Ford is pushing back the debut of its all-new Bronco by four days, a small delay but one that could spare the carmaker any more unwanted headlines.
When Ford announced plans to unveil the new eagerly awaited SUV on July 9, officials were quickly reminded that was the birthday of Orenthal James Simpson, better known as O.J., the former football legend and actor who helped build notoriety for the original Bronco when he was driven in one during a low-speed chase by Los Angeles police intending to arrest him for two high-profile murders.
Ford insisted the original launch date was a pure coincidence and, indeed, the timing might have been worse, the anniversary of the 1994 chase coming only a few days ago, June 17. Now, Ford has picked an alternate date, public relations chief Mark Truby announced Friday afternoon.
“The reveal of the all-new Ford Bronco line-up will now happen on Monday, July 13,” Truby said in a tweet. “The previous targeted date of July 9 unintentionally coincided with O.J. Simpson’s birthday. We wanted to be sensitive and respectful of this concern.”
The infamous chase was broadcast around the country and, according to KNSD-TV, the San Diego NBC affiliate, was viewed by 95 million people at one point or another.
It occurred shortly after the murders of Simpson’s former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. In a never fully understood move, Simpson got into a white Ford Bronco driven by friend and former football player Allen “A.C.” Cowlings, who then proceeded to drive at slow speeds down I-405 through Los Angeles, a phalanx of police following behind as news helicopters wee flying overhead broadcasting the entire event live.
When the case went to court months later it was hailed as “the trial of the century,” Simpson represented by a star-studded defense team. Attorney Johnny Cochran uttered the most famous line of the trial when he told the jury “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” as Simpson was told to try to put on a bloody glove found at the scene of the murder. The glove didn’t fit and the jury did vote to acquit the former football legend.
But, in the process, the link between O.J. and the Ford Bronco was “completely woven into the cultural fabric of America,” Brian Moody, executive editor of website Autotrader.com told the Detroit Free Press. And the original, June 9 launch date for the new model clearly seemed to risk refreshing that link.
The minor delay will have no real impact on the Bronco, long-term. Production of the reborn SUV has been pushed back several months, Ford insiders have told TheDetroitBureau.com, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the new SUV is still scheduled to reach U.S. showrooms “later this year,” said spokesman Michael Levine, in line with what was long planned.
Ford is betting big on its arrival – as well as on a second new SUV that is expected to be called the Bronco Sport. And the timing could prove perfect. SUVs have rapidly gained ground over the last decade and, coming out of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown now account for well over half of all U.S. new vehicle sales.
While specifics won’t be released by Ford until that July 13 debut, the automaker has been teasing its reappearance for months and a number of details have leaked out. Rather than the soft and rounded look that dominates the utility vehicle segment today, designers have opted for a more squared-off retro shape for the new Bronco clearly meant to harken back to the original. And, rather than riding on a car-based platform, it will share its underpinnings with the next Ford Ranger pickup, both to be assembled at a plant just outside Detroit.
The new model will be smaller than the one O.J. rode in, roughly on a par with the rugged Jeep Wrangler, another classic off-roader. Like Wrangler, the 2021 Ford Bronco will offer a range of options and features such as removable doors and roof. The new Bronco is expected to start at around $30,000, though various upgrades and options will push that figure up substantially.
Unlike the original, Ford plans to load the new Bronco up with a variety of advanced driver assistance technologies, from electronic stability control to forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, that should set to rest concerns about its on- and off-road safety.
Expect a big media campaign once production gets underway, a Ford veteran told TheDetroitBureau.com earlier this week, but, asking not to be identified by name, they added that they are quite sure O.J. Simpson will not be asked to serve as a spokesman.