3 Reasons the Ford Bronco Could Return, And 3 Reasons It Won't
Ford fans, rejoice. According to insider reports, production of a reborn Ford Ranger pickup may soon replace the Focus and C-Max at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The news has struck a chord with Blue Oval truck fans, who have lamented the exit of the Ranger in 2011.
Interestingly, the Ranger is not the only Ford rumor to catch today’s headlines. Insiders have also proposed that a new Ford Bronco SUV will follow the Ranger into production, a nameplate that departed from the Ford lineup after 1996. Though unconfirmed, there are a few reasons why this rumor may hold water.
Platform Sharing As hinted by the company’s 2004 Ford Bronco concept, Ford has been aching to bring its iconic off-road SUV back into production for years now, though stumbling blocks like the 25 percent “Chicken Tax” on imported light trucks have prevented the company from doing this in an economically viable way. The potential re-emergence of a North American Ranger, with its rugged body-on-frame construction, would mean Ford now has a midsize platform, built in the U.S., that fits the Bronco formula and drastically cuts the cost of developing a bespoke vehicle platform. Even better, Ford builds a vehicle that already fits this niche for its Australian and Asian markets—the Ford Everest (pictured above)—which is based on the T6 global Ford Ranger. It features a solid rear axle, seven seats, and an EcoBoost turbocharged engine.
Lack of U.S. Market Competition The original Ford Bronco was a small, barebones, off-road SUV, which competed against the likes of the Jeep CJ-5, International Harvester Scout, and Chevrolet Blazer. Today, essentially only one of those products still exists—the Jeep Wrangler—and demand for the rough-and-tumble 4x4 is stratospherically high. In 2014, Jeep sold 175,328 Wranglers in the U.S., an increase of 12.7 percent over the course of one year. Though the off-roady Toyota 4Runner still patrols the market, it has been priced far out of the Wrangler’s $23,000 bottom line. A reborn Ford Bronco could inject some friendly competition into this one-horse off-road SUV race.
Saving the Name A further tipping point for the Bronco? According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Ford re-upped its Bronco trademark in February 2015. This isn't definitive proof of anything considering companies do this all the time, but given all the other evidence, it's just another strengthening point. It all sounds pretty exciting—but don't get your hopes up just yet. It’s not all good news for a next-gen Ford Bronco.
Fuel Efficiency Smaller, more efficient vehicles are a hot topic for today’s automotive product planners—a talking point made only more relevant as we approach the 2025 federally mandated fleet-wide fuel efficiency average of 54.5 mpg. While a compact, body-on-frame SUV using turbocharged four-cylinder engines could do more to hit this figure than say…the current Ford Expedition, it won’t help nearly as much as today’s crop of popular, unibody crossover vehicles, some of which engage hybrid technology. Somehow, "Bronco" and "hybrid" don't seem to mix.
Off-Road SUV Market Casualties Though the Jeep Wrangler is surging in popularity, other off-road inspired SUVs continue to fall by the wayside. Just last year, Toyota announced it would end production of its FJ Cruiser SUV for 2015, and last week Nissan announced its Xterra would not live to see 2016.
In-Fighting Against Ford’s Current Players The last thing Ford wants to do is cannibalize its own sales and compete with itself, which could occur depending on the structural makeup of a new Bronco. If an SUV like the Ford Everest does make it to U.S. shores, it could be sized or priced too competitively with Ford’s existing Edge and Explorer crossover vehicles, which currently start at around $28,000 and $31,000, respectively. Interestingly, the Ranger pickup that the Bronco would likely draw its bones from faces the same issue. If the Ranger does come to the U.S., it faces stealing away a portion of sales from the larger Ford F-series trucks, which consistently earn the top spot on annual sales charts. For now, we’ll have to wait and see if the Ranger and Bronco get the production green-light for the U.S., though the cards do look promising.