NEW FORDS ARE TAKING SHAPE IN AUSTRALIA

NEXT-GEN FORD RANGER AND EVEREST FOR THE U.S. COULD BE DEVELOPED IN AUSTRALIA.

WORDS TOBY HAGON

Ford Australia has begun development of the next generation Ranger and Everest at its You Yangs proving ground, which in 2015 celebrated its 50th anniversary. The topsecret facility south-west of Melbourne is already being used to evaluate key rivals to the Ranger in the US market, including the Toyota Tacoma (based on the Prado’s chassis) and Chevrolet Colorado (an Americanised version of the Holden Colorado) alongside the new Ranger PXII.

The revelation adds fuel to the fire that the Ranger will be sold in America – the world’s biggest ute market – where large pick-ups including the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram have dominated the market for decades.

While Ford is yet to confirm the next-generation Ranger for America, US publications have reported union negotiations have begun regarding production of the Ranger in Detroit as early as 2018, suggesting the model life of the current model may run to only seven years.

The current Ranger went on sale in 2011 – well shy of the 10-year-plus lifespan that utes typically have in Australia.

In 2014 Chevrolet introduced the Colorado to the US, where it shades sales of its larger Silverado sibling, but it is still an important volume vehicle and one that executives believe could grow in popularity, given the trend towards downsizing and the focus on fuel efficiency.

The current T6 Ranger and its SUV sibling, the Everest, were designed and engineered by Ford in Australia in collaboration with other Ford entities around the world. 4X4 Australia has been told the Australian engineering team is highly regarded, following the success of the current Ranger – it’s sold in more than 180 countries and makes up almost half of Ford Australia’s sales – and has been trusted with the development of the crucial new global model.

A Ford Australia spokesman declined to comment on the next-generation Ranger and what role local engineers are playing in its development.

When the Ranger does go to America, it’s likely to pick up a petrol engine option, something it currently doesn’t have. While Americans buy diesels in commercial vehicles such as utes/pickups, they also demand petrol alternatives; given toughening emissions standards, that demand for petrol propulsion is unlikely to waiver.

Australia is fast becoming a development hotbed for ute engineering; Toyota engineers used Australia for the bulk of the development work on the just-released Hilux, while Holden and Mitsubishi have also used punishing Australian roads to test their respective Colorado and Triton utes.