Advanced safety is finally coming to the mainstream ute market, even on the cheapest tradie models.
The Ford Ranger is the first ute on sale in Australia with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection and speed sign recognition as standard across an entire range, from the cheapest tradie model to the flagship Raptor.
The advanced safety tech – which automatically slams on the brakes in stop-start traffic if the driver isn’t paying attention – is due to roll out on all Ranger models sold in Australia, arriving in local showrooms from June.
To help cover the cost of the extra tech – which could soon become mandatory under proposed changes to vehicle regulations – the price has risen across all models. The base cab chassis is up by $350 to $28,340 plus on-roads while the XLT and Wildtrak 4x4 double cabs are up by between $250 and $300 respectively. Raptor increases by $600.
The price increase for Ranger Wildtrak is unusual given it already had the advanced tech as standard following last year’s “PXIII” update.
The Mercedes X-Class and new Ssangyong Musso have AEB standard across their ranges, however they only have double-cab line-ups, which means the Ranger has more comprehensive advanced safety across more models.
On the Ranger, AEB and the other safety aids will be standard on all three body styles – single cab, double cab and space cab – and on 4x2 and 4x4 models.
The technology update gives the Ranger a significant advantage over the Toyota HiLux, Australia’s top-selling car for the past three years in a row and the leader so far in this year’s sales race.
The Ford Ranger 4x4 has outsold the Toyota HiLux 4x4 on several months in recent years but Toyota claws back lost ground with strong sales of 4x2 models for the HiLux to become the consistent top-selling nameplate.
Ford is hoping the safety advantage will put a dent in HiLux sales among business and government fleets that mandate the latest tech.
The arrival of AEB on Australia’s second and third biggest-selling utes (Ranger and Triton) has increased pressure on rivals to expedite the rollout of the new safety tech.
The Toyota Hilux and Nissan Navara are available with AEB in Europe but the tech is not expected to become available at their Thailand factories – where Australia-bound utes are sourced – until later this year or early 2020.
The Thai-sourced Holden Colorado isn’t sold anywhere in the world with AEB.
The Mazda BT-50 hasn’t had any significant technology updates since it went on sale in 2011; Mazda is in the middle of development of its next generation BT-50 with joint venture partner Isuzu, due in 2021 or 2022.
Volkswagen is also unlikely to introduce any significant upgrades to the Amarok until the next generation model arrives in 2022 as a joint venture with Ford.
China’s LDV is yet to outline when AEB might become available on the T60, the first Chinese ute to earn a five-star safety rating in Australia.
“The standard inclusion of AEB on the Ford Ranger … is great news for ute buyers and other road users,” said ANCAP Chief Executive, James Goodwin, who added that he hoped this would encourage other ute brands to follow suit.
“As one of Australia’s top sellers, having this important safety technology fitted across the Ranger line-up will have a big impact.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling