DETROIT — Nobody buys small pickups anymore. Nobody wants a truck-based SUV, either.
That was the thinking just a few years ago for many automakers, including Ford Motor Co.
But Ford executives apparently have changed their tune, as gasoline and oil prices plunge, truck sales soar and discretionary buyers return to the market in droves. Ford and its dealers have become restless on the sidelines as General Motors sells every midsize pickup it can build and Jeep makes bank month after month.
“It would be nice to have a piece of that,” said Kevin Shaughnessy, general manager of Phil Long Ford of Denver.
He and other U.S. dealers were fired up earlier this week to hear Ford is considering a plan to revive the Ranger pickup and a related SUV that it could call the Bronco.
“I think there is still a market of people that, outside of fuel economy, would just like something that’s more maneuverable and easier to park” than the F-150, Shaughnessy said. In terms of an SUV, he said there’s significant demand for something “more rugged than the grocery getters,” especially one carrying the “iconic” Bronco name.
As part of its contract talks with the UAW, Ford has discussed building a midsize pickup and SUV at its Michigan Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit as soon as 2018, a person with knowledge of the talks said.
In doing so, Ford would reverse one of the signature moves of its transformation during the recession by shifting Michigan Assembly back to body-on-frame trucks. The plant used to churn out big Ford Expeditions and F-150s, Lincoln Navigators and, yes, Broncos before being retooled for the small cars and hybrids the company saw as the key to its future success.
Now, Ford is moving the Focus and C-Max from Michigan Assembly to another country, likely Mexico, and relishing the thought of stocking dealer lots with a wider variety of high-profit trucks.