreshes and improvements in the same fashion as the 911, but that doesn't cut it in today's cutthroat automotive oligopoly. The Ranger sacrificed itself so that Ford could continue to have the marketing slogan, "Best Selling Truck in America," slapped on the F150.
[graph: minnesota public radio]
The absence of the Ranger, and GM's small pickup offering, has left a giant gap in the market. If you are a farmer, industrial worker, or contractor, chances are high that you have, and will continue to pick from the full-size pickup market, but what if you are an office worker, engineer, or mechanical technician who appreciates the cargo space but hardly ever will go off-road?
I genuinely enjoy the Ranger, and daily drive it to and fro. I use the truck bed minimally and never travel through terrain which requires a high ground clearance. There has got to be an automotive solution that can fill this void, without encroaching so severely on the F150's market space. What is that weird car with a truck bed thing they sell in Australia? a Ute? Sounds Interesting…
A Ute would be the perfect filler of this market hole. Australia's exclusive Falcon Ute MKII is already being built 'down under'. The research and development would be minimal; change to US license plates and hope it doesn't restrict airflow to the radiator. Introducing the Ute may cannibalize sales, but what new model hasn't cannibalized sales? The fact of the mater is, some consumers need the flexibility of the open-top cargo space and the (sometimes percieved) towing capacity without the need for ground clearance. The recent push for increased MPG will also sway buyers towards the Falcon Ute and away from competitors' full-sized trucks.
Right now, Apple is creating a plastic iphone to steal a majority market share back from Google; never mind that Apple's profit margins are exponentially greater than Android's. The purported cheaper iphone will indubitably steal sales away from the flagship, yet the pricing geniuses at Cupertino must have calculated that the new iphone will increase profit which trumps any other number. Introducing the Falcon Ute into the North American market is Ford's plastic iphone; it's an attempt at something different, something cool, without the development risk.