Thanks to the U.A.W, 2015 has been a big year for truck fans. In September, the union negotiated with FCA to build a Jeep pickup based on the Wrangler at the brand’s historic Toledo, Ohio, plant, causing Jeep fanatics around the world to rejoice. And now, the union and Ford have negotiated their latest deal, it means more big new for off-roading fans of the Blue Oval persuasion. According to the Detroit Free Press:
The tentative agreement, approved by the UAW Ford national council Monday, contains $9 billion in planned investment in U.S. plants which creates or retains 8,500 jobs while allowing Ford to pursue its five-year product plan. Of that, $4.8 billion goes to 11 facilities in Michigan.
And while that means big changes for Ford, it also means that we can expect a new Bronco SUV and Ranger pickup before the decade is out. Again, from the Freep:
…the Ford Ranger mid-size pickup and Ford Bronco SUV could be making a comeback and will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant. The move fills the hole to be created when Ford stops making the Focus and C-Max families of vehicles at Michigan Assembly in 2018. It also returns to the fold two storied vehicles that customers have clamored for.
Despite a legendary 30-year production run, the iconic Bronco was discontinued after 1996 as buyers shifted to more car-like SUVs in the market. In the two decades since, Broncos have become highly collectible, with tastefully-modified first-generation trucks fetching upward of $200,000. And after discontinuing the mid-size Ranger pickup in 2012, GM has benefitted from a resurgence in the small truck segment with its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.
But there is a rub with the new Ford plan, and it becomes somewhat glaring the more you think about it. In 2014, Morgan Stanley projected that 90% percent of Ford’s global earnings come from its truck line, spearheaded by the F-150. With this latest union contract, that’s about to become a lot more obvious. According to Automotive News:
Production of four U.S.-built cars, the C-Max, Focus, Fusion and Taurus, would last only through current product lifecycles. Ford also builds the Fusion at a plant in Mexico, and production of the Focus and C-Max is expected to go to Mexico. The Taurus could be discontinued or built only in a low-cost country such as China.
At that point, the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental would be the only cars staying in the U.S. The Continental is scheduled to join the Mustang in Flat Rock, Mich. in 2016.
Barring a down vote by the U.A.W. on the contract this week (which doesn’t seem likely), Ford, America’s largest truck maker, will become primarily that: a truck maker.
While the deal would certainly mark the beginning of a new chapter for the automaker, it doesn’t mean the Mustang and Continental will be the only Ford cars left on the lot. The company has had tremendous success homogenizing its global lineup under its One Ford program, and as a result, many of its models are built in plants around the world. The Fiesta and aforementioned Fusion are built in Mexico, and both cars originated in Europe. The Focus has similar origins.
So this doesn’t mean the end of Ford as we know it. On the contrary, it means more American jobs and the return of two iconic trucks. Still, it is strange to think of Ford’s car lineup as largely imported, even if it’s already pretty close. As for the brand’s newcomers, we’d be happy with the T6 Ranger that already seems to be sold everywhere except the U.S. and Canada, and a long-roof Bronco variant from that. In the grand scheme of things, however, we’re just excited to get them back.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS