Detroit - The South African-developed Ford Bantam compact bakkie has been off the market for exactly 10 years now, but it could be getting a spiritual successor according to the latest rumours out of the US.
Ford recently launched its Maverick pick-up in the US as a ‘compact’ double cab that slots beneath the Ranger, although with an overall length of just over five metres, the newcomer is not exactly small. But could Ford be considering something smaller? US website Muscle Cars & Trucks recently posed this question to Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer Hau Thai-Tang, and not only did he hint that the company is keen on such a vehicle, but South Africa was also mentioned as a possible market.
“Maybe,” Thai-Tang told MC&T. “There’s certainly (opportunity) in other markets like South America and South Africa. But the Maverick is a great story. We leveraged the Bronco Sport (platform), we did all of our Built Ford Tough validation on it, and the decision to go full hybrid eliminates the decision for first time buyers on fuel efficiency and operational costs.”
The new Maverick is the cheapest Ford product on sale in the US, where prices start at $20 000 (approximately R300 000), but it is not destined for South Africa at this stage as it’s only being built in left-hand drive form.
If Ford decides to build a smaller bakkie for markets such as South Africa, it’s not clear whether it would be offered in double cab or single cab configurations, or both for that matter. Ford could take some inspiration from the new-generation Fiat Strada in Brazil, which is offered in both formats. It’s too early to say what kind of powertrains would be offered in the Bantam successor, but Ford’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, in normally aspirated and turbocharged guises, would probably slot in quite comfortably.
While such a vehicle would no doubt be developed abroad, it’s interesting to note the the Ford Bantam was a South African creation, with the first-generation based on the MK3 Escort, the second iteration borrowing from the Mazda 323-based Laser and the third and final Bantam sharing DNA with the Ford Fiesta and Ikon.
The last Ford Bantam crossed the assembly line in late 2011. At the time Ford SA said it was seeking to maximise efficiency of scale by converting the local assembly plant in Silverton into a one-platform operation that builds the Ranger for local consumption and export.
On that subject, the next-generation Ford Ranger, due in 2022, is also set to be built locally and you can get an early look at it here.