The COVID-19 pandemic continues to add tens of thousands of new cases in the U.S. every day, but that isn't slowing down the momentum on Wall Street. U.S. stocks climbed higher, and it was time for some of the old-economy companies left out of the rally so far to participate. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.21%), S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.14%), and Nasdaq Composite were all up sharply, with the Dow leading them higher.

Today's stock market


Percentage Change

Point Change




S&P 500



Nasdaq Composite



Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

One of the themes that investors have seen play out in recent months is the triumph of newer companies over their more mature counterparts. Nowhere has that been clearer than in the auto industry, where Tesla (TSLA -0.93%) and a host of electric vehicle upstarts have made well-established automaker giants seem hopelessly out of date. On Tuesday, though, Ford Motor (F 0.88%) and General Motors (GM 0.12%) managed to post bigger gains than Tesla's stock did. Value investors hope that it might be time for legacy auto giants to shine, but today's move higher was just a tiny step toward coming close to regaining supremacy in the industry.

Ford rides a bucking Bronco

Shares of Ford climbed almost 5% as investors weighed the likely impact of the return of an iconic model to the automaker's lineup. After having set the stage back in February, the company unveiled its all-new Bronco lineup of 4x4 SUVs late Monday night, with the hope of capturing a key demographic of customers looking for a very specific type of vehicle.

Bringing the Bronco back addresses a hole in Ford's vehicle line. Between its wide array of cars and its F-150 truck line, Ford has most of its bases covered. However, a rise in demand for vehicles that drivers can take off-road has left Ford on the outside looking in.

Updated Ford Bronco model driving at a slant on a sand dune.

Image source: Ford.

That's where the Bronco will come in. Two-door and four-door models will give buyers flexibility in their choices, with a price starting just under $30,000. That's competitive with the Jeep Wrangler line from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU), which has had a largely open field to dominate that niche in the industry. Ford will accept advance reservations for the Bronco for just $100 -- a pittance compared to the deposits that Tesla has demanded for its vehicle offerings.

Looking for better sales

Both Ford and GM could use a lift to sales. The COVID-19 pandemic has done a number on both production and sales volumes, and the prospect of renewed coronavirus restrictions has kept the two stocks from gaining too much ground.

General Motors, which rose more than 3% today, saw terrible effects from the pandemic. Second-quarter vehicle deliveries were down 34% year over year, with Cadillac in particular suffering a 41% drop. Ford's delivery decline of 33% was just about the same. Although GM and Ford said things got better as the quarter went on, June's numbers were still far off their pace from the same month in 2019.

Even with today's rise, stock prices for both Ford and GM remain more than 30% lower than where they started the year. Tesla managed only a 1% gain Tuesday, but its stock has jumped 262% so far in 2020. Although value-hunting investors have looked at the automakers for some time, it'll take a lot more from General Motors and Ford to convince anyone that they've turned things around for good.