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RICK KRANZ

After nearly 3 decades, Ranger waves the white flag

At one time, the Ford Ranger was the top-selling compact pickup.U.S. production ends Friday.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Production of Ford's little workhorse is coming to an end.

The Ranger pickup, a popular U.S. compact truck for decades, will end production Friday morning.

The pickup debuted in 1982. At times, it was the top-selling U.S. compact pickup. Ford says 6,657,881 Rangers have been sold.

Ranger's best year was 1999, when 348,358 were sold. Sales this year through November tallied 64,114, a 26 percent increase over the first 11 months of 2010 and good enough to place No. 2 overall in compact truck sales. Mazda even had a version of the Ranger, known as the B series.

Over its history, the Ranger became a popular pickup with America's youth, handymen and some tradesmen. But as the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and the former Dodge Ram battled for sales with big rebates and generous lease deals, compact intenders discovered they could easily afford a full-sized pickup.

The result? Ranger sales suffered.

In more recent years, Ford focused engineering and technology updates on the F-150. The Ranger's improvements essentially amounted to cosmetic changes. Ford pretty much gave up on the compact pickup market.

Meanwhile, the competition intensified. Rivals made improvements and their models grew in size and capability. Today the Toyota Tacoma is No. 1, holding 37 percent of the small pickup market. The Ranger is No. 2 with 24 percent, followed by the Nissan Frontier, 17 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The Chevrolet Colorado is a distant fourth with a 10 percent share.

As for Ranger, Friday it will wave the white flag and surrender. The last Ranger will roll off the assembly line at Ford's Twin Cities plant in St. Paul, Minn.

While the Ranger name will die here, it continues around the globe, specifically on Ford's new mid-sized pickup. But Ford says there are no plans to sell the mid-sized Ranger here.

So for now, at least in the United States, the Ranger name will be filed away with such Ford nameplates as Falcon, Fairlane, Pinto, Maverick, Granada, Ranchero, Crown Victoria and Thunderbird.

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