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Ford Creating Families Around Mustang, Bronco

© Motor Trend Staff
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From Motor Trend

Mustang and Bronco are iconic names. Ford is leveraging that equity, creating families of vehicles as part of an overall rejiggering of its lineup that downplays traditional sedans and emphasizes car-based vehicles with a different look.

© Motor Trend Staff

Much like F-Series encompasses assorted pickups and truck chassis under one umbrella, Mustang and Bronco are evolving into sub-brands of sorts, adding variants and even different body styles while working to preserve the essence of the names attached to them.

Mustang has the distinction of being the only traditional car with a future in North America; Ford is not investing in next generations of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, or Taurus for this market. Some of these cars have already been discontinued, the rest are being phased out and replaced with more functional designs in a world enamored with trucks and SUVs. 

© Motor Trend Staff   2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance 23 package

The current Ford Mustang went global, and the family includes performance variants such as the Shelby GT350 and upcoming Shelby GT500. At the other end of the spectrum, a Mustang hybrid is coming.

The lineup is further expanding with a performance electric vehicle, an SUV with Mustang styling cues. Developed on Ford's new electric vehicle architecture, it will launch in 2020.

© Motor Trend Staff

It is being done with kid gloves, Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett told MotorTrend in an interview. "We have to thread the needle on this really carefully because this franchise has just got such clarity that it is not going to evolve away from what its leverage is. It's not going to be that. But there's a couple derivations here."

It makes marketing sense to leverage the Mustang name—gaining name recognition for a new nameplate requires a lot of time and money. Ford has big marketing plans to ensure the electric SUV makes a big social media splash before it goes on sale next year. "It's that powerful a brand," Hackett said.


Welcome back, Bronco

The other big name to leverage: Bronco. The return of the rugged SUV (rendered below) has been generating buzz for a couple years even though it does not go on sale until next year and has not yet been shown.

© Motor Trend Staff

The design has been finalized. The Bronco, which shares underpinnings with the Ford Ranger midsize pickup, will be offered with a choice of two or four doors, and rear- or all-wheel drive. Like the Jeep Wrangler, the doors and roof are removable and can be cleverly stashed in the cargo hold. The side mirrors are attached to the windshield frame so they stay in place when the doors are removed. There will be a spare tire in the back and giant letters spelling Bronco across the front.

In terms of powertrains, educated guesses include the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and perhaps the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 as the top-spec engine. Ford's 10-speed automatic transmission is expected, and enthusiasts would love the option of a seven-speed manual. There will also be a Bronco hybrid.


Baby Bronco

To broaden the Bronco family, there is a front- and all-wheel-drive compact crossover coming that shares some of Bronco's rugged good looks and is also due by 2020. Like the Escape, it is car-based, but while the Escape was designed to be an urban utility vehicle, the "baby Bronco" will have some off-road chops with the necessary approach, departure, and breakover angles, as well as Terrain Management. It will also have hybrid options. 

© Motor Trend Staff

The smaller crossover (rendered above) won't be a shrunken Bronco, but the unibody crossover will share some design cues. And it could have Bronco as part of its name: Think Rogue and Rogue Sport, and Discovery and Discovery Sport.


Smaller unibody pickup

Jim Farley, president of New Businesses, Technology, and Strategy, has also confirmed plans to build a more affordable midsize pickup to slot below the Ranger. The Ranger is only offered in crew cab or SuperCab in the U.S.—no two-door versions—leaving space for a less-expensive option.

The entry-level pickup would be a new nameplate for Ford and could be part of the Bronco family as a compact unibody pickup. It would also ride on the front-drive platform used by the new Focus in Europe. This would be in line with Ford's overall strategy of replacing traditional cars with car-based vehicles with a different shape or body style.

Engine options could include Ford's 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. The base engine could be the 2.5-liter I-4 or even Ford's 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine.

A Focus-based pickup would not be unprecedented. Ford sold a two-door subcompact pickup called the Courier in Brazil which was based on the 1998 Fiesta. It was replaced in 2013 with the larger Ford Ranger.

Ford has applied to trademark the Courier name in the U.S. The Courier name was also used on Ford-badged versions of the Mazda B-Series compact pickup in the early '70s, before the truck became the Ranger for the 1983 model year in North America, while remaining Courier in other markets. There were also electric Couriers from 1979 to 1982. In 2003, Ford introduced the Ford Everest midsize SUV based on the Courier/Ranger for Asia and Central America.


Sharing Ranger with VW

Ford and Volkswagen have agreed to work together on everything from trucks and commercial vans to electric and autonomous vehicle development. The partnership includes use of the Ranger midsize pickup platform to create trucks for both automakers in 2020 for markets around the world—with the possible exception of North America, depending on who you talk to.

© Motor Trend Staff

Ford execs have insisted North America is not part of the agreement, but VW CEO Herbert Diess says a Ranger-based pickup for VW on this side of the ocean is very much in play.

Hackett, who has yet to visit Wolfsburg, has an explanation for the discrepancy. "It was in the discussions, so he's right. It was in the earliest [talks] where we might take this."

But it is not an option now, Hackett said, in part for logistical reasons. In North America, Ranger is "selling so well that we'd have to build capacity for that." Rangers for North America are built in Wayne, Michigan, at a plant that used to make the Ford Focus and C-Max. The Michigan Assembly Plant will also make the Ford Bronco.

Ford will develop and build VW a successor to the Amarok pickup for Europe and other international markets, and the shared platform will be used for a new Ranger for Europe, South America, and Africa. Ford has a number of additional Ranger plants around the world that can handle the assignment.



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