In North America, the Ranger is Ford's compact pickup truck. The Ranger replaced the Ford Courier, an American version of the Mazda B-Series in a segment largely defined by the Toyota and Datsun pickup trucks. The Ranger was the best-selling compact pickup in America from 1987 to 2004.
The Ranger and related Mazda B-Series are manufactured at Ford's Twin Cities Assembly Plant in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which is now scheduled to close in 2008. They were also assembled in Edison, New Jersey until the plant's closing in 2004. It was reported in 2005 that an all-new Ranger, codenamed P273, was in the works to be introduced by 2010. The P273 was slated to be world pickup, presumably to be merged with the Mazda world pickups. A 2007 Ranger for the Thai market based on the Asian 4Trac concept was unveiled, but it is not scheduled to replace the North American truck. According to a recent article in the Car and Driver, there are three alternatives for Ford: 1) to redesign and continue to build the next generation in North America; 2) to import a smaller version from the plant in Thailand; and 3) to discontinue the Ranger line and exit the compact pickup market in North America. There are rumors that Ford's future product plans in the compact pickup market segment will be announced closer to the end of Ford Ranger production at the Highland Park, Minnesota plant in 2008-2009. There are reports that the plant will be sold and redeveloped once the production is ceased.
Ford began development of the Ranger in 1976, focusing on quality and fuel efficiency. The intent was to build a truck that was as capable as the full-size F-Series, but in a more economical package. The compact Ranger had styling similar to the full-size Ford pickups, used a similar architecture, and was offered with four-wheel drive. The ability to haul a four-foot-wide (1.2 m) sheet of plywood is a common standard for trucks. In the compact Ranger, however, the space between the wheel wells was less than four feet; Ford designed the box with provisions to allow hauling of a standard sheet of plywood.