Even as SUV sales begin to soften, demand for pickups remains solid, prompting automakers to consider ways to expand consumer choices.
Ford, for one thing, will have a full five different pickup lines in its showrooms before the middle of the coming decade, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned, including not only the classic F-150 and SuperDuty models, along with the new Ranger, but two other planned additions.
That will include both a car-based compact slotting in below the Ranger, as well as a truck that will be based on the reborn Bronco SUV, according to internal Ford planning documents. The Bronco truck would help Ford deliver an alternative to the wildly popular new Jeep Gladiator.
Word of the Bronco pickup was first reported by Automobile magazine. That has since been confirmed by several sources, including consulting firm Autoforecast Solutions, which was able to look over the Detroit automaker’s latest annual product planning document.
Notably, the Bronco pickup was not on last year’s internal worksheet, said Autoforecast’s Sam Fiorani, adding that “I would think” the decision to launch it “was influenced by” the success of the new Jeep Gladiator. That model is largely based upon the latest-generation Wrangler SUV that the new Bronco is targeting.
The timing of the project would also seem to back that up, with the Bronco SUV not expected to go into production until sometime during the 2024 calendar-year.
One difference between Gladiator and the Bronco pickup is that Ford “is not expecting huge volumes for it,” according to the documents Fiorani has seen, perhaps 20,000 vehicles annually. That said, by sharing the primary underpinnings of the Bronco SUV, the pickup should be a “big money-maker,” he anticipates.
Both Bronco models will be assembled at the Michigan Truck Plant in the western Detroit suburb of Wayne, Michigan.
Some sources indicate the Bronco pickup will be offered in only a single double-cab version and likely with a bed along the lines of the Gladiator, or somewhere in the 60-inch range. That could align it – more or less – with the old Explorer SportTrac, with its 50-inch bed.
The addition of the Bronco pickup would see Ford offering two distinct midsize truck models. Ostensibly, Fiat Chrysler is set to do the same thing, as was outlined in the five-year plan the late CEO Sergio Marchionne announced in June 2018. But FCA officials have since told TheDetroitBureau.com that they’re struggling to find a way to come up with a Dodge or Ram truck that would generate incremental demand, rather than simply cannibalizing Gladiator sales.
Ford appears to be accepting the idea that a Bronco pickup would target a narrow “lifestyle niche,” according to Fiorani, perhaps as the American equivalent of the Ranger Raptor offered in other global markets.
Of course, General Motors has pulled off the two-truck challenge with its own midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models.
Ford, which has long held the crown for the best-selling pickups in America, actually has even bigger plans for the truck market. Not only is it working up next-generation F-150 and Super Duty models, but it is also working on a smaller model that would be positioned below the new Ranger.
Expected to share the underpinnings of the latest-generation Escape, it would be a unibody model and, some have suggested, could be dubbed the Bronco Sport.
The idea of a car-based crossover has, until now, been the purview of the Japanese, most notably in the form of the Honda Ridgeline. But others could follow. Hyundai, in particular, is working on a production version of the popular Santa Cruz concept and Volkswagen may also go the unibody route for a small, U.S. pickup, such as the one it revealed, in concept form, at the New York International Auto Show earlier this year.
Ford officials won’t comment on future products.