Why the 2021 Ford Bronco Has to Be a Win

Ford needs some victories. The new Bronco and Bronco Sport are expected to lead the way.

byPatrick George|
Why the 2021 Ford Bronco Has to Be a Win

Good morning and welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive's daily roundup of what matters in the world of cars and transportation. Today we're talking about the new Ford Bronco (have you heard there's a new Bronco coming out?), dealers getting paycheck protection loans, and why you should watch out for all those new RV drivers this summer.

The New Ford Bronco Will Lead Us Into The Future

It's no secret that the Ford Motor Company needs some wins. Last year's launch of the Explorer was a production and quality disaster. It's struggled with a low stock price and generally negative views from Wall Street investors. The F-Series trucks have lost ground to Ram. Its 2019 profits were down 99 percent from the previous year. And no automaker is doing great during the pandemic.

One answer to this is the new F-150. The other is the new 2021 Ford Bronco. That's been teased out on the car blogs seemingly for the past 500 years now, but it's finally set to debut on Monday. It, along with its smaller, soft-roader crossover brother the Bronco Sport, will tap into Boomer and Millennial nostalgia and the all-important SUV market. It's a huge deal for Ford.

As this Detroit News story notes, it's another example of Ford leaning heavily into its heritage, something that has worked well with the Mustang and the trucks. As you probably know, old-school Broncos have been the rich hipster vehicle of choice for years, so it needs that energy around the new one:

When the new Bronco goes on sale in 2021, Ford will be looking to tap into that enthusiasm, as part of a strategy built around trucks and SUVs, and the technology that will define the auto industry's future: "What we need to do is leverage that history, but interpret it in a way that is very relevant and modern for today," said Dave Pericak, director of enterprise product line management for Ford's Icons division.

Another reflection of the Blue Oval leaning into its heritage: it announced Monday that Bronco will be its own brand, with the tagline "Built Wild."

The automaker will broadcast the virtual reveal of the Bronco across Disney’s broadcast, cable, digital and streaming properties, including ABC, ESPN, National Geographic and Hulu, during the first commercial break in the 8 p.m. hour on Monday.

It's also meant to give the Jeep Wrangler a much-needed black eye. Save for maybe the Toyota 4Runner, which is much bigger, the Wrangler doesn't have much in the way of direct competition despite its extreme popularity.

And while the Bronco itself is a pretty conventional vehicle, there is a possibility of electrification down the line, says Dave Pericak, director of enterprise product line management for Ford's Icons division:

The next question, then, is whether that means electrification is in the Bronco's future. There are no concrete plans for an electric Bronco at this time, but Pericak doesn't rule it out: "No product is not considered at some point in time for electrification or some version of some propulsion system that would enhance its performance."

See more Bronco news here on The Drive on Monday, or sooner if it leaks out. 

Dealers Took At Least $7.6 Billion In PPP Loans

All kinds of businesses took federal Paycheck Protection Program loans to keep workers afloat when the pandemic hit, including—let's be honest—some well-heeled publicly traded companies that really didn't deserve it. But car dealers, whose industry has been absolutely hammered this year, also took loans while salespeople, mechanics and support staff were forced to deal with furloughs and layoffs. 

How many dealers took PPP loans? Almost three-fourths of all of them in the U.S., according to Automotive News. Though exact figures are hard to determine, here's how that stacked up:

According to data released this week by the Small Business Administration, 12,693 new-car dealerships collectively received between $6.97 billion and $10.36 billion in PPP loans. That figure represents about 76 percent of the 16,682 dealerships in the U.S., according to NADA's year-end 2019 count. In addition, 1,988 used-car dealerships received between $625 million and $1.53 billion in PPP loans.

[...] Forty-four new-vehicle and four used-vehicle retailers nationwide accepted the largest PPP loans — the $5 million-$10 million range — according to the SBA data. The largest group of new-vehicle dealerships — 6,364 nationally — took out PPP loans that were between $350,000 and $1 million. Among used-car dealerships, the most popular loan amount was between $150,000 and $350,000, according to the data.

Jared Allen, vice president of communications for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said in an email that the PPP "has been invaluable in keeping dealership employees on the payroll during this extremely challenging time for vehicle sales."

"In fact, every dealer NADA has heard from who received a PPP loan has used it to keep employees on the payroll, and/or bring back furloughed or terminated employees, even though economic conditions would have otherwise forced those dealers to make drastic and permanent workforce reductions.

And he's right. Though many people don't have love for dealers or the dealership experience, it's an arguably better use of job-saving taxpayer funds than, I don't know, Ruth's Chris Steak House. 

Watch Out For Rookie RV Drivers

Finally, a fun bookend to yesterday's item about the booming RV industry this summer: people are new to driving these big things, and they are often very bad at doing so. The trend is bad enough to necessitate a story in the Wall Street Journal:

Brad Swenson, who lives in his RV, was at a stoplight in the Black Hills of South Dakota last month when he saw a rental RV trying to use a fast-food drive-through—a typical rookie mistake.

“It was like I was about to see a dog get hit by a car. I wanted to help, but there was nothing I could do,” said Mr. Swenson, 50, a Seattle property investor.

“He was about 2 feet away from doing major damage” but stopped when he reached a hanging sign alerting him that the RV was too tall, Mr. Swenson said. Still, the man was going to have to ask everyone in line to get out of his way so he could back up. “I felt bad for him,” Mr. Swenson said. “I almost wanted to send him a Hallmark card saying, ‘We’ve all been there.’ ”

PSA: if you see one of these on the road right now, maybe give it some extra space. Just in case.  

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Your Turn

Do you think the new Bronco will be the sales success Ford needs it to be?