In what should have been a celebration for the Ford Ranger's 30th birthday here in the U.S., it's instead getting the axe, with the pick-up truck's production ending at the automaker's Twin Cities assembly plant December 22, 2011.

A newsletter from the United Auto Workers 879 confirmed the next model yeah will be the end of the line for the pick-up, and considering there haven't been any major design overhauls for the U.S.-spec Ranger for several years, it was only a matter of time before an announcement like this was made. The Ranger has also been on a steady decline, selling 50,000 units in the most recent year, which comes nowhere close to the 300,000 units sold just over a decade ago.

The compact pick-up first arrived on lots in 1983, and was meant to compete with the Datsun, Toyota pick-ups, and other small trucks in the segment. Now its competition consists of its big brother, the full-size F150, and the Toyota Tacoma. The Ranger's sales numbers have been overshadowed the Tacoma in recent years by a significant margin. Rather than attempt to outshine the Tacoma, it seems that Ford has opted to remove the Ranger from the North American market completely.

Although not popular in its class in the U.S., the Ranger is a highly sought-after compact pick-up in other parts of the world, with word going around that Ford is developing an all-new Ranger "T-6," destined for 180 markets worldwide, but not for the U.S. or Canada. Ford has yet to announce a replacement for the U.S.-built Ranger, but we're thinking Ford will instead focus on the Ford F-150, complete with its new 3.7-liter V-6, as its replacement for now.

More than 7 million Rangers have been built during the model's lifetime.