The Ford Ranger is reaching the end of the line. Production of the compact pickup will stop in December after nearly 7 million units, ending an era that began with the truck's introduction for the 1983 model year.
Originally reported by PickupTrucks.com, confirmation of the truck's demise came from a newsletter distributed by the UAW Local 879, which serves the St. Paul, Minnesota plant where the truck is produced. According to the newsletter, production is slated to cease on December 22, leaving the plant's future uncertain.
The news likely comes as little surprise to truck loyalists, who have watched the entire compact pickup segment lose ground to full-size trucks in recent years. Just 5,713 Rangers were sold last month, down significantly from last year, a pattern echoed by competitors like the Dodge Dakota and Chevrolet Colorado. Ford will try to steer Ranger buyers towards V6 versions of its bigger F-150 pickup, which has similar fuel economy, but a lot more functionality.
Despite the inevitability of the truck's departure, Ranger loyalists will be sad to see it go. Long revered as one of the toughest small pickups on the market, the Ranger's 1983 debut brought a combination of sturdy construction and good fuel economy to the pickup market. Originally offered with a choice of four engines ? including a 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel putting out just 59 horsepower ? the Ranger received few changes throughout the 1980s, though engines were beefed up as demand for stronger acceleration began to outweigh concerns about fuel efficiency.
After its platform was shared with the popular Explorer SUV, which debuted in 1991, the Ranger received a major overhaul for the 1993 model year. A Mazda twin, the B-Series pickup, appeared in 1994. A 1998 redesign helped sales jump to more than 350,000 units per year. However, the truck's sales have been on a gradual decline ever since, dropping below 200,000 in 2004, 100,000 in 2006, and falling to just over 50,000 last year.
Interestingly, while the Ranger has fallen out of favor in the US, it is still popular overseas. Expected to go on sale soon, an all-new Ranger debuted last fall at the Australian International Auto Show in Sydney, one of many world markets where small trucks remain popular.