Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why Ford Motor Company Is Finally Bringing Back the Ranger and Bronco

By John Rosevear - Jan 14, 2017 at 10:21AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Low gas prices, strong demand, and a chance to make them in a U.S. factory convinced Ford executives to bring back the iconic models.

Ford Motor Company (F 2.13%) made headlines this past week with a not-so-surprising announcement: The midsize Ranger pickup and an all-new Bronco SUV are coming to the United States in a couple of years. 

I say "not-so-surprising" because we've been hearing hints for over a year now that these iconic products would return. But now that it's official, we can ask: Why now? 

The 2019 Ford Ranger will probably be just what you expect

Ford discontinued the Ranger in the U.S. in 2011, partly out of fears that it would cannibalize sales from the larger (and at the time, more profitable) F-150. But the company continues to sell the Ranger in other markets around the world, and Ford executives say that market research conducted more recently helped to change their minds about selling it in the United States as well.

A 2016 Ford Ranger as sold in Great Britain. Image source: Ford Motor Company. 

In that research, Ford found that potential Ranger customers weren't interested in the midsize truck just because an F-150 seemed a little too big or thirsty. It's because they specifically wanted the smaller pickup. 

After pondering that, as well as the decline in gas prices, slipping compact-car sales, and probably the success of the midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon introduced by General Motors (GM 1.34%) in 2015, Ford decided that it would retool its Michigan Assembly Plant near Detroit to make the Ranger starting late next year.

The 2016 Ford Ranger's interior. Expect a new design for the upcoming U.S. model. Image source: Ford Motor Company. 

That Ranger will be an all-new version of the truck currently sold in Europe, Asia, Australia, and some other markets. In 4x4 trim, that Ranger gets high marks for its off-road prowess -- and it's a safe bet that off-road ability will be a key selling point for the upcoming new U.S. Ranger as well. 

The 2020 Ford Bronco will be all-new -- but definitely a Bronco

Off-road ability will also be a key selling point of the new Bronco, which will arrive about a year after the Ranger's late-2018 launch. Ford global product chief Raj Nair confirmed to me that the Bronco will be an all-new model based on the Ranger's chassis, with new styling that nods to the Bronco's heritage -- and it'll be sold around the world, not just in the United States. Strong ongoing demand for SUVs make it a good time to bring the Bronco back. 

(Nair also confirmed to me that the new Bronco won't be based on the Everest, a Ranger-based SUV that Ford sells now in Australia, China, and some other places. I had speculated last week that the Bronco might turn out to be an Americanized Everest, but Nair was clear: It will be an all-new vehicle much more in line with Ford Broncos of decades past. As of now at least, there are no plans to sell the Everest in the U.S.)

This 1978 Ford Bronco shows the classic design format: a two-door 4x4 SUV. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

My sense from conversations with Nair and other senior Ford executives this past week is that Ford hopes the new Bronco will find an enthusiast following along the lines of the one that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' iconic Jeep Wrangler enjoys. Historically, the Bronco was a two-door SUV with four-wheel drive that was marketed as an alternative to Jeeps and similar vehicles. 

It's not clear (at least to me) whether the new Bronco will keep the historic two-door format or move to a more practical four-door design. But it is clear that Ford hopes to bring the essence of those old Broncos to the new product. 

That probably means a vehicle marketed to the same audience that buys Wranglers, GMC Canyons, Toyota Tacomas, and similar models: Outdoorsy enthusiasts seeking a vehicle that's practical for everyday use, but that also has strong off-road abilities. Ford will probably offer the Bronco (and the Ranger) in several different trims, including high-end models loaded with advanced electronic safety and convenience features. It's a safe bet that they'll both be quite profitable. 

The upshot: The new models are good news for Ford fans -- and for U.S. Ford workers, too

Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant currently makes the compact Focus and the C-Max Hybrid, two models that haven't been helped by low gas prices and a broad shift in buyer preferences away from sedans and toward SUVs. 

Despite the cancellation of a planned new Mexican factory earlier this month, Ford still plans to move Focus production to Mexico. The C-Max will probably be discontinued, which will leave Michigan Assembly free to build the new Ranger and Bronco. Unless gas prices skyrocket over the next couple of years, it's a safe bet that the Ranger and Bronco will keep that factory quite busy (and quite profitable) once they're in production. 

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ford. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Ford Motor Company Stock Quote
Ford Motor Company
$15.83 (2.13%) $0.33
General Motors Company Stock Quote
General Motors Company
$38.46 (1.34%) $0.51

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/11/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.