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Bronco Brand: Ford Will Market Off-Road SUVs Under Iconic Name

Confusing, sacrilegious, or smart, Ford has made Bronco and Mustang their own brands.

Alisa PriddleWriterManufacturerPhotography

The 2021 Ford Bronco is probably the most-anticipated new vehicle being unveiled this year. Ford knows it and is making strategic marketing hay out of the iconic name by making it a brand unto itself.

That's right: Bronco is being billed as a new outdoor brand by Ford, with four-wheel drive standard across the lineup and "Built Wild" as a tagline.  It will include the true Bronco family of two- and four-door 4x4 SUVs that borrow the body-on-frame construction of the Ford Ranger pickup for strength and durability. The 2021 model is designed to continue the original G.O.A.T. (go over any terrain) capabilities of the original, with standard four-wheel drive and a Bronco-specific version of Ford's terrain management system that adapts for better traction in sand, mud, snow, and rock surfaces.

But the Bronco umbrella will extend over the 2021 Bronco Sport which may have a familial resemblance but is a completely different vehicle, based on the front-wheel drive Ford Escape. While the Escape compact crossover is round and swoopy to appeal to the urban crowed, the all-wheel drive Bronco Sport will to attract the weekend warrior who wants to go off-road—or at least act like that is a possibility. There has also been chatter that a planned entry-level, compact pickup could join the Bronco brand.

It's similar to the strategy the company has taken with the Mustang sub-brand, pairing the traditional pony car in all its variants with the new 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E —an electric SUV with Mustang-inspired styling.

Ford Bronco and Mustang Purists Might Revolt

Purists hate this kind of move. A Mustang must be a coupe; a Bronco must be a truck-based SUV. The business argument for stretching a well-known name is that it brings customers into showrooms, and saves the time and money needed to introduce a new name in a crowded marketplace. Bronco has been featured in more than 1,200 films, 200 songs, and one very famous police chase by a former running back. Young buyers often respond positively to legendary names; they don't get upset by how they are used if they never knew or got attached to the original vehicle.

Regardless, Ford is pushing forward. To soften the blow, the Bronco team says everything bearing the brand name underwent extreme durability testing and had to meet criteria for capability and design.

Reserve Your Ford Bronco

After the Bronco makes its global debut on July 13, customers can reserve one with a $100 refundable deposit. The Bronco might be one of the few vehicles out there that can match Tesla fanaticism that prompts hordes of would-by buyers to lay down a deposit and join the queue.

Once there are Broncos in the wild, customers can go to one of four Off-Roadeo outdoor adventure playgrounds to be set up in the U.S. next year. Enthusiasts can also join Bronco Nation, an online community that shares information on the vehicles, trails, adventures, events and merchandise.

Ford Bronco History

The Bronco dates back to 1966, but Ford's SUV history dates back further, having built a version of the famous Willys MB Jeep in World War II called the Ford GPW. But while Jeep continued to sell a derivation of the wartime MB as the legendary CJ-series of civilian jeeps, Ford went a different route when it eventually produced its own larger, but still durable, body-on-frame Bronco. Like the wartime MB and GPW, the Bronco had short overhangs, a short wheelbase and good ground clearance to go anywhere. The Bronco was discontinued in 1996 after five generations (not counting the Bronco II), but the name still resonates.

"Rugged vehicles are in our heritage and we see strong growth opportunities with this ever-more popular segment," said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, Americas and International Markets Group. "The Bronco brand meets that need by creating a family of truly capable off-roaders to take our customers further into the wild. We've leveraged extensive off-road experience from vehicles like our F-150 Raptor."

The new Bronco Sport is expected to go on sale by the end of the year, followed by the Bronco next year.

Ford will unveil the Bronco and Bronco Sport on July 13 at 8 p.m. EST across Disney network channels, ESPN, ABC, and National Geographic. The reveal date was awkwardly moved upon realization the original plan fell on O.J. Simpson's birthday. Check back for a full slate of stories and photo galleries on the new SUVs as soon as they are revealed.

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