The Ranger, which Ford planned to unveil Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Detroit auto show, will differ significantly from the F-150.
It has a mostly steel body, eschewing the aluminum diet the F series, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator have undergone.
Instead of the multitude of powertrain options on the F-150, the Ranger will come with one: a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
It includes rugged front and rear differentials from Dana Inc., which also supplies the Jeep Wrangler. An available electronic-locking rear differential should give the vehicle better off-road maneuverability than its bigger brother.
"These buyers have a work/play lifestyle that requires something of a different scale," Eckert said.
Architecturally, the Ranger will differ little from the version sold outside the U.S., but it will be built in Michigan with parts sourced in North America.
Interior and exterior designs have been changed to give the truck a more rugged look for U.S. buyers.
"This is not about bringing the global Ranger here to the U.S. and selling it in our dealerships," Eckert said. "This is about designing and engineering specifically for the North American customer and the conditions the trucks will be put in here."
It will have lots of new technology, such as a standard 4G connected Wi-Fi hotspot, FordPass and precollision assist, as well as other optional driver-assist features.
It will come in three trim levels: XL, XLT and Lariat. Ford will sell two-door SuperCab and four-door SuperCrew configurations.
An off-road FX4 package will be offered across all trims. That will give drivers the terrain-management system first offered on the F-150 Raptor that includes four drive modes: normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand. The package also includes a new "trail control," which acts as an off-road cruise control by accelerating or braking to maintain a set speed while traversing gravel or mountain trails. It's an extension of the automaker's hill-descent control, which controls braking on steep grades. The FX4 package will also come with standard automatic emergency braking.
The Ranger also will have a blind-spot information system with sensors that can extend their line of sight to the back of a trailer up to 33 feet long. The system will be standard on the XLT and Lariat trims.
The interior includes an 8-inch touch screen, as well as two liquid crystal display screens in the instrument cluster. The rear seats offer waterproof underseat storage.
Ford said it expects the Ranger to have best-in-class payload capacity but declined to give details on power, fuel economy, dimensions or weight.
The company hopes to recapture some of the midsize pickup buyers it abandoned when it closed the St. Paul, Minn., plant that built the previous-generation Ranger. It also aims to conquest from other brands, woo some F-150 buyers — though not too many, and only if they otherwise would have defected to a rival brand — and even snatch sales from small crossover and sedan buyers.
It wants the Ranger to add to its strong overall pickup sales; its full-size F series has been the nation's best-selling pickup for 41 straight years.
"We see an opportunity," Eckert said. "It's one thing to get on top, but it's also about staying on top."