In the last 24 hours, the internet has exploded with news about an upcoming Ford Bronco and an upcoming Ford Ranger, which slipped out when UAW Bill Johnson, a UAW rep for Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that the Bronco and Ranger will begin production once Focus and C-Max production shifts to Mexico.
Ever since, just about every automotive website has been alight with photos suggesting that THIS IS THE NEXT BRONCO! Only it’s not. Nobody’s seen what a new Bronco is going to look like.
This is the photo that’s been most widely circulated, and it’s AWESOME.
The only trouble is, it’s a rendering, produced by a talented photoshopper. The rendering comes from Bronco6G.com, on a discussion about what an upcoming Ford Bronco might look like:
“We share with you our 2020 Ford Bronco renderings which provides a conceptual look at the 6th generation Bronco. For our concept Bronco, we fused styling elements from previous Bronco generations, the 2004 Bronco concept, and modern Ford trucks and SUVs. You can see the classic round headlights and square inset front grille evolved from the 1st gen Bronco, which was also showcased in the retro-futuristic 2004 Bronco concept. Our concept features a modern body on frame next generation Bronco that retains a tall, boxy, tough, no-frills design with a strong focus on utility and off-road capabilities. We fitted separate versions with different grilles, wheel fender shapes, varying ride heights, and cargo rack for some different looks,” the original post from February of 2016 reads.
It’s a great take, and one that we’d love to see Ford produce, but Ford hasn’t shown a concept of a Bronco in over a decade, and that’s the only source you should be looking toward for what an upcoming Bronco might look like.
Way back in 2004, at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford showed a concept Bronco that was — in a word — tremendous.
The Bronco Concept was released at a time when Ford was going full retro across its product line. It drew a straight line back to 1966, when the original two-door, first-generation Bronco hit the streets. Note that this was the year that the production version of the production version of the all-new, retro-styled Ford Mustang was also on the stand at Detroit, so introducing a Bronco concept at the same time that a 1960s-inspired Mustang made all the sense in the world.
J Mays introduced the Bronco at Detroit that year, which is also significant. He made his entire career focusing design staff on retro-themed vehicles, from the Audi TT, to the Volkswagen Beetle, to the Mustang at Ford.
The Bronco, though, was stillborn before it ever reached the display stand at the Detroit show. First of all, if it was based on anything, it would’ve been a shortened Ranger platform, a vehicle that Ford would kill off completely in 2006. When the UAW’s Bill Johnson let it slip that Bronco production would start in Wayne, he also suggested that Ranger production would, too, which is good news for a smaller Bronco that might be based on a similar chassis. (A year ago, we wrote a post that telegraphed the production of a 2018 Ranger at the Wayne plant.)
A production two-door Bronco, though? You’d have to ignore every bit of recent history to think Ford would produce one. Ford is in the business of producing vehicles that sell. A low-volume niche vehicle probably isn’t in the cards. Why not? Let’s look at the evidence:
The minute Jeep introduced the JK Wrangler in four-door form, the two-door — which was all Jeep offered in its compact SUV since the end of WWII — suddenly became an also-ran. Depending on the source, four-door Wranglers outsell two-doors by anywhere from 2-to-1 to 7-to-1.
A call to Lisa Barrow, FCA’s East Coast Regional Communications Manager reveals that “The four-door Wrangler accounts for 70% of Wrangler sales currently,” or 3-to-1. A drive by inventory check at any given Jeep dealer should tell you exactly the same thing. Two doors are great, but they’re a limited audience.
Toyota produced a two-door, compact, off-road SUV. Among people who love them, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is an all-time favorite, but it’s a cult car, which only sold to a tiny niche audience. In its best month ever, Toyota sold 1,600 FJ Cruisers. To put that into perspective, that’s about half as many Corvettes as Chevrolet sells in a given month, at $55,450 a pop, minimum.
Similar to the Ford Bronco, there’s been rampant speculation about the return of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. There’s been much guessingabout what it will look like, but there’s been absolutely no information from Jeep, and there likely won’t be until the Detroit show in January.
For now, we’re all going to have to wait and speculate about what a Bronco is going to look like. But if you’re holding your breath for a sporty two-door, our guess is that you’re going to be disappointed.