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The continued decline of the American manufcaturing sector...
December 23, 2011 9:45 AM   Subscribe

On December 19th, Ford closed the doors of their St Paul auto plant, ending 800 jobs and 86 years of history. The plant was closed as part of Ford's move to end the Ford Ranger in North America, a truck that will still be available overseas. Born of the 80s gas crisis, the Ranger has been Ford's compact truck for almost forty years. Ford blames demand for large trucks and the shrinking gap in price between the compact and full-sized truck markets, spurring concern about the future of the compact truck market in North America.
posted by Stagger Lee (93 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Please forgive the continued decline of typing and spelling in North American.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:46 AM on December 23, 2011


This is one of those things were it just seems like letting it die on the vine. I can understand why due to declining sales in it's class. It wasn't like their minivan where it was just terrible and the class was slowing as a whole. The Ranger, along with the Panther platform (Crown Victoria, Town Car) was an absolute cash cow for Ford. The tooling had been paid off long ago.

The Ranger was an still an actual compact pickup, though. Look at the rest that have seemed to follow the Dakota into mid sized land. Although if you look at other classes, they all succumb to it. The Civic is larger than the original Accord, and so on.
posted by narcoleptic at 9:54 AM on December 23, 2011


It's because I crashed my Ford Ranger last month, isn't it? (I loved that little truck. Stupid red-light-running guy.) I kinda want another truck for home-improvement stuff, but I really don't want a monster truck.
posted by epersonae at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2011


Isn't the issue essentially that Toyota and Nissan make much better small trucks?

Also, your "market" link is borked.
posted by ssg at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2011


So, apparently the recession (and fuel prices) aren't so bad that we all need to downsize to smaller trucks?

(Love my Ranger *sigh*)
posted by Melismata at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ford really has only themselves to blame. The Ranger has always been treated as the ugly stepchild in their product line-up, and has always been a piece of crap, even when compared to their GM/Chevy counterparts. Ford did little to improve it or promote it, allowing demand to whither-away. I can't tell you the last time I saw a recent version of the Ranger on the roads around here. Most of the Rangers I see seem to date from the 90's.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:58 AM on December 23, 2011


The Ranger was always a pretty crude and low-mpg truck, but compared to the redesigned F150 with the new EcoBoost engine, the Ranger seems positively antediluvian. I mean, the Ranger with a V6 is rated at a lower mpg than the F150, which is much more comfortable and vastly more capable for anything except parking in tight spaces.

a truck that will still be available overseas.

Well, that's the new, redesigned Ranger. No one wants the old one.

It's not that no one wants a small truck anymore, but that no one wants to pay almost as much for a crappy and old-school little truck, compared to the far better larger truck that has received all of the engineering dollars for a couple of decades.
posted by Forktine at 9:58 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is 'murica damnit, we like our trucks like our value meals, supersized.
posted by tommasz at 9:58 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, I hate those huge trucks. I'd love it if there were vehicle weight restrictions for the standard driver's license. That got progressively lower as time went on. So like we could get most vehicles on the road down below 2000lbs empty. And then get even lighter. Because lighter vehicles are much safer not just for occupants but for others. And if you needed NEEDED a big van or big truck or something, the licensing would be really harsh and you'd have to pay a lot of money per year to register it.

Of course that will never happen.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:01 AM on December 23, 2011 [24 favorites]




This is one of those things were it just seems like letting it die on the vine.

Most of the industry writers seem to be claiming that the small truck is dying, but I don't buy that yet myself. My amateur opinion is that we'll see a flood of imports, and that what's dying is American manufacturing, not the small truck.

It's hard to say from where I sit though, because I'm in the big truck capital of Canada and you're not a man up here if you don't have at least a 3/4 ton.

As a side note, I apologize for the less than perfect articles. It's really hard to find automotive industry writing that holds up to the level of analysis and writing that I'd like to see here.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2011


I looked at the 2011 Ranger. It was quite disappointing compared to the Tacoma. The resale values for Rangers are crap compared to the Japanese options.

The only thing that truly stinks about the compact truck market is that the Toyota Hilux isn't available in North America. Damn California emissions standards.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:03 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


ssg: "Isn't the issue essentially that Toyota and Nissan make much better small trucks vehicles of any kind?" ftfy

Pardon my bitterness. I own a Focus, and the wonderful engineers at Ford designed it so that the oxygen sensor gets crushed if you hit a moderate-sized pothole. Which in Los Angeles is approximately every ten feet. A nice $300 hit if you're like me and have no tools and have to take it to a shop for repair. I've never had an O2 sensor last longer than 90 days.

Next time I'm buying an American made car, like a Toyota or a Honda.
posted by mullingitover at 10:03 AM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


You want a compact truck?

I'm happily driving a microvan, and I just wish it didn't have to be 15 years old to be road-legal...
posted by anthill at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


What narcoleptic said--I don't get why Ford is killing off these longtime-success cash-cow vehicles (the E-series van is another one).

Is there something about fuel economy standards or branding or something that I don't understand?
posted by box at 10:09 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know tons of folks who have older Ford Rangers (they're like the official rally truck of the vintage scooter scene: cheap, fit two scooters in the back, and are low to ground so unloading doesn't require a ramp, just two folks with strong arms!)

I dream of the day when I can replace our two vehicles (ancient Corolla and a Dodge Dakota) with one not-too-huge truck that can carry passengers safely (the Dakota has no head protection in the back seat) and also a sheet of plywood (and also doesn't cost $50K.)
posted by vespabelle at 10:11 AM on December 23, 2011



Is there something about fuel economy standards or branding or something that I don't understand?
posted by box at 10:09 AM on December 23 [+] [!]


If you believe this guy, it's about emissions standards. But a quick search shows that there are still alternatives, and GM is apparently considering leaping in to replace the Ranger and Dakota. So that leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:18 AM on December 23, 2011


I live a couple miles from the Ranger plant. The funny thing is that the neighborhood immediately around the plant is VERY upscale -- you wouldn't even know there's a gigantic factory unless you saw the signs or the freight train full of trucks coming out. It turns out that rich people like to live near water for the view, and car plants like to be near water for the cheap hydro power and sandstone (used for many years to make auto glass).

I don't mind Ford cutting the Ranger line. The only reason they survived the economic crash without bailouts is that they were very aggressive about cutting old products in the 2000-2005 era. St. Paul is an expensive place to do business, and compact trucks are a rapidly shrinking segment of the market.

There were some outspoken community members who wanted the government to buy the facility and continue producing vehicles there as a jobs program, which I thought was hilarious. Come on, do people still think the difficult/interesting/lucrative part of making a car is physically assembling it?

I was hoping St. Paul would do something really interesting with the site, like build a high-density development with a light rail connection to downtown (it's only about a mile to an existing light rail line). Sadly, last I heard they're planning to sell the land for an ungodly amount to a suburb-style developer.
posted by miyabo at 10:21 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep. I drive by the plant a few times a week, and it's been plain that they were going to let it die for some time now. I've been in the Twin Cities since '07 and that plant has never looked like anything other than an empty expanse of parking lot and quiet buildings to me. There was very little happening there and they were not doing anything obvious to try to make that change.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:30 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


A weird little bit of trivia about that plant: The movie Gran Torino was written by Nick Schenk based on his experiences living in Northeast Minneapolis, where there is a small but growing Hmong community (and extension of the St. Paul community, the largest urban Hmong community in the world) and a lot of old, ethnic white veterans, many of whom had worked at that Ford plant. The titular Gran Torino was supposed to have been made at that plant.

The actual film was made in Michigan, but its Michigan in name only. It's a Minnesota film, and the Ford Plant looms large in its backstory.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:31 AM on December 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


I kinda want another truck for home-improvement stuff, but I really don't want a monster truck

Ridgeline! 4' wide bed!
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2011


)Sadly, last I heard they're planning to sell the land for an ungodly amount to a suburb-style developer.

Oh god, really? Not my Highland park!

Yuppies unite! We will not stand for this!
posted by Think_Long at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was hoping St. Paul would do something really interesting with the site, like build a high-density development with a light rail connection to downtown (it's only about a mile to an existing light rail line)

It'd probably make more sense to connect via bus or put in a street car line to connect with the Central Corridor. A bridge across the river plus cutting through the park would be extremely expensive.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:40 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really wanted to buy a small pickup truck for my last vehicle, but couldn't bring myself to buy such an ancient design as the Ranger. We seriously need to get rid of the Chicken Tax. When companies don't have to compete in a segment, they won't. If you want a truck, you have to buy the bigger truck that they make. And no one is going to buy a small truck which, because of tariffs, is the same price as a larger truck.

Seriously, it's a 25% tariff.
posted by Quonab at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


(and thanks to sonascope for pointing out the situation for me. I assume his offer still applies.)
posted by Quonab at 10:49 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, Quonab, that is a fascinating article and bit of history (and current affairs!). I wondered why Europe seems to have a range of very nice light trucks that never make it to these shores.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:50 AM on December 23, 2011


Ridgeline! 4' wide bed!

The Ridgeline is barely a truck, and anyway, they discontinued it.

I am sad that the compact truck seems to be going away. I love the little beasts, from the Datsun and Toyota "pickup" to the B2200 and 1st gen tacomas I have had.

I have a second gen tacoma now and I love love love it, but it feels enormous.

I used to drive dump trucks. I test drove a Tundra. It was like driving my old dump truck. It's just enormous. I'll stick with my Taco, but I hope to hell it doesn't explode in size like the 4Runner seems to have.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:52 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm in for a MINI-based stake truck.
posted by cairnish at 10:54 AM on December 23, 2011


If there's a demand, someone will step in to fill it. If too many step in, some will step back out.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:54 AM on December 23, 2011


For the record, I used to own a '96 Sonoma 4x4 which was a hell of a small truck. I hauled all manner of crap in it and it never gave me a bit of trouble. And the 4x4 was perfect for getting around in my rarely-plowed neighborhood.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:56 AM on December 23, 2011


Have you seen the Toyota Tacoma lately? It's fucking HUGE. In my opinion, there is no compact truck available right now aside from used vehicles.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:57 AM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


The demise of the Ranger makes me sad. I bought a 1997 2WD Ranger in 2004 for $1500. She was cosmetically and mechanically pretty good, with about 130,000mi on the clock. Each year I'd put $300-$500 in parts in her to keep her running. She was pretty fun to drive, with the 4L V6 under the hood. I averaged 19mpg around town, and if I could get the rear tires to stick to the asphalt she was reasonably quick.

I had no plans to sell her; in fact I'd just replaced her radiator when the government announced Cash for Clunkers. Reluctantly, I drove her to a dealer in Virginia who sold me a new Nissan Versa and poured some kind of toxic crap in my girl's engine to kill her dead. It was the logical thing to do. I mean, I bought a $1500 truck, drove her for five years and sold her for $4500, but I still miss her every day.
posted by workerant at 11:02 AM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


In my opinion, there is no compact truck available right now aside from used vehicles.

It's not just your opinion - the Tacoma is a mid-size truck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:02 AM on December 23, 2011


I have a small pickup and Mrsgroweler and I always laugh when we see the gigantic trucks that look 4x bigger than ours and have iddy-biddy length beds. We have started calling them open air trunks.
My truck is for pure utility carrying animals and supplies and I can't imagine owning one of those monster trucks that seem useless and some people make them even less useful with fixed tonneau covers.
posted by mrgroweler at 11:03 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still just pissed that the Mahindra attempt collapsed, because a small diesel pickup truck is pretty much my dream vehicle. As a rider of a nice sturdy little Indian-built vehicle, I'm perfectly okay with their origins.

I hear that small trucks are somehow too small, but I ran a gigantic year-long community art project where I was shuttling giant heavy masonry panels, supplies, and extraneous stuff back and forth across Baltimore with my Metro, a Yakima roof rack, and a few well-designed custom jigs. Small trucks require a bit of ingenuity sometimes, but you can always go to Enterprise and rent a monstrous Dodge when you need to schlep gigantic things.

The smallest "small truck" on the market today is still a misery to park in an urban environment, or in a community where you're not allowed to park a large pickup truck (the world outside the suburbs has lots of these). A Ranger was a nice basic easy-to-repair traditional truck, unlike these behemoth things with luxury interiors. Hell, my '79 F150 was a nice small truck compared to the aircraft carriers the US automakers sell, and the foreign makers aren't much better.
posted by sonascope at 11:06 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


My truck is for pure utility carrying animals and supplies and I can't imagine owning one of those monster trucks that seem useless and some people make them even less useful with fixed tonneau covers.

Hauling animals you say ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:06 AM on December 23, 2011


I might go for a 2-door pickup version of the Nissan Xterra. They could call it the Hardbody.

(Yeah, Tacos just keep getting bigger--the first-gen ones are nicely sized, but the second-gen ones are almost as big as the old T100.)

(And yeah, the GM Colorado/Canyon and Nissan Frontier are also classified as mid-sized.)
posted by box at 11:08 AM on December 23, 2011


I had a 1997 4WD Ranger that carried me through college in WV. I moved from apartment to apartment just loading up the small-bed with all my stuff, and I made my big move to Richmond, VA by loading up the back of her so that it looked like a gypsy caravan.

It felt good to be a girl driving a little truck. I would rest my arm on the stick shift a little higher and a little more often than necessary to feel all tough, driving around in pigtails with my Ranger.

After her fuel pump needed replaced, I decided to sell her. But- BUT! She now lives on farm in North Carolina as a work truck. She can roam the fields. I think she'll be happy there.
posted by shortyJBot at 11:14 AM on December 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


(Still, RIP Ford Ranger.)
posted by shortyJBot at 11:14 AM on December 23, 2011


after her fuel pump needed replaced, but BUT!
posted by kitchenrat at 11:20 AM on December 23, 2011


Yeah. It seems absolutely nuts that Ford killed the Crown Vic and Towncar. Yeah, both models were due for a refresh, but people kept buying them anyway.

Ford could have made a killing by retiring the Crown Vic, and slapping a "Crown Vic" badge onto the back of a Focus. That's how entrenched their customer base was. (This is the same reason why GM still sells ancient Cadillac bodies to be converted into hearses; it's iconic within its industry, makes money, and costs almost nothing for them to produce.)

Now, Ford is losing its taxi business to Nissan and Toyota, the police car business seems to be going to Chrysler, while the limo industry still seems to be freaking out about the retirement of the Towncar. Nothing really compares to be chauffeured around in the HUGE back seat of a towncar. (I'm sure it's nice to be driven around in a Rolls or Bentley, but that's an entirely different league)

I had no idea that the Chicken Tax was still around. That's absolutely insane. The move to mid-size trucks also seems to fly in the face of the remainder of the auto industry. I know a ton of Americans (myself included) who really like tiny, cheap, and efficient cars that don't disintegrate every time you hit a pothole.

Despite seeming to have briefly gotten a clue, cars being introduced to the American market are now trending toward being larger and less efficient than their predecessors. The Prius is getting HUGE. I drive an Audi A4 from 13 years ago, and it's a reasonably small car by American standards; the current version of the A4 is larger than the A6 from the 90s (although I'll concede that it uses a ton less gas).
posted by schmod at 11:25 AM on December 23, 2011


When Pontiac was killed off, so too went the revival of the El Camino. Sure, its official name would have been the Pontiac G8 ST, but I'm sure had it been built for the 2010 model year, everyone would be calling it the El Camino.

(The Pontiac G8 will be reborn as the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, though there's no current plan to market a civilian version. Talk of a true El Camino revival is premature.)
posted by stannate at 11:27 AM on December 23, 2011


I'm still just pissed that the Mahindra attempt collapsed, because a small diesel pickup truck is pretty much my dream vehicle. As a rider of a nice sturdy little Indian-built vehicle, I'm perfectly okay with their origins.

For whatever it is worth, you can get a Tacoma converted to diesel if you want. Only 22 grand, however.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:29 AM on December 23, 2011



Despite seeming to have briefly gotten a clue, cars being introduced to the American market are now trending toward being larger and less efficient than their predecessors.


One of the criticisms of the Ranger was that it was almost as big as an F150 now anyway, and used almost as much gas.

I won't argue that it's the case, but why? All of the trucks have been steadily growing, to the point where the Tacoma is considered a small truck.

It was Ford that pushed the size and cost of the Ranger up through the roof until they weren't competitive with their larger trucks, not the drivers.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:31 AM on December 23, 2011


Ugh, a Ranger was the vehicle I had in college...one passenger max, maybe two crammed in uncomfortably. Hardly any covered cargo space. Woefully underpowered 4-cylinder that used more gas than it should've. At least mine was reliable.
posted by aerotive at 11:32 AM on December 23, 2011




Ugh, a Ranger was the vehicle I had in college...one passenger max, maybe two crammed in uncomfortably. Hardly any covered cargo space. Woefully underpowered 4-cylinder that used more gas than it should've. At least mine was reliable.
posted by aerotive at 11:32 AM on December 23 [+] [!]


I keep hearing that, but I've got a 94 with a 2.3 liter engine that has all the power it needs. It's plagued with occasional mechanical issues, but it's the franken-child of four other trucks, so expectations are low.

On the flip side, I absolutely loathe 3/4 tons and "full size" pickups. They're fine to get a job done, but they're not much fun to drive, park, or own.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:35 AM on December 23, 2011


.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:40 AM on December 23, 2011


It's funny to think that we used to have to fill the bed with bags of quik-crete in the winter because otherwise the RWD Ranger would fail to get traction and just go in circles on the ice. I can't imagine having that problem with one of those F150s that looks like it was designed to knock over large concrete structures.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:45 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine having that problem with one of those F150s that looks like it was designed to knock over large concrete structures.

Imagine again. My friend's 2009 F150 was really squirrely in the rain and over bumps; it was recently totaled - it flipped over after hitting a curb.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:53 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went climbing with a friend and a friend of the friend's (who I didn't know). As we started on the long drive to get to the climbing area we were talking about how fuel inefficient our vehicles were but how much we loved them. The friend of the friend had pulled up in a Ford Ranger so I asked him about what he thought of the model ending. He was aghast, hadn't known it was ending, and had owned four over the ten years of his driving life. I felt horrible.

I drove a small Nissan pickup for 12 years in college and many vagabond years afterwards. I lived our of it for many a summer. I totally miss the small size trucks, too.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:54 AM on December 23, 2011


The kind of Nissan pickup that didn't have a model name other than possibly "hardbody". Before the Frontier.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:56 AM on December 23, 2011


It's not just the import tax thing. It's our failure to charge more to register a heavy vehicle than a light one that allows such a distorted market. Make it more expensive for me to register my huge-ass pickup, and I might get more interested in a small one, you know?

I've owned both small and large trucks. Right now, with the current gas and registration costs, unless I lived in a dense city or only used the truck for light use, I'd be hard-pressed to justify getting another small truck. For heavy use, like full loads of gravel or large beams, there's just no beating a 3/4 or one ton truck, period. But for 90+ percent of people, that's not what they need, and there's nothing sadder than seeing all those people commuting to work in huge full-sized trucks.

I'm sure it's a fruitless hope, but I really do wish we would change the licensing or registration costs and rules to encourage a shift away from huge trucks except for the people who really need them, and towards more efficient versions of small trucks. (Wasn't VW supposed to start selling a small truck with their TDI engine, for example?) But in the current market, this isn't going to happen, period.
posted by Forktine at 11:56 AM on December 23, 2011


The obsessive American complaint about vehicles as having "underpowered" or "dangerously underpowered" engines, depending on your source, always makes me snicker, because you can count a million fatal accidents resulting from excessive speed and very, very few from merely modest speed. I've been sort of lazily looking for a Ranger, having worked out that, even with some clever solutions, there's a serious limit to how much lumber I can carry on my Miata, and most on the market have the stupid V6 (often the lousy Cologne V6) instead of the nice simple sturdy long-lasting Pinto I4, because people believe this line about power being something that will save you, somehow, from death.

Of course, I'm a bit biased, having driven a 602cc 2 cylinder four-door sedan with the aerodynamics of a shed as a commuter for a number of years, and I managed just fine.

We have a serious complex about humility in this country, alas. God forbid anyone not appear to be a big tough manly badass of an hombre at all times. Makes me miss those great old trucks from the sixties that came in white with turquoise accents. Humble with a little bit of flair? Fuck no. Everything needs to look monstrous, pissed-off, and verging on the military.

Sheesh.
posted by sonascope at 12:05 PM on December 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


My wife's 2004 F-150 Super Crew 2wd is easily the nicest vehicle we have ever owned. It's solid, quiet, easy to drive, rides beautifully, tows almost 10,000 pounds when we need it to, can carry five adults in comfort, and when we put the snow tires on it sticks to the road like a tank.

On the other hand, it averages about 14.5 mpg, so now that we've finally paid it off we've been looking at buying a Yaris for her to commute in.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:09 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the government could tax all large trucks that are purchased by individuals, and use the money to subsidize truck rentals (a la car share). I bet a lot fewer people would buy trucks if they could cheaply/easily rent one on the 5 days a year they need it.
posted by miyabo at 12:10 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you seen the Toyota Tacoma lately? It's fucking HUGE. In my opinion, there is no compact truck available right now aside from used vehicles.

In a way, it's even worse than you think. I've gone on the Toyota site recently, trying to recreate my current 2003 model truck (4x4, manual, king cab, non-PreRunner), and it's impossible. If you get 4x4, you're getting a double cab no matter what. If you want a stick, you're limited to the 2WD standard cab/bench seat model (which I used to have as a 4x4 from 1994).
posted by LionIndex at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2011


miyabo: "I wonder if the government could tax all large trucks that are purchased by individuals, and use the money to subsidize truck rentals (a la car share). I bet a lot fewer people would buy trucks if they could cheaply/easily rent one on the 5 days a year they need it."

California already charges all pickup trucks with an extra 'commerical vehicle' registration fee. So if you own a Tacoma (which has a lower curb weight than an Accord), you have to pay the extra fee, but someone with a Hummer or a Suburban doesn't. There's a scumbag government meme in this story somewhere.
posted by mullingitover at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2011


there's nothing sadder than seeing all those people commuting to work in huge full-sized trucks - hey, that's my office parking lot! Actually, the couple of times a month I drove to work in my 2000 Ranger, I kinda felt like a jerk. (Normally I'm a bus or bike commuter. I bought the Ranger almost 5 years ago, at the time it had ~36K miles on it, at the time of its totaling it had about 46K.)

The Ridgeline totally looks like a Playmobil truck.

Last night we were joking about selling mr epersonae's Kia and buying a van or a truck & a Smart, and then we could travel with the car inside the truck, like nesting dolls. Because what I really want is a tiny car and access to something for cargo or car-camping. I still miss the 1988 Toyota Corolla that I learned to drive in. (Which you could probably fit in the trunk of a 2012 Corolla.)
posted by epersonae at 12:27 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what the game is with Toyota (or Ford for that matter). Their Rav4, a great little SUV, has also gotten giant. I just don't understand the move to huge vehicles in the light of the near demise of the American auto industry for thinking along the same lines. These days, if you want a small car, you have to go for a 2WD commuter car like the Fiesta. Rural people who need traction in the snow and like to haul shit around need options, too. Options you can park that don't need a turning radius larger than a city block. It just seems so counter to what I want and need. The Ranger, the Tacoma, these would all be great vehicles for me but they are either too old at this point or too big.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:28 PM on December 23, 2011


I've got a 2002 Ranger, it's actually a really great truck. I can't comment on the models they were making in 2011, but when I bought this one used in 2007 it was cheaper & rated to survive longer than the comparable Nissans, Toyotas & whathaveyou.
posted by Buckt at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2011


@epersonae

I've got a few older vehicles, none of which were considered small when they came out. When they're parked they vanish behind trucks, and more than a few times I've wondered if somebody accidentally parked ON TOP of my vehicles.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2011


How's the mileage on some of these "mid-range" trucks? Are they better? I bought my 4-cylinder Ranger (2003) because at the time, it was the only truck I could find with mileage that was equivalent to a car.
posted by Melismata at 12:39 PM on December 23, 2011


. I've gone on the Toyota site recently, trying to recreate my current 2003 model truck (4x4, manual, king cab, non-PreRunner), and it's impossible. If you get 4x4, you're getting a double cab no matter what. If you want a stick, you're limited to the 2WD standard cab/bench seat model (which I used to have as a 4x4 from 1994).

Try it again. Toyota has never stopped selling stick-shift 4x4 models in regular, access, and double cab models (or rather, the old double cab was automatic only, but since 2005 or so has been available with a stick). Try this link, or just go into the models, click on access cab, and decide whether you want the 4 or 6 cylinder engine. It'll still be a bigger truck than your old one, but then again it will also meet modern safety standards, so there's some compensation there. I'm starting to see a lot of the Tacomas being used by contractors, so I guess they are holding up reasonably hard use.
posted by Forktine at 12:47 PM on December 23, 2011


My full-size 1968 Ford F250 (it's actually a Ranger, that used to be a trim level on Ford Trucks), is smaller and weighs less than many "mid-sized" trucks. It also has a full 8-foot bed, which always amuses me as very few pickups have them any longer. The soil guys love me because they don't have to use boards on their 7' loader scoop to ensure it all goes in the cargo box.

Mind you, the V8 engine in my truck puts out less power than any current car I can find (168) and gets 8MPG, so there is that.
posted by maxwelton at 1:21 PM on December 23, 2011


Rural people who need traction in the snow and like to haul shit around need options, too

Suzuki SX4. It's the new Subaru Loyale.
posted by fshgrl at 1:39 PM on December 23, 2011


In a way, it's even worse than you think. I've gone on the Toyota site recently, trying to recreate my current 2003 model truck (4x4, manual, king cab, non-PreRunner), and it's impossible.

You're right, but that is because the website sucks not because they won't make it.

I have the truck you are describing and I cannot build it on their website.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:28 PM on December 23, 2011


Weird, because for me it not only shows up in their regular list of models, but I can also build and price it ($24,310 with the SR5 package and no options). Seriously, they build 4x4 stick shift models by the thousand; it's only on their website that they might be hard to find.
posted by Forktine at 2:54 PM on December 23, 2011


Huh. I'll try it again (not that I'm actually going to get one - my current one is only what, halfway through its lifespan at 110K miles?), but just a month or two ago selecting the 4x4 v6 pushed me right into the double cab.
posted by LionIndex at 3:05 PM on December 23, 2011


I think I know what it might be - the 4x4 manual v6 access cab accessible from the link forktine posted is a 6-speed manual. In the Build Your Tacoma thing, the only manual option is a 5-speed, so if I try to do a manual on that I get pushed into a 4x2.
posted by LionIndex at 3:09 PM on December 23, 2011


That's probably it. The small engine gets the five speed, the bigger one gets the six speed, no mixing and matching allowed.
posted by Forktine at 3:16 PM on December 23, 2011


Wow, Quonab, that is a fascinating article and bit of history (and current affairs!). I wondered why Europe seems to have a range of very nice light trucks that never make it to these shores

Answer: the "Chicken Tax".

ALWAYS follow the money when it appears that a product or service that is better, and cheaper, than you can get here, is not available here. This is just one more example of how money and influence from the 1% impacts your life. I've said it a million times on MeFi: money in politics, at all levels, is at the root of almost ALL our economic problems.. Like 99% of them!
posted by Vibrissae at 3:34 PM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: proving that anything can be brought back to the 1%.

(if the "chicken tax" were done away with and cheap foreign light trucks were allowed to flood the market, that'd be blamed on the 1% too)
posted by downing street memo at 3:48 PM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bought a 2002 RWD Ranger in 2005 with 69K miles on it. It now has 103K, and has been absolutely perfect mechanically, and pretty much rides, drives, and looks like a new one.

That said, it is absolutely the worst vehicle I've ever driven in snowy or icy conditions, even with weight over the rear wheels. When it's parked on ice, you can almost give the rear end a good shove and move it.

Despite that, it was may be the best $6800 I've ever spent on a vehicle.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:29 PM on December 23, 2011


Answer: the "Chicken Tax".

I was all ready to scoff at this. My scoffing hat was donned. I then read the wiki:

To circumvent the 25% tariff on imported light trucks, Ford imports all Transit Connects as passenger vehicles with rear windows, rear seats and rear seatbelts. The vehicles are exported from Turkey on cargo ships owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, arrive in Baltimore, and are converted into commercial vehicles at WWL Vehicle Services Americas Inc. facility: rear windows are replaced with metal panels and rear seats removed (except on wagons). The removed parts are then recycled. The process exploits a loophole in the customs definition of a commercial vehicle. As cargo does not need seats with seat belts or rear windows, presence of those items exempts the vehicle from commercial vehicle status. The conversion process costs Ford hundreds of dollars per van, but saves thousands over having to pay the chicken tax.

I just love the free market
posted by crayz at 4:30 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bought a 1993 Ranger with 280,000 km on it for $750 in 2008 and drove all over the Rockies in it. After 320k it needed break work that cost double what I paid for it, so I sold it to a wrecker for $300. The only thing stopping me from buying a new on is there's no proper seat for a toddler. The Nissan Frontier seems to be the next step up while keeping the form smallish (old F150 instead of new F150). Maybe I should just buy a Forrester, but I really like having a box and cap.
posted by furtive at 4:55 PM on December 23, 2011


Dang furtive. Ok so Colorado had a mean gas price of $2.74 from 2008-2011. I'm going to assume you got 15mpg, considering the mountains and things. You drove 40,000 miles, or 2,667 gallons. Times $2.74, that's $7,306, plus the price of the car, is ~$7,750. Divide it again by 40,000 miles and you paid $0.19/mile. Tell *that* to the Prius owner.

PS Wolfram Alpha is completely insane: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=40%2C000+miles+at+15mpg+and+%242.74%2Fgallon
posted by Buckt at 5:19 PM on December 23, 2011


if the "chicken tax" were done away with and cheap foreign light trucks were allowed to flood the market, that'd be blamed on the 1% too

But that won't happen, will it? Not unless some other group of 1%'ers decide that they can profit from it.

btw, 1%'ers are enabled by the other 99%. All I'm saying is "follow the money"; it's an enlightening exercise, even for the jaded.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2011


ssg writes "Isn't the issue essentially that Toyota and Nissan make much better small trucks? "

Not in the US/Canada; no one sells an actual small truck here.

Stagger Lee writes "I won't argue that it's the case, but why? All of the trucks have been steadily growing, to the point where the Tacoma is considered a small truck."

Practically all cars and trucks grow over time because it is really hard to advertise and sell a vehicle that is smaller or less powerful than last years. Name plates need occasional reboots like comic books in order to return to their unbloated roots.

Forktine writes "It's not just the import tax thing. It's our failure to charge more to register a heavy vehicle than a light one that allows such a distorted market. Make it more expensive for me to register my huge-ass pickup, and I might get more interested in a small one, you know? "

BC registration of trucks is based on GVW but it is just a fraction of the monthly payment on a new behemoth. This by the way is one of the problems with the automotive market. Many of the people who would be interested in the cost savings a small truck could provide can't afford to buy a new truck.

Boy howdy I sure would like to get some of the truely small trucks offered in other markets or even ideally a Ute. It's so frustrating that GM-Holden/Ford and well practically everyone sells what I'd consider to be the perfect vehicle in other markets. Of course Ford's quest for global effiecency is also affecting their coupe utilities, the SA Bantam is on the chopping block as is the Falcon Ute.
posted by Mitheral at 7:35 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Many of the people who would be interested in the cost savings a small truck could provide can't afford to buy a new truck.

Exactly. The people who buy new trucks want big, shiny, powerful, blah, blah, blah and the people who buy cheap used trucks buy whatever they can, even if they might prefer something smaller or more fuel efficient (around here, everyone buys old Toyota trucks, T100s, or 1st gen. Tacomas, while old Rangers don't have nearly the resale value).
posted by ssg at 8:49 PM on December 23, 2011


Many of the people who would be interested in the cost savings a small truck could provide can't afford to buy a new truck.

But what about someone like me who buys a full sized used truck? It was a way better deal than a used Toyota (because of how those are overvalued on the used market), and it meets my needs perfectly (I don't drive it day to day, so it gets used 100 percent as a capital-T truck). But I still should have been forced to pay, through the registration and licensing, or maybe some kind of road tax, for all the externalities that come with driving such a large vehicle. My big truck was unnaturally cheap, and the small trucks I have owned were unnaturally expensive -- this is a market failure, not a reflection on their actual value or cost.

Somehow we are setting up a false dichotomy: new and huge, old and small. Whereas if you are on a tight budget and need a truck, you'll almost certainly buy something full sized and older, which means incredibly inefficient but great for hauling shit.

We've allowed the market to become very oddly distorted in favor of full size trucks, and I think that's unfortunate. It's especially unfortunate because such a small percentage of the miles trucks are driven are for full-on truck uses -- mostly people drive them to commute to work, go to the grocery store, pick up the kids. So the societal costs of pushing people towards larger trucks get magnified by all those extra miles.
posted by Forktine at 9:32 PM on December 23, 2011


But that won't happen, will it? Not unless some other group of 1%'ers decide that they can profit from it.

btw, 1%'ers are enabled by the other 99%. All I'm saying is "follow the money"; it's an enlightening exercise, even for the jaded.


And if it did manage to happen, you can bet folks would be complaining about the jobs lost to foreign competition, the increase of vehicles on the road, because of the 1%, and the free market.

It's like the grand conspiracy theory that can be proven with any scenario.


As insane at the Chicken Tax is, you can bet folks will argue for an equivalent for whatever pet evil they choose to slay, Walmart, petroleum, etc.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:36 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


My family owned a late 80s or early 90s Ranger while I was in high school; I used it to haul mowers and equipment to the cemetery once a month to mow lots. Great little beater truck.

Has anyone else noticed that the F150 has gotten progressively larger (and taller as well; as a reference point look at the top of the tailgate) over the past twenty years?

Maybe it's just when I grew up, but I consider the 8th generation to be my perfect ideal of "pickup truck" while the 12th generation just looks like a bulked-up overdone monstrosity with too much plastic.
posted by mrbill at 10:11 PM on December 23, 2011


First they cancelled the El Camino but I said nothing.
Then the Subaru Brat...
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:58 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Answer: the "Chicken Tax".

Okay, I'm confused. Isn't that what I linked to?
posted by Quonab at 11:06 PM on December 23, 2011


My friend's dad used to call his Ford Rangers "disposable trucks"
posted by fusinski at 5:42 AM on December 24, 2011


I still miss the 1988 Toyota Corolla that I learned to drive in. (Which you could probably fit in the trunk of a 2012 Corolla.)

The 1985 Camry I learned to drive in seems to be about the same size as a 2012 Yaris. Which means I still get the experience of having my view almost totally blocked by huge pickups nobody really needs for city driving.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:47 AM on December 24, 2011


Fortunately, I've got access to my Dad's old F150 so I can use it on the 1 occasion a month I need a pickup truck. It may be once a YEAR that a Ranger or one of the even older, smaller trucks like the 80s-90's Isuzu pickup wouldn't have done the job.

And yeah, those old trucks don't do much better with gas mileage than a new F150, perhaps. But how well could they do if they DID update them with modern drivetrains?

The fundamental problem (and I live in a part of the world with a lot of pickups) is that most guys who buy them equate them with their aspiring dick size.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:40 AM on December 24, 2011


Thanks for the education on the chicken tax. I have always wondered why the small, efficient cool little trucks I've seen in the rest of the world were not available in North America. I also lament not being able to get small diesel engines here.

Current North American trucks just don't do it for me. Too big, too much crap, too much dick-compensation. We probably won't see a cool small truck here again til BMW-MINI makes one.

I had a Datsun (now Nissan) pickup in the early eighties and it was great. Currently we have a 2002 Honda Civic (bought new) and a 2000 Nissan Xterra 4wd (bought used in 2005). Both vehicles have been rock-solid dependable and inexpensive to maintain and run. Much better than our experience with big 3 vehicles.

The Xterra is still a truck (which means a frame and solid components) and it has alot of cargo space, but it's not too huge. In deference to mother Gaia, I mainly use the truck just on weekends, and for hauling our boat once or twice a year. And when the roads aren't plowed (big fun).

But to the original theme - decline of American manufacturing... the Xterra was assembled in Kentucky and the Civic was assembled in Alliston (Canada). So, to my mind the real decline is in the loss of our ability to innovate, and in the truck market, the rise of ego and the decline of genuine utility.

Now to contradict myself - the one shining local innovation was the introduction of the minivan to North America. Boxy, relatively economical, front-wheel drive, they are now a family staple, and a reasonable people/stuff hauler. But the quality is uneven, and ohmigod they're ugly. Again I much prefer the beefy little vans you see elsewhere, like the Caribbean.

(Caveat - my dream vehicle is a Land Rover Defender 110 diesel)
posted by Artful Codger at 9:24 AM on December 24, 2011


One of the best last-drive-before-bed stretches of road in St. Paul goes past this plant: you start, windows down on a summer night, in downtown St. Paul and get on Shepherd Road, zooming west and north. As you near the Ford plant and get on River Blvd., the road widens and you slow by two-thirds. You pass the Ford plant after a sharp loop, and then proceed along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Some time later you arrive at Summit Ave., and turn right (east) to proceed home. You are rested, calmed, cooled by the rushing air, and smiling.

That said, didn't they close this plant like ten years ago? We were in town for Highland Fest this year and I was amazed to see the place still there.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:13 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sigh...I miss my '85 Nissan 720 2WD King Cab. I put 145,000+ miles on it over the 16 years I owned it, and that was AFTER I bought it with 110K already on it in 1994. That truck started right up every. single. time. I used it. Was a daily driver for probably 5 of those 16 years, and a backup plan for the remainder. Took it all over the country. It averaged no worse than 25mpg, with gusts up to 30mpg, didn't use any oil, only required routine maintenance. I changed out a couple of fuel pumps, and put one clutch in it. The original a/c stopped working with just over 250K miles on the odo, in 2006. I sold it last year with 255K on it. It rattled, it was noisy, and it certainly wasn't pretty, but I have NEVER owned a vehicle more reliable.

My dad's '99 Ranger XLT SuperCab 3.0L 5-speed, bought in 2000 with 9K miles on it and maintained equally well? Another story entirely.
posted by rhythim at 2:13 PM on December 24, 2011


Forktine writes "We've allowed the market to become very oddly distorted in favor of full size trucks, and I think that's unfortunate. It's especially unfortunate because such a small percentage of the miles trucks are driven are for full-on truck uses -- mostly people drive them to commute to work, go to the grocery store, pick up the kids. So the societal costs of pushing people towards larger trucks get magnified by all those extra miles."

I'm struggling this right now because a vehicle costs 70-80 dollars a month or more around here in insurance and registration even if you never move it from your driveway. That's pretty well the difference between the cost of running my Caravan back and forth to work vs something ridiculously fuel efficient like a Metro. Can't get rid of the Caravan because we need the hauling and or seating capacity several times a week. But we wouldn't save anything by procuring another vehicle because of the fixed monthly costs. It would be nice if we could somehow wrangle a single registration that two vehicles could share with the caveat that only one vehicle gets driven at a time (I'm thinking only a single licence plate).

We kind of do this with my 1 ton dually that we need maybe half a dozen weekends a year by onlky buying temporary operation permits every time we need to use it but that for assorted reasons is both a serious pain in the ass and it costs us about $50 for two days.

mrbill writes "Has anyone else noticed that the F150 has gotten progressively larger (and taller as well; as a reference point look at the top of the tailgate) over the past twenty years? "

This IMO is the most ridiculous thing about the increase in size in pickups. There is very little reason for 99% of pickups to be so tall. It just makes them hard to use to actually haul anything in the bed. The box floor on new trucks is higher than the deck on my old 1 ton and the deck on that is flat across the tires (IE: no wheel wells). And just forget lifting something like a tool box over the side and into the bed; you've got to be built like Shaquille O'Neal to manage that on new 4X4s.

I've been driving a Transit Connect at work and those things have plenty of snap, even with an automatic, while still getting excellent gas mileage; much better than any of the pickups we have. My only complaint is the driver's right hand armrest is about 6" to low and it would be nice if you could get one here that would handle a sheet of plywood.
posted by Mitheral at 11:04 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be nice if we could somehow wrangle a single registration that two vehicles could share with the caveat that only one vehicle gets driven at a time (I'm thinking only a single licence plate).

Being able to do this would kick ass. So would having an easy and convenient way to rent a one ton flatbed (or better yet, with a dump-bed) meant for serious work. There are rental places in town that have shortbed half ton pickups, but they want to keep them pristine so no hauling rocks in them. And I can easily rent much larger commercial trucks; I think they have 18 or 20 foot beds, but that is far larger than I will ever want to use, and they are not cheap to rent. (This may just be a quirk of my local market, and elsewhere people can easily rent a good work truck for the day.)

I haven't added up the numbers for real, but my estimate is that my truck costs me something under $2000 a year in insurance, maintenance, registration, depreciation, etc, plus gas. In other words, that's what I'm willing to pay for the convenience of having a truck at my disposal, even if it sits five or six days out of the week. Guestimating that it gets used eighty days a year (which is actually a bit low), I'm probably saving money over what a rental would cost, plus having more convenience, but I'd actually be willing to pay somewhat more for the rental because I would be offloading the hassle and risk of maintenance issues onto them.
posted by Forktine at 6:47 AM on December 25, 2011


Occasional need for a truck is pretty much the ideal situation for car sharing. Our first vehicle for our local car share is the biggest F150 (at least that one could buy in 2004) and it is perfect for hauling stuff and relatively cheap to run. It would be awful to drive on a daily basis, a pain in the neck to keep around for occasional use, but having it parked 1km down the road is ideal. We've even agreed that it doesn't have to stay in perfect shape, so hauling rocks is fine.
posted by ssg at 7:28 AM on December 25, 2011


Our local car share is going to get a Transit Connect in the spring; they floated a debenture and funded it easily from the members. The only downside I can see with it is transporting sheet goods as pointed out above. It'll be better than a pick-up up here because of the enclosed cargo area. I'll certainly use it for hauling artwork rather than trying to jam my prints in the backseat of whatever. I bet it'll be one of the more popular whips in the stable.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:22 AM on December 25, 2011


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