The return of the Ranger pickup truck to production in a US factory marked a renaissance for the Wayne, Michigan plant just outside Detroit that, Ford said, had experienced the highs and lows of the American auto industry for the past six decades.

The mid-size Ranger will return to American roads early next year after an eight-year hiatus though the model continued to be updated and sold outside the US and Canada, built primarily in Thailand, South Africa and Argentina. The last US-built Ranger (the model was also sold in much smaller numbers as the Mazda B-series in the US until 2008 and Canada until 2011) was made in 2011 at Ford’s Twin Cities plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was then closed.

Ford held a special celebration for Wayne’s 3000 workers to mark the restart of US Ranger production this week.

“Ford truck fans demanded a midsize pickup that’s ‘Built Ford Tough’ and we’re delivering with our all-new Ranger that’s specially designed and engineered for American truck customers,” said Joe Hinrichs, the automaker’s president of global operations.

“The factory is set to build two high-profile vehicles again in the Ranger and new Bronco as an American appetite for pickups and SUVs continues to grow”

“At the same time, we’re revitalising our Michigan Assembly Plant and securing good-paying jobs for our hourly employees here in the US.”

Ford has spent US$850m to retool Michigan Assembly for the North American Ranger and the upcoming, also-revived Bronco, scheduled for production in 2020.

The 369 acre plant opened in 1957 building station wagons and the Ranger is its first pickup truck. The plant was also home until earlier this year to the third generation Focus (the new fourth generation model now built in Europe will not be sold in North America as plans to sell only the new Active variant, sourced from China were axed recently).

Beginning in 1966, the plant began a 30-year run of building previous generations of the Bronco, one of the original sport utility vehicles that gained popularity in post-war America. Michigan Assembly was also one of the most important and profitable factories in the world when it made Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators from 1996 to 2008.

“The factory is set to build two high-profile vehicles again in the Ranger and new Bronco as an American appetite for pickups and SUVs continues to grow,” Ford said.

The US Ranger will have a 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and class-exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission. Specification will include driver-assist technology and connectivity features as well as claimed best-in-class payload, towing ability and torque.

Dana has already announced itself as the supplier of AdvanTEK solid axles for both the Ranger and Bronco. These will be manufactured at the same Toledo plant in Ohio as the axles supplied to FCA US for the JL series Jeep Wrangler.

“We have been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Michigan Assembly plant manager Erik Williams.

“The Ranger is back home in the US.”