The advertising industry is far from subtle with its borderline abuse of nostalgia. We’ve seen Skeletor trying to sell a CR-V and Cookie Monster chat up Siri to push iPhone sales. And during this year’s Super Bowl, we even saw the literal continent of Australia revise a piece of 80’s gold—Crocodile Dundee—in an effort to boost tourism. Ford has been busy capitalizing on this tactic, too. Only for the automaker, its strategy involves appealing to a past generation primed for the return of Ford’s 2019 Ranger and 2020 Bronco. And really, what’s not to love? The Ranger straight up owned the mid-size market back in the day. And the Bronco, with its distinctive good looks and 4×4 charm, attracted a rebel crowd unwilling to accept the Jeep badge as king.
The 2020 Bronco: A Wrangler for Ford Fans
Ford fans have been awaiting the return of the infamous Bronco from the moment it went out of production in 1996. And it will be returning to a market that has been largely dominated by the Jeep brand since its departure. Many believe that Jeep used this time to redefine what the off-road market can look like. And some aren’t happy with the changes. “For Jeep purists, it’s about what’s under the hood (not all the bling that will never get used in a natural surrounding),” said Keystone Automotive Category Manager Dan Guyer in a previous piece called Jeep Purists vs Jeep Futurists. Introducing a family friendly, four-door Wrangler and the affordable but cutesy Renegade, as well as adding upgrades like leather seats and new infotainment systems to models previously praised for their rugged bare-bones simplicity has, for many, compromised the brand’s authenticity.
So, if debuted as a classic throwback with modern appeal at a reasonable price, which is expected, the 2020 Bronco stands to disrupt its rival’s winning formula and snag some of its market share—appealing to both off-roaders and families alike. It’s also worth mentioning that the model is tailored to help softcore Jeep enthusiasts jump ship with some, ahem, familiar features. A rumored removable roof is in the works along with solid front and rear axles as well.
While there are no confirmed specifications for the new Bronco, educated guesses based on Ford’s other models could provide some insight. The 2020 Bronco is likely to carry the turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine, as that is standard in the F-150 and Fusion Sport. And given Ford’s recent move into the diesel realm for the F-150, the 2018 F-150’s 3.0L turbodiesel V6 could find its way into the mix, but such an addition is only speculative. Ford did say in its 2018 Q1 Financial Results, that in a “commitment to new propulsion choices,” a hybrid powertrain is confirmed for the 2020 Bronco and other “high-volume, profitable vehicles”. Ultimately, it’s safe to assert that with Ford’s competitive edge, the new model will be proficient in 4×4 ability.
“In order for the Bronco to be a real hit,” said Dan Guyer, “there needs to be equal parts nostalgia and a platform that can be easily modified without spending a tremendous amount of money to make it a rock star.” Lesson learned—the FJ Cruiser. A real looker that made it miserable for the aftermarket to even stuff 33’s, let alone 35’s, underneath those pitiful wheel wells. And whilst on the topic, “Please—8 lb. 9 oz baby Jesus—make it a small, not a full-size Bronco. We want to see the makings of a classic shoebox ’67, not a big ’92,” added Guyer.
The 2019 Ranger: An Affordable, No-Frills Mid-Sizer
Equally anticipated as part of Ford’s upcoming lineup is the 2019 Ranger. This mid-size truck was put out to pasture in 2011 but is making a comeback with vengeance. The market is an ever-expanding one, with various contenders jockeying for lead spot, including the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. But the Ranger’s primary target? A widely popular model called the Toyota Tacoma. Makes sense to us, considering the Tacoma’s sporty appeal and badge reliability. It’s an ideal option for those with commitment issues. Who needs a bonafide heavy-duty pickup when a mid-size will do just fine?
The 2019 Ranger, which has experienced limited action in the European test market and made its presence known at the Frankfurt Motor Show, will carry a 2.3L EcoBoost turbo-four engine paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission (no manual). And according to J.D. Power, “Ford is also claiming that the new Ranger will supply segment-leading towing capacity, which means it must exceed the 7,700 pounds supplied by the diesel-powered Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.” In addition to that, the predicted below-$25,000 price tag almost guarantees the Ranger a place among the popular pickup purchases.
The cherry on top, however, is the Ranger’s sister vehicle, the Ranger Raptor. The Ranger Raptor made its debut in Thailand back in February, and Ford is already selling pre-orders in the Australian and New Zealand markets. By handcuffing the Ranger to one of its most popular classes, Ford has generated additional buzz for the once-defunct model, with most auto pubs speculating about its eventual American release. In fact, Autoblog reported in April that the Ranger Raptor was spied being tested in Michigan and theDrive reported that Ford’s Global Performance Vehicle Chief Engineer, Jamal Hameedi was quoted saying that the baby Raptor “would do really well in the States.” Fingers crossed.
Guyer tossed around an industry prediction, about how the Ranger stands to gain 50% market share from arch rival Tacoma. He candidly pointed out the need for a no-frills, affordable, and dependable mid-size truck option with a trusted history. If you recall, during its heyday in North America, Ford Ranger sales put current Tacoma units to shame. “Those little Rangers were everywhere. Even small auto shops had them as part of the service fleet,” said Guyer. “And that’s huge because if Ford can recapture the need for a mid-size fleet, it’ll pose a devastating blow to something like the Tacoma (a nice, but expensive ride with all the bells and whistles—and, by the way, no diesel option).” And if there’s a Ranger Raptor version? “Watch out,” continued Guyer.
Ford appears confident that the Bronco/Ranger combo is not some sort of one-off, farewell tour. And the ubiquity of the markets each Ford vehicle will reenter dictates that other companies must be on their toes if they still want a viable place in them. Because nostalgia is a powerful thing. And when nostalgia is linked with capability and affordability, it might just be unstoppable.