Ford is reportedly contemplating the extension of its Ranger compact pickup lifespan by another two years in an effort to help the struggling automaker better cope with the loss in full-size truck sales, reports The Detroit News.

The Ranger, despite receiving relatively few updates over the years since its inception in 1982 as a 1983 model, is apparently regaining traction in the compact truck segment as a result of rising fuel costs. The 2.3-liter, four-cylinder powered 2WD Ranger with a five-speed manual transmission achieves an EPA estimated 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

Ford sold 36,421 Rangers through June in 2008, up 2.3 percent compared to last year. Sales of bigger, gas-guzzling trucks have declined a staggering 18.7 percent versus 2007 numbers.

According to sources close to the automaker, Ford is looking into lengthening the truck's lifespan until 2011 when an all-new compact truck is expected to debut that will reportedly be built outside of the U.S. The Ranger is built at the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had been scheduled to be dropped from Ford's portfolio next year. It was believed Dearborn originally wanted to scrap the Ranger as early as this year, but was persuaded by UAW officials to keep production rolling.

UAW representatives are trying to convince Ford executives that it is in both parties' best interests to maintain Ranger manufacturing at St. Paul past 2009, citing the aforementioned growing sales numbers. A number of truck plants under Ford's watch are about to begin retooling in order to shift to production of more fuel efficient passenger cars demanded by consumers -- a possible outcome for the St. Paul plant if Ford does indeed decide to pull the plug on the Ranger in 2009.

The devastating fuel crisis has also forced the Blue Oval to reconsider its upcoming 'Boss' 6.2-liter V-8 that was slated to power the next-generation SVT Raptor F-150. As a result, the project has unofficially been relegated to the back burner.

If Ranger production is maintained until its globalized replacement arrives in three years, Ford will be faced with mildly redesigning the Ranger to conform to updated safety regulations that mandate standard side-impact airbags starting next year. Although the redesign would be relatively minor, it would amount to more costs that Ford is trying hard to diminish.

In addition, Ford's F-100 truck, which is essentially a smaller F-150, is also reportedly still on track, with the automaker said to be considering a high performance model with a tuned EcoBoost engine on board.

Source: The Detroit News