Ford’s pick-up destined for China

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The Thai built and Australian developed Ford Ranger is headed for China. Ford president and CEO Mark Fields announced that the one-tonne pick-up will be sold in China from 2018 to take advantage of the expanding pick-up market there.

This means the Ranger will now be sold in the world’s two biggest markets, China and North America – making it a truly global vehicle.

It also means more work for the Melbourne-based Ford Asia-Pacific Vehicle Development Centre that is now tasked with developing a China-specific version to suit that country’s roads and customer tastes.

Ford’s latest decision on Ranger is designed to take advantage of a growing appetite for such vehicles in China where pick-up sales grew 14 percent last year.

Pick-up sales still account for less than 2.0 percent of the 20-million-plus vehicle market, but Ford says China has already become the world’s fourth biggest light truck market.

In a recent survey by Ford, Chinese vehicle buyers said pickups traditionally had been perceived as lacking comfort and modern features.

“Chinese customers, however, have had more exposure to modern trucks through TV, film and the internet, and have become more interested in pickups with more SUV-level comfort and refinement to support their work needs and expanding outdoor lifestyle,” Ford said.

As well as the developing attitudes of Chinese consumers towards such vehicles, China has eased restrictions on light trucks in city centers, making them more attractive to private consumers.

Ford Asia Pacific product communications manager Sinead Phipps confirmed that the Chinese version of the Ranger will be made in Ford’s Thai factory, alongside those headed for Australia and a large number of other countries.

It seems probable that if the Ranger takes off as expected in China, local production would be a logical transition. This would bring Ranger production sites to five – Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, the US (from 2019) and China (perhaps).

Ranger is the top-seller in Europe, South Africa and New Zealand, and has been threatening Toyota’s HiLux in Australia where the Ranger is not only Ford’s number-one model but also the nation’s number two in overall sales in some months.

Ford said the Ranger would join the recently launched, American-built F-150 Raptor under the Built Ford Tough umbrella there.