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Future hint Ford Ranger Max

Gibson is Ford's Asia-Pacific design chief and helped put the key design touches on the Max concept.

The Max made its first appearance last week at the Thailand Motor Expo, a country that loves its one tonne pickups.

Although just a concept at this stage, the spicy looking bright orange ute provides a strong hint of what the next-generation Ranger will look like in 2010.

"We have a great opportunity to test design themes that may make their way into production," Gibson says.

"Ranger Max says exciting things about the possibilities for truck fans in the Ranger's future."

Gibson was helped out by Thai pickup specialists, along with Ford's Australia-based Asia-Pacific office and its office in Africa.

Gibson was also involved in designing Ford's 4-Trac off-roader, which debut at the Thailand show in 2005.

He was also behind the Focus concept sedan, which starred in Beijing in 2004.

The second-generation Ranger has been a success story for Ford Australia and Mazda, which repackages it as the BT-50.

Since its launch in 2007 Ford has sold more than 25,000 of the workhorse ute.

Locally strong Ranger sales have underpinned Ford Australia's performance this year with sales of the 4x2 versions up more than 50 per cent and 4x4 versions by 21 per cent.

The ute is available with a 105kW/330Nm 2.5-litre or 115kW/380Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.

Despite the success of Ranger and BT-50 here, the Ranger's fortunes in Asia have not been so kind.

Despite being on the market in second-generation form for three years in Asia, it has received a lukewarm reception there because both the BT-50 and Ranger platforms are carried over from the first-generation models.

An all-new replacement is due now in 2010 if the global car crisis shows signs of a recovery.

Like Australia, a Thai version of the Toyota HiLux dominates the ute market there.

Apart from Toyota and Mazda, Mitsubishi, Honda and Isuzu also build pickups in Thailand for the home and export markets.

The Thai market for pickups is the second largest in the world after the United States.