Ford’s Bronco R race prototype debuts in the desert to celebrate 50th anniversary of Rod Hall’s historic Baja 1000 win, an overall victory in a 4x4 that’s never been duplicated in 50 years. Ford photo

Ford exec predicts new Bronco will lure Jeep customers away from FCA

While “Jeep dominates” the popular off-road vehicle market, Ford Motor Co. is strategically planning to steal customers from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Jim Farley, chief operating officer, told Wall Street analysts this week.

Target: Jeep Wrangler buyers.

Ford has kept hidden the design of its upcoming new model. However, the company has hinted that the Bronco R hints at the design of the upcoming Bronco.

“This is our opportunity,” Farley said at the 2020 Global Auto Industry Conference hosted by Deutsche Bank.

“Ford has proven credibility in the off-road space,” he said.

The Dearborn automaker recently announced plans to unveil the new Bronco in July.

“The Bronco line-up has big upside potential in a growing off-road category,” Farley said. “Jeep dominates and accounts for a significant portion of FCA’s revenue and global profit.”

Ford built the popular mid-size SUV from 1966 to 1996. Collectors have pleaded with Ford to make a return and now their wishes are coming true.

“Ford has proven credibility in the off-road space with Raptor now in both F-150 and Ranger and people love it,” Farley said. “We’re already the No. 1 cross-shopped brand with Jeep. And Bronco is an iconic and beloved franchise. We will soon introduce what we believe is a much superior product.”

While some Jeep owners drive off-road with their Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Jeep fans widely regard the Wrangler as the primary vehicle for rock-climbing and other off-road adventures such as rock crawling.

“Jeep Wrangler has long been dominate and pretty much alone in its category,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive. “Every automaker has eyed how to chip away at Wrangler, including Ford with the Bronco.”

A spokesman at Fiat Chrysler didn’t immediately comment.

The Bronco, which will be assembled at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, will go on sale next year. Ford will offer it in a two-door and four-door version.

Jonathan Klinger, vice president at Traverse City-based Hagerty, the world’s largest insurer of collector vehicles, said, “In the current collector car market, the Ford Bronco has absolutely led the way in the demand for vintage SUVs among Gen X and younger enthusiasts. They’re also interested in a modern vehicle that has the capability of exploring two-track dirt roads off the beaten path, a vehicle that’s equally at home on the interstate.”

The appetite in the segment “is clearly there,” he said. “We live in such a truck- and SUV-dominated culture that there’s room for more vehicles in this segment that speak to the hardcore enthusiast.”

Wait for it …

No question the industry is intrigued.

“Ford’s Bronco is clearly targeting Jeep’s iconic Wrangler and the passionate following the Wrangler has inspired over the past 70 years,” said Karl Brauer, executive editor of Kelley Blue Book. “That’s not an easy nut to crack, but the Bronco’s got its own history and its own following, both of which give Ford a strong foundation to build on.

He added, “Ultimately, the Bronco’s success will depend on Ford’s ability to build and launch a genuinely capable off-road vehicle that simultaneously taps into the spirit of fun and adventure seen in Jeep’s Wrangler since World War II.”

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