O.J. Simpson chased by police in his Ford BroncoEnlarge Photo
It's been a week of highs and lows for Ford fans. On Monday, the company's stock took a nosedive, thanks largely to fears about China and Ford's future there. But that bad news was balanced out a couple of days later, when rumors began circulating that Ford was planning to bring back the Ranger pickup.
And now, there's more potentially good news: citing an anonymous source familiar with Ford's ongoing negotiations with the UAW, Bloomberg reports that the Ford Bronco may be making a comeback, too. If so, it would be produced alongside the Ford Ranger at the company's Michigan Assembly Plant.
The Ranger's return makes sense for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it's a mid-size truck, which Ford doesn't currently offer. Also, the Ranger is still in production, even though it's not sold in the U.S., so relaunching it wouldn't mean starting from scratch.
But why resurrect the Bronco SUV -- a model that was phased out in 1996 -- when Ford already sells some of America's best-known SUVs? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Americans have an insatiable hunger for SUVs. Though interest dipped during gas-price spikes a few years ago, SUVs are very strong sellers today. In fact, while car sales have fallen over the past year, sales of SUVs and crossovers are up a healthy 13.1 percent. They're likely to hold onto those gains, especially if gas remains as cheap as it is now -- and as analysts expect it to be for the foreseeable future.
2. The Bronco is different. The Bronco -- at least the Bronco we used to know -- looked nothing like today's SUVs. It was initially created in the mid-1960s to compete against the Jeep Wrangler (then called the Jeep CJ), and it had a similarly rugged design. If the Bronco returns, it could revive that competition, turning the heads of some Jeep shoppers and cutting into Jeep's continued strong sales.
3. The Bronco is iconic. After a while, everything comes back in style: bell bottoms, vinyl records, and even the Cosby sweater. (Cosby himself? Not so much.) The Bronco disappeared almost 20 years ago. That's long enough for people to have gotten a bit nostalgic for the old nameplate.
4. It's relatively easy to integrate into the production lineup. If this week's rumors are true, Ford is planning to shift production of the C-Max and Focus away from the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne and convert it to truck production for the Ranger. Assuming the Bronco remains a true SUV, built on a truck chassis, it should be fairly easy to build alongside the Ranger.
How do you feel about the possible return of the Ford Bronco? Would you be inclined to check it out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.