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Ford Australia can't afford the new 2022 Ranger ute to be a failure

Last year, the Ranger made up more two-thirds of the Ford Australia's overall volume.

Ford has a problem – it’s Ranger is too popular.

That may sound like a good problem to have (and it probably is), but the fact remains the Blue Oval is so reliant on the Ranger, that their entire company’s success or failure rides on it.

And that’s no exaggeration because the Ranger accounts for a huge 66.7 per cent of the Ford Australia’s overall sales, according to 2020 sales data.

In contrast, Toyota’s most popular model, the HiLux, accounts for just 21.8 per cent of the brand’s total sales; despite out-selling the Ranger. While Mazda’s most popular model (CX-5) makes up 25.6 per cent of the brand’s total, and Hyundai’s i30 is 31.9 per cent of the brand’s total.

We’re written before about the brand’s heavy reliance on the Ranger and asked if either of the brand’s new SUVsEscape and Puma – can find a new audience and take some of the pressure off the ute.

We’ve also questioned Ford’s decision not to engineer the (Ranger-based) Bronco in right-hand drive, given Ford Australia seems popular with those looking for tough, adventurous vehicles (see Ranger, Everest and Mustang).

But the real question facing Ford in 2021 is what impact will the new-for-2022 Ranger have on its sales hopes? And is there anything else in the Blue Oval’s portfolio that could help alleviate some of the pressure on the Ranger?

What we know about the 2022 Ranger

The new Ranger won’t be ‘all-new’ and instead will rely on an evolution of the Australian-engineered T6 platform that underpins the current model. It will use what’s been dubbed the ‘T6.2’ platform, which brings a number of evolutionary changes but saves the company developing an all-new, and very expensive, commercial vehicle platform.

Ironically T6.2 underpins the Bronco, which only adds to the confusion and frustration that we can’t get the Jeep Wrangler rival here.

Power will come from a range of engines, specifically a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder single-turbo diesel that will replace the 2.2-litre four-pot in the current range; while a carryover 2.0-litre twin-turbo four and new 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel will also be available.

While underpinnings will be evolutionary, what we see will be very different. The new Ranger will reportedly fully embrace the tough truck look of the bigger F-150, with a chunkier front end to make it look big and imposing.

A dramatic change in styling and a smaller entry-level engine is a risk for any new model, as it may turn-off for potential buyers and alienate existing customers. Just a situation would be disastrous for Ford Australia, given any significant drop in Ranger sales would hurt its overall performance dramatically.

However, while no model is ‘too big to fail’ the Ranger has been a popular model for the better part of a decade (since the launch of the T6), so customer loyalty should reduce any nervousness Ford’s head office and dealers might be feeling.

The bigger problem for Ford locally this year is the likelihood the new Ranger will be revealed in 2021, but won’t hit showrooms until next year. That could result in sales dip as potential Ranger buyers hold-out and for the new version in 2022; given the volume it accounts for even a small dip will have a big impact on Ford’s overall performance.

Does Ford have a back-up plan?

There’s an obvious option to help Ford expand its range and take some of the burden off the Ranger; especially if the new models can’t match the outgoing one. The Maverick is a smaller ute, based on the same underpinnings as the Escape, Focus and Bronco Sport, that is being readied in the USA to take on the upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz.

In many respects this is an ideal new addition to the Ford Australia line-up. Not as heavy-duty as the Ranger, it would have crossover appeal for those looking for the tough appearance of a ute but the more polished driving manners of an SUV.

The obvious problem is Ford USA’s habit of only engineering these appealing new models in left-hand drive (despite using a global platform), so don’t hold your breath that the Maverick will be in a Ford Australia showroom anytime soon.

But if the Blue Oval doesn’t want to be so reliant on the Ranger, it needs to look for alternatives like the Maverick and Bronco, otherwise the Ranger simply cannot afford to fail.