Should Ford take the SUV path less traveled?
With the upcoming Ford Bronco and the Ford “Maverick” (the likely name for the baby Bronco), it seems Ford is taking an interesting path for its more rugged CUVs/SUVs.
Current Ford CUVs like Escape, EcoSport, and Edge are likely to remain on-road based offerings, which is the segment with the most buyers. But Bronco and “Maverick” are more rugged offerings (exactly how rugged remains to be seen) for a more specialized segment of the market. Done properly, Ford could end up with a better on-road CUV and a better off-road CUV than the competition.
If one looks at the rugged, off-road leader Jeep you see small CUVs (Compass, Renegade, and Cherokee) that only really show their off-road chops when the Trailhawk version is selected. However, this results in compromises that can harm both the street-based versions and the Trailhawk versions.
General Motors seems to be on the same path as Jeep, but GMC’s AT4 packages seem more appearance-based than true off road vehicles. In the past, GM had done a better job of mixing on-road and off-road when it based the H2 and H3 on their full-size and mid-size truck platforms, but made numerous changes to keep them credible.
There is one Jeep which has few compromises: the Wrangler (especially in two-door form). The Renegade is more compromise than rugged, but the Cherokee is roughly a match for the original (stock) XJ, at least in Trailhawk form. But the vast majority of Cherokees are not Trailhawks, and those won’t keep up with a stock XJ Cherokee or an old ZJ Grand Cherokee on the trail.
Will Ford’s strategy win out? It depends partly on whether customers can keep up with which sub-brands are capable and which are not, how capable their “capable” vehicles are, and whether potential buyers have room in their heads for the new vehicles. In the long run, much depends on whether Ford can stop itself from diluting its vehicles, too, as Nissan did with the Pathfinder and Toyota did with the 4Runner—and as Jeep did with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. Those vehicles did not establish Nissan and Toyota as credible threats to Jeep, any more than the Ram Power Wagon, which is an incredibly off-roadworthy machine, caused Jeep buyers to defect to Ram.
Mark has been a technical writer for many years, working for automotive suppliers. He has always been an avid reader of magazines and websites dedicated to the domestic auto industry, and spent a lot of time analyzing sales trends in changing automotive markets. Mark’s fascination with the automotive industry began by reading yearbooks as a young child that highlighted the yearly changes cars used to receive every fall. From that, he developed a love of model car building.
The cars of his childhood were mainly large Ford and Chevrolet sedans. Some of his previous restoration projects include a 1967 Plymouth Valiant, a 1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner, and a 1989 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible.
You can reach Mark at +1.516-531-4021.