Ford About the Trucks
World-market Ranger has similar dimensions as our lame-duck model, with good looks.
Alas, the last American Ford Ranger will reach the end of the line in a couple months, which leaves Ford without a compact pickup for the first time since the early 1970s. However, the Ranger lives on around the world. The truck for other markets is on a wheelbase about 118 inches long, comparable with our lame-duck Ranger's. The new global Ranger's length is also comparable with that of the outgoing model. It still looks like a Ranger -- or like the Ranger should have looked here with some actual updates. The new model goes on sale in 180 markets, including Australia, where the truck was designed and tested, as a regular cab or SuperCab, rear- or four-wheel drive, with a choice of two four-cylinder engines.
Will They or Won't They?
Ford can, but it probably won't. If Ford wanted to, it could bring the Ranger here, and avoid the chicken tax. One of the countries where the Ranger will be produced is South Africa, which is exempt. This would save the company the extra 25-percent charge. But there would still be costs involved in shipping the global Ranger here, costs that would likely make the new Ranger more expensive than the base-model F-150. And thanks to the new 3.7-liter V-6 in the F-150, the bigger, more capable truck is also fuel efficient.
Even if you walk into your Ford dealer intending to buy a new Ranger, how could you not drive out in an F-150 instead? If Chevrolet has the strongest case for this segment, Ford has the weakest. New 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 3.7-liter V-6 options have been a runaway success in the F-150 this year. You'd need to buy the 2WD four-cylinder manual Ranger to get more than a 1-mpg highway advantage over the most efficient F-150.
The F-Series is the truck of choice for construction fleets, while the Ranger is the truck of choice for daily rental fleets. Still not convinced? Ford launched its F-100 tweener-truck program a couple years ago, then promptly dropped the idea when program managers concluded the truck's cost/price and fuel-efficiency advantages over an F-150 would be negligible.
Chevrolet About the Trucks
Strong rumors suggest the current version of the Colorado and Canyon will be discontinued after the 2012 model year. However, as one truck ends production, another one begins. In this case, it's the global-market Colorado. Chevrolet has presented concept versions of the midsize pickup at auto shows in Bangkok and Buenos Aires, both huge markets for global trucks. (According to GM, Thailand is the biggest market for midsize trucks worldwide.) We don't know much about dimensions or engines, but the concepts were shown with a 2.8-liter turbodiesel and 20-inch wheels on one and 18s on the other. The production version of this truck goes on sale in Thailand later this year.
Will They or Won't They?
They might. If Chevrolet does revive the Colorado, it would likely be for the 2014 model year. At that point, it would make the most sense to manufacture it in the USA, which precludes the chicken tax and helps keep UAW employees working. In addition, if the launch of Chevy's upcoming diesel in the 2013 Cruze catches on, it could pave the way for a compact/midsize in the U.S. with diesel power. That engine could possibly even migrate to the Colorado. The diesel-powered Cruze could net 50-plus mpg on the highway; if that engine were in a pickup and only got, say, 40 mpg highway, it would go a long way to help meet CAFE regs. GM's decision whether to sell the next Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon here likely will depend on how the EPA writes the 2017-25 CAFE rules later this year. The rules may not give automakers any advantage in building smaller trucks. In fact, smaller trucks may be a disadvantage when measured against full-size pickups with more efficient powertrains.
Of all the small midsize American pickups about to disappear from our market in the next year, the Chevy Colorado is the one most likely to return. GM's Shreveport, Louisiana, assembly plant closes next summer, and the truck could return after a year off the market. When Chevy unveiled its new foreign-market Colorado with a 2.8-liter diesel in Thailand last summer, there was much speculation that the truck would remain here after all, perhaps to pick up the tens of thousands of Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger customers left with no place to go. Yet, those customers do have someplace to go: EcoBoost Ford F-150s and mild hybrid Chevy Silverados. Even if Chevy sells a 2.8-liter Colorado here for fuel efficiency, the cost of clean diesel would erase much of its price advantage versus bigger trucks. I'd give the 2014 Colorado a 50/50 chance of returning to the U.S. market. If it does, will anyone notice?