The Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator Are Locked in a Race That Neither Want to Be In
With the third quarter (Q3) of 2023 now in the rear-view mirror, we have more info on the latest car and truck sales trends versus the same first nine months of 2022. While some trucks like Ford’s compact Maverick and Toyota’s third-generation Tundra are crushing it, the Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator find themselves battling for the biggest year-over-year decline in sales.
The Ranger has sold just 31,503 units so far this year (through the end of September) while the Gladiator looks a little better with 41,528 units sold. That’s 31.95% and 31.09% less than the same period in 2022, respectively. To put those figures into perspective, Ford’s top-selling F-150 scored 573,370 vehicles sold during the same period this year.
The Jeep Gladiator is both niche and pricey
Even its fans will concede that the Gladiator has a polarizing design and you seldom, if ever, see them in use as work trucks. Its detractors will point out a choppy, noisy highway ride, mediocre powerplant, and the relatively small size of the cargo bed. Honestly though, we think a lot of the sales decline is directly related to its high price.
Virtually all automakers have been hiking prices following the COVID-19 pandemic, but Jeep is in a class of its own with monetizing the Gladiator and Wrangler. For the 2020 model year, the most basic Gladiator Sport—which lacks even power windows or door locks—retailed for $35,040 while the off-road oriented Rubicon fetched $45,370, both with no additional options.
Those exact same vehicles in 2023 will set you back $40,785 and $53,040, respectively. Don’t want to shift your own gears? An automatic transmission costs an extra $2,000.
The Gladiator is cool and all with its legit off-road chops and removable doors and roof, but that kind of money will buy a decently equipped full-size pickup from any of Detroit’s Big Three. The Gladiator’s high price of entry stings even more when you consider that automotive borrowing costs have skyrocketed as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to combat persistent inflation.
Per Statista, in September 2022, the average interest rate for a 60-month auto loan was 5.16% and one year later, we’re at 7.51% — an increase of nearly 50%. For 2024, Jeep’s pickup is receiving a mid-cycle refresh to include a new grill and updated interior with a standard 12.3-inch infotainment system on all trim levels. While those changes are definitely welcome, we’re not sure it’s enough to turn around the sales slide.
The 2023 Ford Ranger is just plain old
Ford’s Ranger has a different set of issues than its partner in slumping sales, the Gladiator. Even though the Ranger that’s currently sold in the United States showed up on American shores in 2019, the platform was being sold elsewhere in the world since way back in 2011, so it’s definitely an aging design.
Fortunately, an all-new completely redesigned 2024 Ranger is hitting showroom floors as we speak, with muscular styling inspired by its big brother, the F-150. Under the hood, the base engine will carry over from the current model, but a new twin-turbo V-6 with 315 horsepower is optional.
Prices for the 2024 Ranger start at 34,160 for the XL trim up to $45,120 for the top-level Lariat. Over time, we have no doubt that Ford will spice things up with additional trims like the off-road capable Tremor.
It’s also been suggested that slow Ranger sales are a byproduct of a low number of them being produced. Indeed, as the current model fades into the sunset, resources were being focused elsewhere, like on the brand’s popular Explorer and Expedition SUVs.
Still, we doubt that Ford would be able to sell significantly more 2023 Rangers even if did step up manufacturing.
There’s lots of midsize truck competition
To recap, the reason for the Gladiator’s flagging sales may boil down to price more than anything else, while the Ranger suffers from an aging design and delayed purchases due to the brand-new generation about to launch. The arrival of the all-new Ranger should invigorate some Ford fans who’ve been on the fence about purchasing the older version, but the midsize truck sector is still a very crowded space.
The Chevy Colorado/CMC Canyon twins, Toyota Tacoma, and the Nissan Frontier have all been recently redesigned, not to mention competition from within via Ford’s own Maverick compact pickup.