The 2016 Ford Ranger Wildtrak gets the potentially-life saving safety technology as standard, and buyers can option it in the XLT model (which starts from $46,690 plus on-road costs), but no other models have a camera fitted or even available as a factory-fitted option.
Additionally, the new Toyota HiLux due in September will also get a camera as standard on all pick-up variants, while it will be available as an accessory on cab-chassis variants.
Admittedly, Ford has taken the “smarter, tougher” Ranger to a new level in terms of safety options, with radar cruise control and lane-keeping assistance also on offer. But you have to pay $600 over the already high price of the Wildtrak (starts from $57,890 plus on-road costs for the manual; $60,090 for the auto), or $1100 extra for the XLT with the kit including the camera.
Ford Australia president and CEO, Graeme Whickman, told CarAdvice at the launch of the new Ranger in Victoria this week that buyers need to be willing to spend more to get the safety technology.
“Like anything in life you kind of get what you deserve – and if people are willing to put their money down for the product that’s the value relationship that exists. And that’s the belief we have,” he said.
“If you take a look at the Ranger over the last number of years, that value exchange has existed and continued all through that period of time.
“I don’t want to get in to a fight about it, but that’s kind of where we see it, that’s where we’ve pitched it, and I expect consumers will see value in it and be willing to put their money down.”
Whickman suggested that there are two schools of thought in terms of safety equipment – one is that is should be standard, and prices will be higher as a result; the other is that buyers should only have to spend more if they want the technology. But the figures don't lie: driveway reverse-over accidents account for one-third of all deaths of children up to six years.
But Whickman clearly has a point about the consumer being the king when it comes to transactions.
“You’ve started to see the commentary – not from the company – but commentary from your own fellow [motoring media] brethren around their opinions. And you will probably have noticed that the opinions aren’t necessarily all in one camp. There are some headlines that talk about ‘it’s worth the money’. Again, another point of view.
“It comes down to a consumer choice at the end of the day, and as a company you have a set of decisions to make about how much do you specify in a vehicle, and how much do you leave choice in the consumer,” he said.
“You have to be very careful, because you could actually go the other way and make your offering something that’s overly presumptuous.”
Whickman made it clear, though, that the decision on what to include wasn’t taken lightly.
“It’s always a fine art in terms of what’s standard and what isn’t. It’s a real hard thing to call. In the process of bring a vehicle to market we run clinics with customers, you know, 12-16 months before the vehicle comes to life. And we go through permutations of specification trying to understand what’s the best fit.
“And so it’s not through any lack of consumer input – we try to actually reflect that in what we bring to life. And we do change it over time, you know that right?
"It can be a difficult crystal ball at times. We try to do our best relative to what consumers are wanting.
“It’s not just [like throwing] a dart at the dartboard because we go through iterations of consumer research to try and get that sense. We literally put vehicles in front of consumers and say ‘if you had x amount of money to spend what would you prioritise?’,” Whickman claimed.
“There will be some people who actually won’t take Wildtrak with that pack, because they have a particular point of view around whether they want something or not.”