Ford Motor Co. will bring back two of its notable most nameplates, the Ranger pickup truck and the Bronco sport-utility vehicle, to capitalize on two popular sales trends in the U.S. auto industry.
The automaker announced plans to bring the Ranger midsize pickup truck to its North American vehicle lineup in 2019 and the Bronco midsize SUV to its global vehicle portfolio in 2020, during a press conference at the North American Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
“We’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable yet fun to drive,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of The Americas.
He said the Ranger “will be capable of conquering everything from your daily commute to gravel roads and boulders” while the Bronco “will be a no-compromise midsize 4×4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.”
Both vehicles will be manufactured at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.
Analysts said bringing back two vehicles that helped Ford earn its reputation for building rugged vehicles will help the brand.
“It can’t happen soon enough. Ford is missing out on two very profitable and hot segments,” said Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for industry consulting firm AutoPacific Inc.
“GM jumped back on the midsize pickup treadmill and it has been running full tilt since launch.”
Midsize pickup trucks are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. market. Americans purchased almost 450,000 midsize pickups last year, a 25.5 percent gain over 2015.
“Ford is going to be successful with both of these products,” said Mike Ramsey, the auto analyst at Gartner Inc. “The demand for trucks and SUVs doesn’t appear to be dimming.”
The Jeep Wrangler – which has largely filled the gap left by the exit of the Bronco from the marketplace in 1996, remains a hot vehicle, even towards the end of its life cycle, Sullivan said. On Sunday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it plans to introduce a Jeep pickup, also expected to be a midsize truck, by 2020.
“The Bronco is likely to be a lower volume product, basically filling a niche for more rugged and aggressive compact SUVs,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IIHS Markit. “Ford can leverage nostalgia and history to develop a solid entry, and add more personality into its utility lineup.”
Encouraged by low gas prices and better fuel economy in the vehicles, consumers are gravitating to pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers, which accounted for nearly 60 percent of U.S. auto sales in 2016, up from 55 percent in the prior year.
Even as it adds the new truck models to its lineup, Ford is covering its bases with plans to introduce 13 electrified vehicles – including a hybrid F-150 pickup in 2020 – to ensure it doesn’t get caught in future years with not meeting increasingly stringent fuel economy standards, Ramsey said.
Ford abandoned the market in the 2012 model year, but continued to sell a version of the Ranger in Europe, where it is the top selling pickup, and other global markets.
Previously, Ford executives have said that the version of the company’s F-150 pickup equipped with a six-cylinder turbocharged engine fulfilled the role of a smaller truck in the automaker’s U.S. lineup.
Shifting consumer preferences prompted the automaker to change its thinking.
“We have seen the positive response in the market for the physical size of the smaller trucks,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s chief technology officer and director of global product development.