With a small-pickup renaissance seemingly on the horizon, Ford prepares to throw its hat into the ring.
America has loved pickup trucks for a long, long time. Small, car-based pickups like the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino once dotted the driveways of America's suburbs with similar frequency to mailboxes and decorative shrubbery.
As the fuel-conscious 1980s dawned, light-duty, front-wheel-drive pickups like the Volkswagen Caddy, Plymouth Scamp, and the all-wheel-drive Subaru Brat fulfilled that same role. Later on in the decade, stripped-down, half-ton compact pickups from American and Japanese manufacturers alike were a recipe for sales success that lasted into the 1990s.
Sadly, the age of the small, cheap pickup is long behind us. Ford's new Ranger is roughly the size of a 1990s F-150. Even though it does start under $25,000, current regulations make for a bizarre mix of conspicuously absent features and high-tech safety equipment inside the cab. It's still the closest we'll get to having a small, cheap pickup fresh off the showroom floor.
We may be nearing a small-pickup renaissance, though. The Hyundai Santa Cruz looks promising, and there is a tiny sliver of hope that we might be getting a small pickup from Volkswagen in the US. Ford may be looking to grab an even bigger slice of that pie, though, as evidenced by these spy photos of a heavily camouflaged, Focus-based pickup.
While Ford is hard at work replacing every car in its lineup with a crossover, it appears they're also developing a small, car-based pickup to go along with them. That's a trade-off we can live with, especially if it's thrifty, practical, and can be had for under $25,000. Americans love pickups in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Will the same hold true for a Focus-based pickup? Time will tell. We'll wait to see it without camouflage – and drive it – before making our judgement.