When the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) agreement was signed in the early 1990s, Ford, along with a number of other global carmakers, decided that a model specifically for the region should be developed. While Toyota and Honda chose a sedan (the Soluna/Vios and City, respectively) and GM Chevrolet decided on a sedan and MPV (Optra and Nabira), Ford figured a pick-up was the ideal ‘ASEAN car’.
It made sense too since the factory would be in Thailand which would very quickly become the second largest pick-up market in the world. So it developed the Ranger and set a new benchmark for such vehicles. Unlike the spartan workhorse-oriented pick-ups of the early 1990s, the Ranger was equipped like a car and also offered high levels of safety including standard airbags. It started a new trend in Malaysia too, providing an alternative to the passenger car.
Like Toyota and Mitsubishi Motors with their Fortuner and Pajero Sport, Ford also developed a SUV off the pick-up truck platform, calling it the Everest in most places and Endeavour in India. Built at the same plant as the Ranger, it offered the same robustness and capability as the Ranger with the additional comfort of a larger cabin.
The evolution of the Everest followed the Ranger’s and as the pick-up moved into the second generation, so did the Everest. But when the third generation came out, the future of the Everest was uncertain. Even the people at local distributor Sime Darby Auto Connexion remarked that they did not know if there would be an Everest replacement using the new Ranger platform. One rumour was that the Territory SUV might replace the Ranger, a move that would be in keeping with the global ‘One Ford’ strategy’ that has been working very well.
Now it’s been revealed that there has been work on a new Everest and it will ride on the latest Ranger platform. It’s the logical thing to do as the Everest is more of a workhorse type of SUV like the traditional ones of earlier years. People who buy it will expect a vehicle that can take rough terrain and haul heavy loads rather than just look rugged for the ‘urban jungle’.
Here are a couple of images of the proposed design which was developed in Australia. As can be seen, the overall style is still that of a traditional SUV with slab-sided panels but softened edges. The grille is something new for Ford and could be the beginning of a departure from the cubic insert with horizontal bars that has been used for its pick-ups and large SUVs.
The rear end is also more stylish in appearance rather than just being a flat vertical door. Note the absence of a spare wheel – something which was the subject of much debate among engineers working on the first Everest. Being Americans, they were used to not having a spare wheel at the back but surveys found that customers in the target markets consider having the spare wheel on the rear door as something that makes a 4×4 SUV ‘authentic’. So quite late in the program, extra time and money had to be spent to incorporate the spare wheel.
No technical details are available but most likely, the specs will look similar to those of the Ranger. If Ford intends to export the next Everest to more countries, it might get additional equipment to suit customer demands in Europe.
To locate a showroom to test-drive the Ranger and other Ford models, visit www.ford.net.my