Delay of Ranger redesign hits one supplier hard

Ford Motor Co.’s cancellation of the redesign for the 2003 Ranger struck a blow to some suppliers experiencing an already challenging year. At least one parts maker is seeking compensation for its troubles.

The redesign of the compact pickup has been delayed until the 2006 model, suppliers to the program said. Ford will give the existing Ranger a facelift for 2003.

Ford made the decision earlier this year in what some observers described as a bid to cut costs and focus resources on other programs.

Venture Industries Corp. of Fraser, Mich., is seeking payback for its efforts. It had been selected to provide the Ranger’s composite pickup box, a deal worth about $225 million in annual revenue to the supplier. Production had been scheduled to start in late 2002 and would have required an investment of $40 million to $80 million over several years, Venture said in an April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We are seeking cancellation costs from Ford in connection with the termination of this program,” the company said.

A resolution is pending, a Venture executive said.

“We continue to talk back and forth about how to reach some sort of equitable solution,” said Scott Pickelhaupt, Venture vice president of marketing. “I don’t know that anything has been ruled out.”

Such discussions are not unheard of after a program cancellation, Pickelhaupt said. He declined to say what Venture is seeking or how much the company had spent. A solution could include reimbursement for upfront expenses or consideration for new business.

Ford officials wouldn’t comment on the Ranger redesign cancellation or on its dealings with Venture Industries.

The Ranger’s last major redesign came in 1993, though even then the truck’s underpinnings dated back to 1982. Despite its age, the Ranger remains the nation’s best-selling compact pickup. Ford sold 330,125 Rangers in 2000. Through July 2001, Ford sold 171,666 of the pickups, down 22 percent from the year-earlier period.

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com

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