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The government blows it, again (why we have no compact pickups)

We often get questions about why there aren’t more compact pickups like the recently-cancelled (here, at least) Ford Ranger. You can thank the Feds and the new CAFE standards. Read all about it here:


Short answer: the new standards actually encourage makers to build larger vehicles. Keep this in mind the next time you ask ‘why doesn’t the government just FIX this?’ about a problem. The answer? They’ll probably screw it up!

Our government is continually giving constituency groups a symbolic pat on the head as it signs off $billions in corporate welfare and corporate featherbedding that mocks the infamous but petty successes of the AFL-CIO in its hey day. Detroit gives us what we want after they tell us what to want. Remember when the banks told us to borrow 110% of our home values? And when they told us to invest borrowed money flipping houses? A lot of people fell for the hype then and continue to fall for it now. The banks got rich. How about you?

Just seems to me the Ranger was horribly fuel inefficent for what it was. I’m sure a 2.5L I4 Turbodiesel option would’ve helped. But in this case Ford neglected the Ranger for years, and instead concentrated on the cash cow F-150 (and I don’t blame them at all), and refined it to the point where it was just as, if more fuel efficent and much more capable than the Ranger.

@FoDaddy - true, but Ford now makes a new, improved Ranger that they’re selling many places, but not here…

You all know my feeling on the follys of government regulators. Just thought I’d drop by to let you know I visited the thread.

I had old, small Mazda pick ups and the smaller Toyota’s. They got no better mileage then the so called intermediate. The real joke is this. A high % of these low mileage, full size and compact pick ups and Truck based SUVs, are owned by people who don’t use them as trucks and would be better off with a compact car and a utility trailer.
I make this suggestion all the time to friends and neighbors who ask. Their response ? I can’t back up a trailer. At 4.00 a gallon, I dumped all my compact pick ups, got a utility trailer, which carries more, and learned to drive with one.

What the heck, let’s blame the govt. again. Be realistic. For most, compact trucks just aren’t worth the headaches when there are better, more efficient alternatives. Why buy a pick up that can barely carry a half ton when a compact car can tow it easily. Then, get thirty plus mpg the rest of the month.

I liked driving trucks and recomend them highly for off roading, towing, camping etc. But, if economy is a main concern, don’t depend upon the govt. to solve problems you can solve for yourself but instead, blame them for your ineptitude.

I loved my small pickups. If government regulations are responsible for their demise, than it’s perfectly fair to blame the government.

Although in this case I suspect that market forces were a bigger factor than government regulations. For some odd reason, everyone wants one bigger than their neighbors’. Even if they only use it to pick up a loaf of bread at the corner store. I call it the “mine’s bigger than yours” phenominon.

Government regulators, who know nothing about cars or the people who buy them, wrote a poor set of regulations designed to force the car buying public into little cars. Those little FWD cars wouldn’t pull our boats or camping trailers nor fit our munchkins and all their stuff for the trip to grannie’s. So hey, how about a truck? Vans with windows hold all kinds of stuff and pull boats. A big plus is that they are NOT our parents station wagons 'cause we’re too cool for wagons. Later, we were too cool for minivans, too, so we bought SUV’s. Pretty soon half of all vehicles sold were trucks because they weren’t forced to get 23 mpg or better. That path was driven by the consumer demand for vehicles that met our needs. The mini-truck was the cheap second car that the man of the house bought for commuting and mulch hauling while mommie drove the SUV. Bad regulations trying to drive consumers to a place they refuse to go. Blame government, their ignorance pointed the way to a path we refused to travel.

I don’t know who is to blame. I don’t understand why all of the 90’s Rangers and Dakota’s 2 and 4 wheel drive,all got 23 or higher mpg. I had 2 94 Rangers 4x4 V6 , both 4x4 ex-cab’s. They got 25-26 mpg on the hwy. I once drove over 250 miles in 4 wheel drive puling a 5x8 ft trailer with a quad in it. The bed had a 500-600 lb’s of gear in it with a topper on it. 5-6 inch’s of snow in the road and diving 50-60 mph. I got 20 mpg on that trip. This was across the UP of Michigan.

My 2001 Ranger V6 4.0 4X4 the best I could do was 18 mpg. Most time I got 12. This was hwy too. The last time I drove it on a long trip I got 13 mpg. I filled up on got on the freeway,set the cruz at 72, did not turn it off till I got off for gas. It was late at night and there was very few cars on the road. I did this for 3 tanks full all came out to 13 mpg. I sold it when I got back.

I now have a GMC ex-cab 2006 5.3 4x4 Z71 full tow package with real snows tires. I just drove from Michigan to Alabama and back I avg 19.5 mph driving 70-75 all the way.

What’s gone wrong?

GMC trucks IMO, did a much better job in updating motors while the Ranger fell victim to just milking what Ford could from existing power plants. Not a lot of design change went into to Ranger for the last umpteen years. I’m totally with FoDaddy on this point.

The regulators did their job. You want a truck, you get one exempt from many of the regs that cars have. You want a car, you get a safer, more economical vehicle. You want a vehicle that’s safe and economical that does what a truck does, you pay a lot more for it. The regulators did their job. The Ranger stayed in the market as a cheap alternative.

Same, I like your " mine is bigger then yours" theory. Truck buying is indeed one of the few applications we have left to apply this theory as we age. My neighbor applied this theory when I bought my first tractor, an L3000 Kubota. The next week, he had an M90. His will win the " bigger then mine" cause he has lots more money.

Personally, I kind of pay little attention to people claiming they have uncovered a vast conspiricy. If the author thinks the Volvo wagon was done away with because of government regulations, he should talk to some of their customers. I wish the Ford plant in St. Paul would have survived from a historical and economic perspective, but you have to update product and they just didn’t see making any money on small pick ups. Maybe if our governor was not so incompetent at the time, it would have made a difference, I don’t know, but I don’t think it was CAFE that did it in.

Actually, a lack of customers led to the demise of small pick-ups. Ford neglected the Ranger because they weren’t getting enough sales to pay a lot of attention to it. That lack of improvements led to fewer and fewer sales, until Ford stopped selling the here; The F-series trucks were and are the best selling trucks in the USA. Of course Ford paid a lot of attention to them. Toyota and Nissan seem to be doing well in small trucks. Their attention to those small trucks earned them the market. It’s just ls it happened with cars. The Asian manufacturers couldn’t compete in a mature large car market, but they sure could in the new small car market. By creating a base in small trucks, they have created satisfied buyers that will consider their large trucks. I just don’t see how the government messed anything up. As @FoDaddy said, just add a small, efficient engine and you have good fuel economy.

Ford has the leading selling truck for several reasons. GMC and Chevy are counted separately even though they are identical. Secondly, Ford had little in house competition from the Ranger. They do build excellent trucks. But so doesn’t Toyota which has to compete with the Tacoma and Ram which for years competed with the in house Dakota. Ford merchandised their way to the yearly sales leader.

Is it the government just randomly creating regulations…or some very powerful lobbying group that is pushing through regulation.

Either way it’s wrong.

I stopped blaming the government for the things private businesses do a long time ago. Even if the government gives them an incentive to build larger trucks, consumer demand should shape the market, and the decision to let anything other than consumer demand shape the market is a decision made by the companies.

With all the lobbying power car companies have, I am tired of hearing them blame the government for their bad decisions.

Heaven forbid car companies find a way to give us what we want and comply with the law. It’s not rocket science, and I don’t buy into the finger pointing.

@Whitey–I agree with you. Apparently, Nissan and Toyota still make compact pickup trucks. GM and Ford did the same thing with minivans that Ford did with the Ranger. I had two Ford minivans–an Aerostar and a Windstar. When I was ready for another minivan, Ford had discontinued them. I bought a Chevrolet Uplander. When I was in the market for a new minivan, GM had quit making them. I then bought a Toyota Sienna. The compact pickup truck is not the only segment of the market that Ford abandoned.
I think the compact pickup trucks really made improvements from the ones made in the early 1970s. In a 5 mph bumper crash test, Consumer Reports found that all these trucks–the Chevrolet LUV, the Ford Courier, the Datsun and the Toyota were all undriveable. My brother had a 1972 Datsun pickup truck. It was as reliable as booze at an Irish wake, but it sure rode like a wheelbarrow. He would make a 300 mile trip in the truck to visit me and four hours later his eyeballs would still be bouncing up and down. My son has a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 and the ride is much more comfortable than I remember the Datsun. There is a Nissan assembly plant in his area and the plant is really busy turning out Frontier pickup trucks, so someone must want them.
I wonder if Ford is doing the same thing that happened with compact cars that came out in the 1960s. These cars, the Falcon, the Valiant, and the Corvair either became larger or got replaced by larger cars.

The current Tacoma is more mid sized. Compared to the '88 Toyota pickup, it’s 16" longer and 750 pounds heavier.

The Japanese appear to be dropping small trucks from their line up in the U.S.

MikeIn Nh brings up a good point. Many Safety regulations on vehicles were lobbied for BY the auto industry to avoid competition between them on features as options. The auto industry has a huge hand in tese regulations; they are NOT made up in a vacuume by idiot govt. regulators. If it’s a stupid reg, it’s often with the advise and consent of the auto industry. The govt. has big reasons to keep them happy; employment and national defense.

The Tacoma comes in different sizes and configurations. The base model with the regular two seat cab and the I-4 engine doesn’t sit as high as the nicer models with larger cabs and larger F-6 engines. Even though it might be right on the cusp, I’d call the base model Tacoma with the regular cab and an I-4 engine a compact truck.