Ford Motor is considering a return to the U.S. small-pickup truck market, which it abandoned by axing its Ranger in December 2011.
Ford is scouring its international models for one that it could make work. It won't be the updated Ranger that Ford now sells outside the U.S., often seen by people outside Ford as a logical candidate.
"Too big. It's 90% of the F-150 size," says Dave Scott, Ford 's truck marketing manager.
That means it could steal sales from the 2015 F-150 at a time an expensive redesign is fresh on the market.
Scott says Ford is aiming for a true small pickup, not a midsize such as General Motors' 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, which just went on sale, or Toyota Tacoma.
"We're looking at it. We think we could sell a compact truck that's more like the size of the old Ranger, that gets six or eight more miles per gallon (than a full-size truck), is $5,000 or $6,000 less, and that we could build in the U.S. to avoid the tariff on imported trucks," he says.
The U.S. truck tariff is 25% of the wholesale price.
Scott says there are models in Ford's global array of trucks that could work, but he wouldn't name them. Nor would he say how fast Ford could get such a vehicle into showrooms.
He said it's likely such a model would have unibody construction – not the traditional body-on-frame configuration of all pickups sold in the U.S. except the Honda Ridgeline, which barely is a ripple on the sales charts.
Ford fielded compact unibody trucks called Ranchero based on the 1960s Falcon compact car.
Detroit automakers have been out of the small-truck market in the U.S. for about three years. Once all were gone, it left a void that convinced GM it could jump back in and grab significant sales. It promises to give the segment's king, the Tacoma, a strong fight by offering its Colorado and Canyon as more refined models, with more room and generally more power at prices similar to or lower than Tacoma's.
But the GM models are too big, in Scott's view.
He says a Ford F-150 XL Sport would give a buyer more room, more power, similar mileage and higher towing and hauling ratings, for payments about $20 a month more than the GM mid-size models that are expected to be the best sellers.
He says that price is close enough to pull some GM buyers into Ford's 2015 F-150. "Unless a guy really needs the smaller size," Scott says, such as urban dwellers who must park and maneuver in tight sports.
He also predicts that GM mid-size truck shoppers, steered by salespeople and dealers, often will wind up buying a full-size Silverado or Sierra because the dealerships will work harder to sell the bigger, more-profitable trucks.