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Kid-friendly Ford Ranger selling as a family car
with new safety feature
By PhoeBe Wall hoWard
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT _ Well, it looks like midsize pickups aren’t
just for work anymore.
Mommies and daddies are buying the popular,
easy-to-park trucks as kid-friendly options for carpool,
sporting activities and vacation season. Whether for
parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents, Ford Motor
Co. sees its Ranger expanding into a new role as a
family truck.

hunting. More than once he had a dead deer in the
back of my Jeep, which is disgusting,” Kanous said.
“He goes fly fishing, so there would be fish guts and
waders and muddy wet gross things in the back of
either of our cars. So a truck really had to happen.”
Their lightning blue Ranger with the off-road package
arrived Feb. 17. The little family recently took a
camping trip to Algonac State Park in preparation for a
big upcoming hiking-canoeing-camping adventure with
six adults and three children near the Canadian border.

“We’re putting the Ranger through its paces,” Kanous
said. “My daughter’s car seat fits, no problem. As much
as I’m not looking forward to another Michigan winter, I
Perhaps this is why the company is spotlighting a new can say I’m pretty excited to take the Ranger next time
back-seat feature in its 2019 Ford Ranger that includes we go skiing.”
a special notification system on the dashboard that lets No question, this reflects a consumer trend, said Karl
Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book, “Over
the driver see how many back-seat passengers are
buckled up, when they’re unbuckled and specifically in the last 40 years, trucks have evolved from pure work
or utility vehicles to dual-purpose cargo and family
which seat.
haulers.”
“I was pulling into the parking lot at Lowe’s and all
“People are asking how many car seats can fit into
the back of pickups now,” said Chad Callander, Ford
spokesman.

of a sudden got an alert on the dash. It happened to
be my 7-year-old son Dylan unbuckling his seat belt. I
had to tell him, ‘We’re still moving. Put it back on,” said
Kevin Koshkarian, 46, of Milford, a father of three. “You
don’t know if your kids are messing around unless you
hear that click from the seat belt.”
Until now.

The safety feature is precisely what Beth Kanous, 37,
of Southfield wants for her 5-year-old daughter, Alice.
After the family of three and their dog Sasha walked
away injury-free from an accident on an ice-covered
I-96 near Milford in February, Kanous carefully
evaluated their options. Safety matters. They loved their
2011 Jeep Liberty, which was totaled. They replaced it
with a 2012 Liberty.
‘Muddy wet gross things’
When they looked at their 2014 Subaru Impreza,
they decided to trade the economical four-wheel-drive
compact car for a vehicle better suited for family
activities with and without kids.
“My husband was taking my car when he would go

He added, “The full-size truck segment took this
path first, but now midsize trucks are being drafted
into family duty, and manufacturers have to support
this shift to stay competitive. When looking at the
dimensions of today’s midsize trucks, along with the
popularity of crew cab versions, it makes sense to see
them moving families around as commonly as they haul
cargo or tow trailers.”
Matt Demmer, 38, whose grandfather started the
family Ford dealership in 1957, is located across from
the plant that builds the vehicles in Wayne. He sees
steady sales of the Ranger for about $38,000, though
prices can be more or less depending on perks.
While full-size pickups are popular, smaller truck
sales are growing nationally.
“A big vehicle isn’t for everyone,” Demmer said. “Oh,
we get a lot of retirees buying the Ranger, too. They
want to go to Home Depot and throw stuff in the back.
Then they can pick up the grandkids and run them to
soccer, baseball or dance.”
Designed by the son of a cop

Behind the
scenes, Paul
Kula is the guy
who developed
this new highly
detailed backseat technology
for Ford. It
involves software,
hardware, vehicle
design and
relentless safety
testing. His two
kids are grown
now.

than tripled since the start of the year. The top three
leaders in the midsize pickup segment since January
“I have been working on this for approximately four to are the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and Nissan
five years,” he said. “We have had customer feedback Frontier. Consumers have purchased 242,692 midsize
pickups in 2019.
with regards to understanding who is buckled up.
Children like to play with things, and they realize how to Ranger is working to seriously compete in a highly
unbuckle their seat belts quite early.”
competitive segment, and Ford is making big strides
At 56, Kula has spent a career designing and
developing sensing systems and air bag technology and
seat belt restraints. All this started one day when he
was sitting at home in northwest Detroit watching TV
with his father, a Detroit cop, and an IBM commercial
about supercomputers came on.

throughout the industry.
Joe Hinrichs, automotive president at Ford, notes
that Ranger just won the midsize pickup category in
the 2019 JD Power U.S. Initial Quality Study. And Ford
ranked fourth overall in the highly respected measure
of consumer sentiment.

“I was 12 and I asked my father, ‘What do you have
to do to do that?’ That commercial drove me to want to “Go back a little bit in time to fully appreciate the
be an electrical engineer,” Kula said. “And because of journey we’ve been on,” Hinrichs told the Free Press.
where I was living, it morphed into working in the auto “The 2013 model year, Ford was 27th in the survey.
industry.”
There were 34 brands and we were 27th. This has been
Ranger’s Belt Monitor is the first rear seat belt
a steady march.”
reminder system to be introduced in the Ford truck
Both Ford and Lincoln rank among the top five
lineup. The technology was first introduced on the
automotive brands in the United States for the first time
2018 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator and will be
phased-in across the entire North American lineup over in the JD Power study, which for the past 33 years has
analyzed problems reported by owners in the first 90
the next few years.
days
of ownership.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator also has the back-seat
This year, the F-150 and Super Duty trucks, along
notification system, according to the owners’ manual.
Company officials declined to comment on the system. with Escape, Expedition and Flex ranked in the top
three of their respective segments. Lincoln’s top-three
Ford has sold 22,900 Ford Rangers this year,
models included Navigator, Nautilus and MKC.
according to Kelley Blue Book. And sales have more

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