The U.S. market is about to receive the one-ton pickup Ford Ranger this year, but news is pouring in from different corners of the world that the next-generation Ranger is already in the works for 2020 model year. It could be closely related to the Volkswagen Amarok. Although the rumors surrounding this development do not seem to ring true, there are enough precedents of this kind of partnership to make us believe that the joint venture could indeed happen.
For starters, Ford announced a few months ago that it was entering a formal partnership with Indian SUV and commercial vehicle manufacturer Mahindra for a future product that will be sold by both the companies. This is not a badge-engineering exercise, as both carmakers will co-develop a platform and powertrains, following which they will build the rest of the product according to their individual nuances of automobile design exclusively for India.
Going back further in time, Ford had also partnered up with Volkswagen in Brazil in 1987, resulting in the co-development of two platforms. Coming back to the present, Ford has no need to set up a joint venture with any other manufacturer when it comes to pickup trucks, of which the highly successful F-series is the shining example. Talking about mid-size commercial vehicles, the Ford Transit van is also a strong seller for the Blue Oval. However, the mid-size pickup segment is not a very profitable operation for most manufacturers due to a variety of reasons. For Ford in America, the Ranger does not match up in volume to the F-150 alone.
On the other hand, Volkswagen does not sell the Amarok in the U.S., which is hands down the largest market for such vehicles. It manufactures the pickup in Argentina and Germany, both of which have a high manufacturing cost. This pushes up the cost of the Amarok, making it inadvisable to sell the premium mid-size pickup in a highly cost-competitive segment. This is where the partnership comes in. Sharing platforms and manufacturing will help both companies cut down on production costs and price their offerings at or below par those of rivals. Ford’s one global platform strategy makes no commercial sense for mid-size CVs, which is why the automaker’s move of partnering with local and aligned players is brilliant. Models built on shared architecture with other companies do not have to be on Ford’s global model roster.
Lastly, this could be an immense opportunity for Volkswagen as it will allow the German automaker access to Ford’s U.S. factories, significantly bringing down the cost of production for the Amarok were it to be built in The States. If VW were to sell the pickup in the U.S. starting tomorrow, it would attract the hefty import tariff levied on import vehicles making it even more expensive than it already is. The partnership with Ford is a sure way of turning the situation on its head.