Sales, and Trucks, Shrink at Ford

Pickup trucks, which have dominated the sales charts in the U.S. for several decades, are in steep decline. They’re not going to disappear, but the warning shots have been fired—the Toyota Camry sedan slipped into the number two spot in between Ford and Chevy’s pickups sales in April for the first time in recent history. Ford, the truck leader, reacted by cutting truck production by 15 percent in the second quarter with deeper cuts to follow in the latter half of the year.

But here’s the dilemma: Trucks are big moneymakers for Ford (and other automakers), so the company is reluctant to go cold turkey on the genre. Even if $4 gas has many folks rethinking whether they really need a full-size pickup, Ford thinks the utility of a pickup can still be a draw—if it’s made slightly smaller and more fuel-efficient. That was the genesis of the mini-truck—now called compact pickups—segment back in the 1970s, which saw Japanese manufacturers establish a new beachhead in America.

This time around Ford is looking at using technology to produce a truck with lighter weight and better fuel economy. Supplier and industry sources told Automotive News that the new truck, which will go into production in early 2011, will be sized between the current compact Ranger and the F-150. The vehicle could offer the fuel economy of the smaller truck with all of the towing and hauling capabilities of the larger one. To accomplish this goal, Ford will use a number of off-the-shelf efficiency strategies—“EcoBoost” in Ford marketing lingo—and will cut weight from the typically heavy pickup.

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  • Skeptic

    I only feel bad for the folks that actually need pickups for their work.

    For all the other poseurs … well, they probably won’t be able to afford the payments on their boat much longer …

  • go smaller

    if you are considering a full sized pick up, look at the Ford Ranger or the Chevy S-10 since you could do everything in a small pickup that you could do with a full sized one. if you need one to have a big payload no problem get the ranger and just tow a trailer behind it to increase the storage area. the only reason someone needs a full sized pickup is if they have a fithwheel to tow or something that weighs over 5,500lbs so look at the ranger before you look at the f-150 or the silverado

  • schafetz

    I would not want anything less than an F250 for towing horse trailers, especailly up and down hills on the East Coast. An F350 dually diesel is better.

  • Need2Change

    I’m afraid that by 2011, improving truck mpg by 3-5 mpg won’t be enough. By then gasoline will be over $6/gallon.

  • Indigo

    I think in the next few years (when gas prices are in the $6-$8/gallon range), you really will see only contractors and haulers buying heavy pickup trucks. They are the only ones who ever really needed them in the first place. But Ford is going to have to figure out something else to sell (hint to Ford: there is a type of small four-wheeled vehicle called a “car”. Toyota and Honda have been making them for years!)

    For the so-called “Big Three” it has cracked me up that they whine about how their land-barges aren’t selling but they never ask “How come there’s always a waiting list for the Prius?”

  • noezanswer

    Good point!. Unfortunately, there are two problems with this. The first is that if you need a small truck with a towing capacity even close to an F150, the only real option would be the Ranger with the 4.0 engine with the towing package. Ford also puts the 2.3 and 3.0 litres in Rangers but they are not powerful enough to tow safely. I own a Ranger (4×4) with the 4.0 engine and it gets almost the same exact mileage as an F150 two wheel drive. Also, Ford has announced that Ranger production will end in 2009. This means that the two remaining compacts (Ranger and it’s twin Mazda B series) will no longer be available. It’s interesting how compact pickups died out and only the Ranger/Mazda B series remained, only to be dropped as well. Even sales of the original Toyota Tundra were weak because the size of this truck was bigger than a compact but smaller than a full size. Toyota saw how well full size pickups were selling and redesigned the Tundra to be as big as all the other full size pickups on the road. Now with gas prices increasing almost daily, I think the car companies are going to have to go back to the drawing board in terms of producing more efficient pickups with lighter frames without losing horsepower as there will always be a market for pickup trucks.

  • uktiger

    In Europe, construction workers drive sub-compacts and scooters to work.

    The hillbilly, four-wheel drive, balls hangin from the bumper, monster chrome wheels mentality will end.

  • carLover

    I think this is because of the hybrid cars. I never heard of hybrid trucks before. And maybe Ford needs one too. And I’m sure will support this. And I love Ford for making great and cool trucks.

  • Think Tank of One

    There is still a big market for compact pickups for all the weekend warriors who would use them for camping, hunting, and hauling motorcycles, quads, wave runners, small boats and the like. Not to mention the tradesmen who need to haul supplies and delivery drivers who need superior gas mileage. The problem is that gas mileage for these vehicles has not improved much in 20 years and no one seems to be working on a serious hybrid for the compact truck market. Those who could buy a new pickup are hanging on to their old ones and buying a new hybrid or fuel efficient car instead. Now one would think Ford of all companies would put a compact hybrid truck into production. After all, they have the Escape Hybrid SUV. Instead Ford is killing the Ranger. No wonder the American Auto industry is in decline! Give us a Hybrid Ford Ranger that gets 35-40 mpg please!

  • Tow Truck King

    For me, the bigger the truck the better. I grew up loving big trucks, and I ended up building a business with big trucks. As far as I know, we’ll always need big trucks, until we fly around in antigravity ships.

  • workin’ man

    I think I may have some insight on this subject, because I’m the proud owner of a 97′ ranger and an 08′ escape hybrid. The mpg on the escape is better than a Toyota Camry. The ranger is an unstoppable beast; Durability, reliability, and towing capability are more than adequate for most applications. I strongly think Ford should pursue a hybrid ranger. From my understanding the problem with a hybrid ranger would be the towing capacity. The escape hybrid only has a towing capacity of 1,000 lbs. That includes passengers!

  • Peter

    There is a reason Ford is #1 in pickup truck sales.
    The fuel mileage alone will sell this truck.
    They finally got rid of Navistar as their diesel engine supplier, everyone knows an in house project is the best.
    I like Ford because they are actually an independent automobile company, unlike GM & Fiat… Ford owns!