Can We Expect A Ford Bronco Pickup?
For the last decade or so, the only two car market segments showing consistent measurable growth have been SUVs and pickup trucks. Like sedans, sports cars and station wagons (assuming there are any left), every other class has been showing disappointing sales numbers.
That's why Ford decided to ditch all passenger car models, except the Mustang, and concentrate solely on SUVs and trucks. When this was announced a couple of years back, Ford's strategy seemed very controversial, but now we can see they knew what they were doing.
Focal points of this plan moving foward are the new Ford F-150, the Ford Ranger, a fleet of SUVs in all shapes and sizes, and, of course, the 2021 Bronco and Bronco Sport.
The F-150 has been a best-selling domestic vehicle for 43 years in a row and, in fact, one of the world's best-selling vehicles. All of Ford's SUVs have been well-received, and the 2021 Bronco family represents the hottest car premiere in recent history.
However, the competition is fierce, and Ford needs to be two steps ahead if it wants to keep its position on the market. In the case of the 2021 Bronco lineup, this means developing new products, expanding its portfolio, and thinking about what the customers will want next.
When Ford began exhibiting the 2021 Bronco models, one of the first questions car journalists asked was, "Will a pickup version be joining the lineup"? Ford officials didn't answer, but in a recent promotional video, we found proof that they are actively considering the addition of a Bronco truck, so it will likely be joining the two and four-door Broncos in years to come. A drawing included in one of the scenes from the video clearly shows several Bronco truck designs, proving that Ford is at least strongly considering the idea.
Of course, the conceptualization and development of a Ford Bronco truck is far more involved than just throwing out the back seats and calling it a day. There are several other considerations. So, even though the market would no doubt be very enthusiastic over the possibility a Bronco pickup, Ford might still be reluctant to do it. Here's why:
The Ford Bronco Half Cab
This isn't the first time the Bronco featured a pickup model. The Half Cab pickup version was introduced along with the standard closed Bronco and Roadster in 1965. With a small truck bed and compact dimensions, the U14 (chassis code) proved to be very handy as a farm vehicle or light delivery truck.
However, in the early '70s, the Half Cab fell out of favor, and Ford decided to retire this variant. The last model year was 1971, with Ford producing about 15,000 Broncos (in all) with a truck bed positioned behind the cabin.
Later Bronco models had a removable plastic hardtop, which could turn it into truck (well, sort of), but a proper Bronco pickup was never produced again. Since the 2021 Bronco is closely following the original model's concept, design, and style, it's plausible that Ford wants to explore its heritage some more.
The Gladiator and Colorado ZR2
The Bronco's biggest adversary is, of course, the Jeep Wrangler, and by offering two and four-door versions of the Bronco, Ford is going after the two and four-door Wrangler Unlimited. However, the Wrangler lineup has something that Ford doesn't, and that's the Gladiator, a proper 4x4 pickup truck with the Wrangler's design and features, but with a sizable truck bed behind the cabin. Introduced in 2019, Gladiator has proven itself as a very tough vehicle that's not also practical, but also very capable. Jeep has finally made the Wrangler more spacious and has a version for every type of customer.
However, it's not the only 4WD pickup produced by a domestic manufacturer. Chevrolet has the Colorado ZR2, which offers immense off-road capabilities in mid-size pickup format, with an available diesel engine. This combination has attracted some buyers, so it's evident that the market for off-road dedicated, mid-size pickups does exist.
Ford does, in fact, already has such a vehicle in its lineup -- the Ford Ranger, a mid-size truck, has been on sale since late 2018 with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. The Ranger is a proven and well-built truck positioned below the F-150 line. Ford offers the Ranger with the Tremor package, which turns this pickup into a very capable off-road vehicle directly aimed at battling the Colorado ZR2.
Releasing a Ford Bronco pickup could be potentially economically dangerous as well, since this model could cannibalize Ford Ranger sales. Offering two similarly-sized trucks with comparable drivetrain options and price isn't really the smartest thing to do from a business perspective. The only way that it could work would be to aim a future Bronco truck at an entirely different market, with entirely different options and trim levels to properly distinguish it from the Ranger. And of course, by making it significantly more expensive and promoting it as a kind of lifestyle vehicle, similar to the Jeep Gladiator.
As we said before, making a proper pickup truck out of the current 2021 Bronco entails much more than throwing out the rear seats and transforming the space behind the driver into a truck bed. Jeep stretched the Wrangler Unlimited frame nearly 20 inches to get sufficient cargo space, which is precisely what Ford would need to do to create a worthy competitor.
Stretching the frame would only be the beginning -- a thorough reengineering of the suspension would also be required, as well as significant changes to the rolling stock and off-road systems. A longer vehicle's on- and off-road driving dynamics are different, and a potential Ford Bronco sporting a truck bed will have to be able to tow more than its standard relatives.
People who buy 4x4 trucks use them differently than off-road SUVs, and that's why Jeep invested so much money and time in reengineering the Wrangler Unlimited while transforming it into into the Gladiator.
Of course, Ford is well aware of all of this, so the Bronco truck idea is probably still a ways from being greenlit, should the project come to fruition at all. But, since the existence of those concept renderings has obviously been confirmed, we can likely expect more news on the topic, as well as spy shots in the not-so-distant future.