The Bronco, one of Ford’s storied nameplates, seems likely to be one of the four new utility vehicles coming to the Ford lineup in the next four years, but Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Co.’s vice-president for sales, marketing and service, stopped just short of confirming it.
“It’s a great nameplate,” said a smiling LaNeve, when reporters pressed him to confirm the return of Ford’s original, rugged off-roader.
During a speech to open press days for the Chicago Auto Show, LaNeve dropped at least one hint where Ford will fill holes in its utility lineup: compacts.
Ford is widely expected to add the small, Fiesta-based EcoSport, which would slot under the Escape and give Ford a competitor against the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke and others.
The vehicle might not be called EcoSport. In a scrum with reporters after his speech, LaNeve said the new vehicles would consist of nameplates not currently in Ford’s global lineup. He would not give timing or any details about the segments the new vehicles will compete in, or where they will be built.
Ford CEO Mark Fields said last month that the Lincoln brand would get a new utility vehicle, the Detroit Free Press reported.
LaNeve said surging demand for SUVs has more to do with changing buyer preferences among millennials and baby boomers than it does with cheap gasoline. “One of three vehicles sold in 2015 was an SUV, and that will grow to 40 percent of the market by 2020. Low fuel prices has helped the shift, but it is much more permanent,” he said.
Citing improved fuel economy, added capability and ease of exit and entry, LaNeve said the demand for SUVs won’t slow down even when fuel prices rise. “Even when prices start to rise, the shift will be from big SUVs to small SUVs, not back to cars.”
Ford’s original Bronco debuted in 1966 as a stripped down, topless off-road vehicle that competed with the ancestor of today’s Jeep Wrangler. It grew larger over the years and finally ended production in 1996 as an F-150-based two-door.
Ford has not announced which vehicles are going to be built at is Michigan Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit once production of the Focus and C-Max move to Mexico in 2018. LaNeve would not say whether any of the new utility vehicles would be built there.