Ford will bring back two old light truck nameplates sometime in 2018, according to a union official representing the Michigan plant where the Bronco SUV and Ranger pickup will be produced.
The two models will go into a suburban Detroit plant that has been producing some of Ford’s smaller passenger car lines. The Focus sedan and C-Max people-mover will move to Mexico, a plan that triggered a tirade by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. His campaign has not responded to a request for comment on the latest development.
Ford has repeatedly said it would find new work for the Michigan Assembly Plant in the suburb of Wayne, but not what would go there. It turns out union leaders have known about the replacement products for some time.
“It’s not a secret,” United Auto Workers Union Local 900 Chairman Bill Johnson told the Detroit Free Press. “It was announced to the entire leadership of the UAW a year ago.”
Ford CEO Mark Fields said last month that the Wayne plant would remain open. It is central to commitments the automaker made to the UAW as part of the four-year contract they negotiated last year.
(Trump, Ford Motor Co. tussle over Mexico. For more, Click Here.)
For its part, however, Ford is not yet ready to confirm specific details, stating only that, “We have committed to two additional vehicles moving into the Michigan Assembly Plant, beginning in 2016, and we remain on plan.”
The Wayne plant has become a political hot potato. Early in the year, GOP candidate Trump called Ford out specifically after the maker said it would move the Focus and C-Max to a new Mexican plant. The New York businessman brought the issue up again when Fields last month announced all of Ford’s small car production would move out of the U.S. Trump declared he would raise tariffs on products entering the U.S. from that plant to punish Ford and drive the work back to the U.S.
For its part, Ford challenged the GOP candidate, issuing a series of tweets to counter his claims during the recent presidential debate.
Ironically, several analysts have said, the shift to light trucks could actually ensure more union jobs, as demand for SUVs and pickups is booming, while sales of small cars have tumbled since oil prices began to decline.
As for the two models coming to Wayne, the Bronco was one of the first sport-utility vehicles to see crossover demand, generating strong sales among buyers looking for something more rugged and flexible than a conventional sedan or minivan. The truck gained some notoriety when it was captured on television being driven by former football star O.J. Simpson as he led police on a slow-speed chase across Los Angeles prior to his arrest on murder charges.
(Click Here for details about the Bronco.)
The Bronco lost momentum, however, as manufacturers shifted towards more car-like SUVs, Ford pulling the plug in 1996 and replacing the ute with the then-new Explorer.
As car-based crossovers have gained momentum, only a handful of so-called “truck-trucks” remain on the market. But Ford apparently believes there is at least a reasonably sized market left for a more classic model.
Specifics are vague, though Ford revealed a very angular Bronco concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Some fan sites have suggested the maker might base the new version on the Ford Everest sold in Australia. It is unclear whether there will be a two-door model, a four-door, or both.
As for the Ranger, that long-lived pickup ended its U.S. run in 2011 when Ford also closed its aging Twin Cities Assembly Plant near Minneapolis. The truck was a victim of the overall decline in the U.S. midsize pickup market, as well as new safety regulations that would have required a costly makeover.
Until recently, Ford had said it didn’t see a market for a new midsize because pricing would be so close to that of the wildly popular F-150 that it felt buyers wouldn’t want to downsize. But a surge in demand for other makers’ trucks, such as the new Chevrolet Colorado, led Ford to rethink its strategy.
(Ford moving all small car production to Mexico. For more, Click Here.)
The maker has been selling a Ranger in overseas markets, such as Thailand – one of the places where it is now built. How close the American model will be is uncertain. But the new U.S. Ford Ranger and Bronco models are expected to share the same underlying platform architecture to reduce costs and improve the flexibility of the Wayne Assembly Plant.