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JAY

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Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Too Late to the Game?
Bob Lutz weighs in on whether the new Bronco can unseat the Jeep Wrangler.

JUL 17, 2020

During my time at Ford (1975 to 1986) we had a phrase for when we were about to enter an already-occupied segment of the automotive market: "Last in, but best dressed." It meant that unless you're offering more tangible appeal or value than the established contenders, you might as well stay home.

We don't really know how good the just-unveiled 2021 Ford Bronco is, but with Ford's undeniable engineering prowess, there's no need to doubt its basic competency. It will be an excellent vehicle with fantastic off-road qualities.

But a question arises: Isn't it too late? Haven't all the dedicated off-road fans (or wannabes, or poseurs) already satisfied their inner craving for a vehicle that, by its very boxiness, expresses function over form?

This theory—the segment is used up, everybody has already bought one—ignores a few fundamental facts. First, the market is not static like a pond which, once fished out, stays fished out. It's more like a river, always presenting new customers as former buyers drift downstream. The fact that Chrysler had a lock on minivans in the Eighties and Nineties didn't deter competitors from rushing in. Ford was marginally successful, Nissan and GM flopped. But Honda and Toyota, with their stellar reputations and excellent product entries, managed to carve out a meaningful slice of the profitable pie.

And that, too, is part of the lesson: Not only does product excellence count, but brand is often the telling factor. Many minivan customers bought Chryslers with their then-uneven quality, but were openly waiting for an offering from one of the highly trusted Japanese brands. (Nissan's offering missed so badly in styling that even then-chief designer Shiro Nakamura told me, "I sort of let that one get away.") The reality is that there are tens of thousands of Ford loyalists in this great land who won't ever consider a Jeep or a Chevrolet. Christmas has come early for them.

But one element trumps all others: Is it better than the established competition? Is it different, or simply "our" version of "theirs"?

A successful strategy can pay off in a huge way. In 1994, with the introduction of the all new "big-rig look" Dodge Ram, we got it right: Bold, different, controversial love-it-or-hate-it design; more horsepower, more torque, and more payload than Ford, Chevy or GMC. I was President of Chrysler back then. All the "strategic leadership" literature at the time, including Boston Consulting Group, advised against the investment—with Ford and GM accounting for 95 percent of full-size pickup sales, it was strongly suggested we throw in our cards and cut our losses. We didn't. In a very few years, the full-size pickup market was roughly broken into even thirds, with Toyota playing a minor walk-on part. (They never quite got the "better than the established players" memo when it came to trucks.)

The new Bronco looks good in photographs, especially the heavily-optioned off-road models with huge tires. And the Bronco lineup offers a four-door model, a style that accounts for the vast majority of Jeep Wrangler sales. That one, from the photos I've seen, looks a bit less compelling than the two-door, but seeing the vehicle in the flesh, on the road, is the ultimate criterion.

My prediction is that the Bronco will be good. Some of its sales will come at Jeep's expense, but some will cannibalize other Ford vehicles. Will it become king of the hill, dethroning the iconic Wrangler? We'll see. Personally, I doubt it—Wrangler will remain the benchmark in the segment.





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aldo98229

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This pretty much summarizes my sentiment:

“My prediction is that the Bronco will be good. Some of its sales will come at Jeep's expense, but some will cannibalize other Ford vehicles. Will it become king of the hill, dethroning the iconic Wrangler? We'll see. Personally, I doubt it—Wrangler will remain the benchmark in the segment.”
 

Creeker

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IMHO, the success of the Bronco will be on brand loyalty and the reliability of the Bronco.
Many JL's never see off road action and this will be true with the Bronco. So some of the success of the Bronco will also be how good of an SUV it is.

Competition is good and hopefully send a message to FCA to step up their game especially in the realm of reliability.

Whether a loaded Bronco can keep up with a Rubicon off road as the trail gets meaner has yet to be determined. The whole IFS vs. SFA will be interesting to watch. My thoughts, the JLR/JLUR will be better off road when the trail gets nasty.
 

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I like Bob Lutz, he generally has good insight. Then again, I might be biased since he was responsible for bringing the Monaro to the states.
 

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It's a highly profitable segment with a lot of passionate fans. But let's see what happens when the hype settles and the Bronco actually starts hitting the really tough trails. I just read Ford does not expect to start building them until May 2021. Assuming no other delays and no major quality issues out of the gate.
 

Thill444

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It’s going to need a tow.
It very well could. The Jeep is tried and true. The Bronco is not. It's going to take time to sort this all out. I think there is a good reason why the Bronco is so late to market.... Let's hope they got it right. We still have almost a year to find out.
 

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Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Too Late to the Game?
Bob Lutz weighs in on whether the new Bronco can unseat the Jeep Wrangler.

JUL 17, 2020

During my time at Ford (1975 to 1986) we had a phrase for when we were about to enter an already-occupied segment of the automotive market: "Last in, but best dressed." It meant that unless you're offering more tangible appeal or value than the established contenders, you might as well stay home.

We don't really know how good the just-unveiled 2021 Ford Bronco is, but with Ford's undeniable engineering prowess, there's no need to doubt its basic competency. It will be an excellent vehicle with fantastic off-road qualities.

But a question arises: Isn't it too late? Haven't all the dedicated off-road fans (or wannabes, or poseurs) already satisfied their inner craving for a vehicle that, by its very boxiness, expresses function over form?

This theory—the segment is used up, everybody has already bought one—ignores a few fundamental facts. First, the market is not static like a pond which, once fished out, stays fished out. It's more like a river, always presenting new customers as former buyers drift downstream. The fact that Chrysler had a lock on minivans in the Eighties and Nineties didn't deter competitors from rushing in. Ford was marginally successful, Nissan and GM flopped. But Honda and Toyota, with their stellar reputations and excellent product entries, managed to carve out a meaningful slice of the profitable pie.

And that, too, is part of the lesson: Not only does product excellence count, but brand is often the telling factor. Many minivan customers bought Chryslers with their then-uneven quality, but were openly waiting for an offering from one of the highly trusted Japanese brands. (Nissan's offering missed so badly in styling that even then-chief designer Shiro Nakamura told me, "I sort of let that one get away.") The reality is that there are tens of thousands of Ford loyalists in this great land who won't ever consider a Jeep or a Chevrolet. Christmas has come early for them.

But one element trumps all others: Is it better than the established competition? Is it different, or simply "our" version of "theirs"?

A successful strategy can pay off in a huge way. In 1994, with the introduction of the all new "big-rig look" Dodge Ram, we got it right: Bold, different, controversial love-it-or-hate-it design; more horsepower, more torque, and more payload than Ford, Chevy or GMC. I was President of Chrysler back then. All the "strategic leadership" literature at the time, including Boston Consulting Group, advised against the investment—with Ford and GM accounting for 95 percent of full-size pickup sales, it was strongly suggested we throw in our cards and cut our losses. We didn't. In a very few years, the full-size pickup market was roughly broken into even thirds, with Toyota playing a minor walk-on part. (They never quite got the "better than the established players" memo when it came to trucks.)

The new Bronco looks good in photographs, especially the heavily-optioned off-road models with huge tires. And the Bronco lineup offers a four-door model, a style that accounts for the vast majority of Jeep Wrangler sales. That one, from the photos I've seen, looks a bit less compelling than the two-door, but seeing the vehicle in the flesh, on the road, is the ultimate criterion.

My prediction is that the Bronco will be good. Some of its sales will come at Jeep's expense, but some will cannibalize other Ford vehicles. Will it become king of the hill, dethroning the iconic Wrangler? We'll see. Personally, I doubt it—Wrangler will remain the benchmark in the segment.
Well Bob step it up and stop gouging us at every turn.
 

marcdm

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I think this article makes some really good points. I does strike me as funny how much Bronco chatter is being created on the forum. Love it or hate it, it is good for the market overall. Competition is a good thing because it forces the manufactures to not rest on their laurels and keep innovating.

My take away, is the new Bronco DID deliver for the launch... and it had better... they have talked about it and hyped it since 2017 and it wont even be available until spring of 2021. But as for how they brought back an icon brand... They looked at a lot of Jeep blind spots and focused on delivering innovation and strong product in response. Good on them. It will push the category for all of us.

To be clear... I am nearly 50 and have owned 10 Jeeps. I'll likely always be a loyal brand enthusiast who has loved each of my CJ's, TJ's, Cherokee's, JK and now JL. But where as I love the solid axel of Jeep... how much it lets me feel the road and terrain as wells it's simplicity to be modified... Bronco's IFS will likely deliver more refined on road manners. Given how so much of the market love the look but seldom use the vehicle to it's full potential, that will appeal to a big segment of the general market.

That being said, I think it will take more than this to really dig into the Jeep enthusiast market. Both Jeep and Toyota have loooooong had a deep bench of aftermarket support. Everything from suspensions, bumpers, lockers, lights, tops, soft doors, etc... you name it. In my view, one of the things that will really determine the long term viability of Bronco eating Jeep's lunch will be part Jeep's willingness to continue to evolve... (Im sure they will) but equally will be how many companies rush to deliver goodies for enthusiasts to customize the snot out of their rigs to make Bronco more capable, more unique and more personalized. Assuming it gets a lot of aftermarket support... it will really be an ongoing competition with Jeep. If not, it likely will have a strong market, but more general vs niche. Look at the Chevy ZR2... not a lot of aftermarket goodies other than some expensive AEV stuff. I don't see a lot of them on the road. But a heck of a lot of customize Tacomas...

But for all the hate it comments on Bronco... I would suggest we compare it to Blazer's return. Now that is a fugly version of a cross over let alone how it compares to those who loved the original and its deep K5 off-roaders. At the very least we should all be able to appreciate that Ford delivered a pretty strong and capable return to the market. Some here may even get one. I know I'll drop by and look at it up close.

But regardless... Jeep never left the market... isn't going away, and the return of the Bronco will likely push Mark Allen and team to continue to wow those of us who love our Jeeps!

But that's just my 2 cents on the pile of pennies...
 

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Honestly, I don't understand why is this even happening? all this fanboys kind of hate. Both are made in America. I got JLUR and may get 2 door Bronco for my son.
 

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Honestly, I don't understand why is this even happening? all this fanboys kind of hate. Both are made in America. I got JLUR and may get 2 door Bronco for my son.
I don't get it either. I've got a Jeep now, and it's great; I'm having a ball with it. The Bronco? It's probably going to be great too. 4runner? Had one of those and it was pretty awesome in it's own right. FJC? Had one, loved it! I don't get the hate on there being different flavors of real SUVs to choose from. The competition will continue to breed improvements we'll all benefit from, and so what's not to like? If you're driving something factory built to go off the trail, at worst it's gonna be awesome, and at best, it's still gonna be awesome.
 

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Honestly, I don't understand why is this even happening? all this fanboys kind of hate. Both are made in America. I got JLUR and may get 2 door Bronco for my son.
Honestly, I have seen very little "hating" on the Bronco especially on this forum. 99% are happy the Wrangler will be forced to improve and compete.
 

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Honestly, I have seen very little "hating" on the Bronco especially on this forum. 99% are happy the Wrangler will be forced to improve and compete.
The hate seems to be more about the sheer number of Bronco-related threads rather than hate at the Bronco itself. As you note, most everyone feels competition is a good thing.
 

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Superchips Flashcal Programmer out for JL Wrangler
 



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