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Ford studies the hottest Ranger pick-up ever, inspired by the F150 Raptor sold in the US.
Forget the fake stickers and grilles, could there soon be a genuine Raptor version of the next Ford Ranger?
The global head of Ford Performance vehicles was in Australia last week for a ceremony to mark the start of the world's first mass production of carbon fibre wheels in Geelong for the upcoming Mustang.
But CarsGuide understands the high ranking executive stayed on for two more days to assess the possibility of a Raptor version of the next generation Ranger pick-up, due in 2019.
Ford Australia is the global "home room" for the development of the current Ranger and has already started work on the new model. Ford is also understood to have registered the 'Ranger Raptor' nameplate.
But he is also the man who came up with the idea for the F150 Raptor, boldly convincing Ford to move away from the F150 Lightning pick-up to a desert-racer style alternative.
The F150 Raptor has been such a huge hit in the US, sales of the original model were higher in the last 12 months of its model cycle than in the first 12 months.
Ford has noticed the countless Raptor "lookalikes" in Australia
Ford is now putting the finishing touches on the second generation F150 Raptor, based on the new aluminium-bodied pick-up.
It will be powered by a twin turbo V6 rather than a V8 and has a 10-speed automatic transmission.
It is due on sale in the US some time next year, but there are no plans for the new F150 Raptor to come to Australia because it is not made in right-hand-drive.
There was strong interest in such a vehicle
However, Ford has noticed the countless Raptor "lookalikes" in Australia, with dealers and private buyers fitting non-genuine Raptor grilles and stickers to their current generation Ranger pick-ups.
Ford has also noticed the higher than expected demand for top-end versions of the Ranger such as XLT and Wildtrak, both of which can stretch beyond $60,000 once on road costs and a few accessories are added.
Mr Hameedi would not be drawn on the possibility of a Raptor version of the new Ranger, but he told CarsGuide he knew there was strong interest in such a vehicle.
"At the end of the day, we would love to do a vehicle like that but it all comes down to the business case," he said. "How many can we sell?"
The Ford Ranger is sold in 180 countries, and while not all of them would take a flagship Raptor edition, there is an opportunity to get enough sales globally to support a development program.
However, the Ranger Raptor would likely be a high-powered diesel rather than a petrol-engined beast given most Ranger models sold globally are diesel.
Meanwhile, there have been reports out of the US speculating the next generation Ranger will be built in the US (as well as Thailand, South Africa and Argentina) to compete with the hugely successful Chevrolet Colorado ute.
If Ford were to re-introduce the Ranger in the US, surely North American customers would want a mini Raptor too? We hope so.