But the St. Paul-made pickup remains well off its peak of 12 years ago.
Even as Ford Motor Co. is set to cease production of the Ranger in St. Paul next month, the automaker on Tuesday reported sharply higher sales of the vehicle as customers rushed to get the last of the small pickup.
"People know they are going out of production," said Ford spokesman George Pipas. "You can't put off buying one until next year because it won't be there next year."
In the first 10 months of this year, Ford sold 57,058 Rangers, up 20.7 percent from the same period in 2010. For October alone, sales of 7,270 were up 63.5 percent from October 2010.
Pipas noted that it's normal to see a surge in demand when a product is being discontinued. Generous discounts on the pickups also bolstered sales. According to its company website, Ford is offering zero-percent financing and other incentives on the Ranger.
Ranger sales last month topped those for Ford's entire Lincoln fleet, as well the Taurus and Mustang models. The tally for Rangers so far this year also has exceeded the pickup's totals for all of 2009 and 2010, about 55,000 each year.
Also helping the Ranger was the fact that October was the best sales month for the U.S. auto industry.
Despite the short-term spike, Ranger sales are still just a sliver of what they were -- nearly 350,000 for the year at their peak in 1999 -- and are far outstripped by Ford's F-Series line of larger pickups.
Pipas noted that demand for small pickups has fallen dramatically, now accounting for 2 percent of industry sales.
The demise of the Ranger -- and the compact pickup segment -- is a major reason Ford is closing its Twin Cities assembly plant on Dec. 19. The facility has about 880 workers, about half the number five years ago, when the automaker first announced its intention to close the plant in 2008. Ford later put off the closing date to the end of 2011, rejecting pleas to keep the facility open for good.
The company said the cost of retrofitting the factory to make other vehicles and its distance from Ford's industrial heartland were too much to overcome.
Ford has said it intends to market the 140-acre site next year but has revealed no specific redevelopment plans, nor when it would be put up for sale.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482