Ford Bronco Feels Grip Of The Pandemic As Assembly Line Stays Silent
With so much at stake in the revived Ford Bronco line, it is good that at least Ford still has something to offer its customers right now. Meantime, Bronco's assembly line remains very quiet.
Ford Delivers Bronco Sport
The Bronco brand is one of the pillars that the automaker is depending upon in the future. In fact, if you look at the Bronco line you can see that it will be expanding far beyond the three vehicles that were offered at the start of the brand's revival. At this moment, there are rumors of a Ford F-150-style Bronco pickup. And, there is the rumor of the Jeep Grand Cherokee-buster, as well.,
Bronco has been a fan favorite at Ford since it was launched more than 50 years ago. The first Bronco offered four-wheel-drive and was available as a two-door only. The Bronco's main competition included the Jeep CJ and the International Scout.
For the first 10 years of its storied life, the Bronco was the world-beater. Indeed within five years of its introduction, the Ford two-door was the winner of the then-new Baja 1000. The Bronco went on to win its class more than 10 times over the years as it ran in the factory production Class 3 of the 1,000-mile race to nowhere. The SUV made a name for itself.
Ford Bronco Faces 1980s Challenges
That name was challenged in the late 1980s and early 1990s as competition from other automakers like RAM and others offered more bang for a consumer's buck as the iconic Bronco, which did keep up ultimately lost to vehicles that offered not only 4X4 but also another set of doors and ride and handling that easily matched the Bronco.
The result was that by 1996, the Bronco was gone. It was pulled from competition by an automaker that put it out there only to find that customers tuned elsewhere.
It looked like that was it for the iconic SUV but in the world of Ford, you can never say never. Little did anyone realize it but there was solid pro-Bronco underground that kept the brand name alive. Broncophiles to the end, they used any chances they had to push the Bronco to senior management and anyone else who would listen.
Ford Bronco Gains Powerful Allies
Evidently, the Bronco name picked up some powerful backers because Bronco started to become more and more real. Indeed, by 2014, there were test mules in heavy camo running around the roads around Dearborn.
As they hit those roads, the internal debate at Ford was getting more and more centered on what the automaker would do. Slowly, the planning evolved to bring out two full-sized SUVs based on the F-150's body-on-frame construction. That said, though, there was another school that wanted to add an intermediate-sized SUV to the mix so that Bronco would compete across multiple platforms. The Sport uses the Escape platform with its unitized construction.
Apparently, the marketing types also got together and looked closely at the models that would be offered and they decided to make it a separate brand. Branding a vehicle like the Bronco or the Mustang-E makes sense because it helps to set them apart while, at the same time, giving you a distinct wraparound product.
Ford Sales Feeling Effects Of Pandemic
There is a problem with this right now, the pandemic. For the car business, as a whole, and Ford, in particular, sales are slow. Ford has a slew of new vehicles either out or coming out and they are looking to sell into a pandemic-wracked market. Efforts at establishing real brands, while valid, have to take a second place to the sales the automaker needs to survive.
For example, though Ford launched the "Bronco brand" a couple of months back there is nothing available to fill that particular pipeline. With the exception of the intermediate-sized, Escape-based Bronco Sport model, the pipeline is empty. Indeed, there won't be anything available to fill the brand pipeline until at least the spring of next year.
Granted, it isn't far off, but, there are lots of folks champing at the bit to take possession of a new Bronco. The problem is that its assembly plant is quiet, at the moment. It's funny, too, that the Bronco is right now, sold out.
Let's take a closer at some of the planning that will make the Bronco brand an important part of Ford's future.
Ford Promises Small Fleet Of Broncos
At launch, Ford promised a small fleet of Broncos. The fleet consisted of two full-sized models that use the Ford F-150 as its underpinnings. That's where the similarity to the F-150 stops. The Bronco uses its own nicely-smoothed, slab-sided design.
The design is very retro as it takes its cues from the original Bronco released half-a-century ago. Of course, the lines and interior have been brought up to modern standards but overall retains its retro styling. One issue that needs resolution, at the moment, is whether the Bronco (full-sized) will have removable roofs, though the doors are now removable.
Now, that makes up the heart of the Bronco brand, at the moment. There is a lot more excitement coming up in the later 2020s.
For example, the Bronco brand is likely to have its own pickup. It does make sense, too. Imagine having a brand that is, at once, supposed to be a full-brand partner but which doesn't have a pickup. The F-150-style Bronco pickup will probably use the same base platform as the Bronco, but it will be a pickup. In fact, from the look of some of the test mules that have been shown running around on the roads of Dearborn, the pickup will be quite nice.
Ford Bronco To Include Jeep-Busting Model
As will be the Jeep-busting closed "war wagon." Spy pictures have shown a smallish closed vehicle that is aimed right at the Grand Cherokee-style vehicle.
As you can see, then, Ford has big plans for its "Bronco brand." The pandemic is slowing down the release of the early models. According to a story by Torque News' Jimmy Dinsmore, the assembly lines are quiet because of of various assembly line and other issues.
Once the problems are ironed out and once the pandemic has been beaten back -- hopefully soon -- the brand is poised for a real take-off. It's something that many buyers are waiting, right now, anxiously.
Marc Stern has been an auto writer since 1971. It was a position that filled two boyhood dreams of being a car writer. When I took over as my newspaper's auto editor, I began a 32-year career as an automotive columnist. There isn't much on four wheels that I haven't driven or reviewed. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. Today, I am the Ford F150 reporter for Torque News. I write how-to and help columns for online sites such as Fixya.com and others. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Most of my work appears here, where I cover Ford trucks and SUVs with my colleague Jimmy Dinsmore. Check back again and search for Torque News Ford F-150 news for more F-150 truck news coverage.