By on July 2, 2021

Jeep

The new Ford Bronco is here. It got glowing reviews from most of the automotive media this week, and while I’d like to think our review was fairly balanced, it tilted positive. The rig is pretty good. Jeep and its Wrangler need to fight back.

How?

For starters, I think Jeep needs to lean it to what it already offers. Such as more powertrain choice — it offers buyers not just gas engines but a hybrid, diesel, and V8. It’s also just as strong off-road, especially in Rubicon trim, as the Bronco, and Jeep needs to remind folks of that.

Down the line, it’s going to come down to features, off-road goodies, and pricing. Jeep and Bronco are close in two of the three categories. The Bronco does offer some off-road features — mainly one-pedal driving and the ability to brake the inside rear wheel to make tighter turns — that Jeep does not, at present.

I am not saying Jeep needs to copy Ford. But if the brand can cook up some sort of off-road feature that Ford doesn’t have and won’t have any time soon, the folks in Auburn Hills can fire back at the people in Dearborn.

What that feature or features would be, I can’t say. I am not enough of an off-road-expert (my track record of getting stuck — I’m up to three! — proves that) to know exactly what new hoity-toity feature, likely electronic, Jeep can come up with to lord over the Bronco as a marketing advantage.

Speaking of marketing, that’s the best non-product way for Jeep to strike back. An ad blitz or campaign that reminds buyers that Jeep is still around, and has 80 years of experience in the off-road space, while the Bronco is the upstart (even the original doesn’t date back as far as Jeep), could do the trick.

Though perhaps they should avoid Bruce Springsteen.

The last thing Jeep could do to fight back against the Bronco might be the toughest — and the riskiest. Reviewers, myself included, felt the Bronco was better on-road than the Wrangler, and credited the independent front suspension for that. Would Jeep give the Wrangler a similar setup, at risk of reduced off-road capability? Would off-road capability even be reduced, since the Bronco seemed to be on par?

Would Jeep take such a step to make the Wrangler’s street-driving manners better? Can it make a better on-road product without doing so? Or is it a point of pride for Jeep to keep the solid axles, and perhaps customers don’t care or even prefer that setup?

Maybe Jeep doesn’t need to fight back after all. I heard a lot of talk in Texas about Ford conquesting Jeep buyers, but the sources weren’t unbiased, and no hard data was presented. I believe Jeep fans and Ford fans will be showing a lot of brand loyalty, though surely some folks who bought their first-ever Wrangler and didn’t like it might try a Ford. Mainly, though, I think Ford and Jeep will be fighting for the first-time buyer of such an off-road rig.

So the loyalists might stay loyal. If my thesis is correct, and Jeep is fighting for the first-time off-roader, it either needs to improve the on-road manners or give the Jeep some new off-road features that give it bragging rights.

Otherwise, it’s gonna be “Bronco Bronco Bronco”, at least for the foreseeable future.

[Image: Jeep]

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42 Comments on “How Jeep Can Fight Off the Ford Bronco...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    0. I can’t prove it but I expect Jeep has more margin to play with on the Wrangler which will allow Jeep to offer more attractive pricing and incentives.

    1. Even in good times Ford tends to trip over its d*ck when launching a new vehicle. In 2021 that problem could be amplified.

    2. Although their actual dimensions are fairly close the Bronco *seems* like a larger and more intimidating vehicle. While that will appeal to some buyers I think some will still prefer the more cheerful Jeep.

    3. Considering that we are getting off-road packages on Outbacks and RAV4s I think there is plenty of room for both the Wrangler and Bronco to thrive in this market.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Does the solid front axle make a ton of difference when the 2 vehiles are stock? Never been into jeeps but when I was into Land Cruisers stock for stock there wasnt a ton of difference in the 80 and 100 series, but the soilid front axle on the 80 made the vehicle much easier to moidify with respect to lifts and what not.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The fascinating thing about the new Bronco is that Ford tried to take on the Wrangler (then CJ-5) once before, starting in 1966. By 1978, the market had shifted to much larger, full-size truck-based SUVs, and that’s exactly where the Bronco went, most famously remembered in the live-televised OJ Simpson, low-speed Los Angeles police chase.

    We’ll see if the new Wrangler-sized Bronco does better this time around. Someone else pointed out that Toyota tried this with the FJ Cruiser not long ago with little success, so it could be, in the words of Yogi Berra, déjà vu, all over, again.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @rudiger – I’m seeing restmod 1st generation Bronco’s selling for over $200k USD. Ford better hope that this isn’t a fad. Hardcore Jeep guys won’t buy a Bronco but that still leaves a big segment of the market open.

      • 0 avatar
        multicam

        Lou, but man those 1st gen Broncos look good. The new Bronco is cartoony and bloated-looking and I think it’ll grow old fast once the excitement wears off. The new Bronco is overtly retro like the S197 Mustang. As far as off-road features… from the article:

        “I am not saying Jeep needs to copy Ford. But if the brand can cook up some sort of off-road feature that Ford doesn’t have and won’t have any time soon, the folks in Auburn Hills can fire back at the people in Dearborn.”

        -yeah, a solid front axle, as mentioned in the comments above. Just look up pictures of the articulation guys are getting on the four door jeeps with 37” tires, 3.5” lift and sway bar disconnects. It’s insane.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      FJ was a gussied up 4runner

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        FJ’s weren’t very practical. It’s the soccer mon and wannabe crowd that keeps the lights on.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        The FJ40 was a real contender in the off road arena. Might have even been better than the CJ series, but the last FJ was only made to look like an old FJ, but it did not function like the FJs of old.

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    There are conquest consumers to be had. I had a 2 door jeep (last version, JK…I think) and enjoyed it. I wanted a Bronco b/c of the perceived better ride characteristics with the IFS….turns out it is better.

    In the end, I got another 2 door Wrangler b/c the wait for Bronco was too long, when that line goes down, the Jeep will be traded for the Bronco for the reason mentioned.

    Hard core types will hold their brands, but they are a (vocal) minority of paying customers

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I don’t think Jeep has to worry. Since WW2, Jeep has been one of THE American vehicles and most automakers would kill for that kind of name recognition. I doubt there are many buyers who stumble into a Jeep dealership and decide on the fly that they need a Wrangler. This is a car you want, not decide on.

    I think Ford will sell Broncos to those who might want a better ride, or the latest toy, or are set on a Ford. But with the Wrangler’s reputation, community, options, powertrains, variety of models, and overall toughness, there’s going to be nothing to worry about. If anything, Jeep will have to keep Ford busy with keeping the Bronco current to compete.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @theflyersfan – hardcore Jeep fans put up with the shortcomings but many won’t. I do know a few Jeep owners looking at the Bronco especially the 35’s Sasquatch and the rumoured 37’s Warthog. Factory mods and warranty is a win/win for many.

  • avatar
    ajla

    With the better on road manners of the IFS, the V6T power and the more butch styling I do wonder if the 4-door Bronco will be stealing buyers away from the SWB full-size SUVs, which have been getting softer in both styling and engineering over the last generation.

    An optioned Bronco Black Diamond is a high $40K SUV, which isn’t cheap, but a 2WD Tahoe or Expedition *starts* at $50K these days.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Compete maybe, where no tries; Lower price !

  • avatar
    NigelShiftright

    The two door Wrangler’s wheelbase is only a couple of inches longer than the CJ-7’s was 35 years ago. I think Jeep can get by on brand loyalty until Ford bloats the Bronco out of the market.

  • avatar
    rw33

    After the initial excitement I don’t think Jeep needs to worry about the Bronco. Fanboys will stick to their brand, and you’ll have some who now nothing about off-roading but are looking for the one with best image, accessories, and price. The biggest reason Jeep should be fine is bc their brand recognition is still stronger than Ford. All the wealthy people buying Wranglers for the status won’t buy a Ford.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Vehicles with solid axles have been losing the battle to fight off independently suspended ones for eons. As the latter get better at the former’s few remaining strengths, that fight only gets tougher and tougher.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Losing the battle? In the last 20 years we haven’t lost one solid-front axle 4X. It’s a great alternative that’s here to stay. Actually we gained one if you count the Gladiator.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Jeep needs to improve the Wrangler, lower the price, and then highlight Fords extensive quality woes, lack of an aftermarket for the Ranger SUV, the lack of interior quality, the lack of powertrain variety etc.

    The Ranger SUV is mediocre and does not raise the bar or bring anything new to the table. Ford was hoping for a home run and they couldn’t even get a base hit…..while playing t-ball.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    this is sort of like saying “how can Apple fight off Huawei”.

    It’s not relevant, and to give any attention to Ford is to legitimize them. Ignore them instead, and let Ford’s marketing arm try–and fail–to create what Jeep has created in the market.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Ford’s marketing arm is very successful. When you lie, deceive and the general public is incredibly stupid, it’s highly successful.

      Ford lack of anything resembling quality will be their downfall. Garbage powertrains and garbage interior will doom the Ranger SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Since when is quality what keeps Fords moving off the lot? It’s like saying German cars should be reliable.

        Consumers seek all sorts of things to pull the trigger, and “quality” means different things to auto buyers. Yes Ford doesn’t knock it out of the park in any particular areas, but there’s nothing that’s unacceptable to the average shopper.

        Furthermore, get a grip.

        • 0 avatar
          Mustangfast

          LOL Stellantis/FCA is definitely not known for quality, at worst case it’s a draw from that standpoint. Also no aftermarket? They’re literally developing the system by which aftermarket will exist and thrive.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          “ Consumers seek all sorts of things to pull the trigger, and “quality” means different things to auto buyers. Yes Ford doesn’t knock it out of the park in any particular areas, but there’s nothing that’s unacceptable to the average shopper.”

          Hence my comments about the successful marketing. I think any reasonable person, when asked if they think it’s acceptable that a vehicle is built so poorly that immediately after leaving the factory has to be shipped across the country to another factory to be fixed….or scrapped because the damage is so extensive, would say absolutely not.

          Apparently that’s not conserved “unacceptable” to you.

          Maybe you’re the one that needs to get a grip.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yeah around here we care (obsess) about a whole lot of things 98% of consumers don’t give a crap about. It could be made in China by children and if that’s what they want, it fits their lifestyle, budget, etc, they’re not feeler gauging the panel gaps nor as concerned with fit/finish as maybe they should be.

            There’s only 2 in this segment and the Wrangler isn’t known for its refinement or quality appointments.

  • avatar
    John

    I like my 2020 Wrangler Rubicon but it could use some minor upgrades, so it would be a better on and off road vehicle. I would start with the mirros, they need to be moved from the doors to the 1/4 panel or windshield frame, the wide track 65 inch axles from the Gladiator should be an option on the Wrangler Rubicon and higher trims, the 300hp 2.0L I4 ( it’s available on Alfa Romeo SUV’S ), factory turbo or supercharged 3.0 and 3.6L V6, Cummins R2.8 I4 diesel engine and the 5.7L Hemi 392 hp (292 kW), 404 lb⋅ft (548 N⋅m) V8 available as an option across all trim levels, since the 392 Hemi that’s now the top offering is just a bit overpowered with it’s 470hp.

  • avatar
    kkop

    Not a word about the cramped interior in the Jeep? That alone would send me to Ford.

  • avatar
    drewtam

    Jeep just needs to outlast the Ford. Ford will grow bored and let the product desiccate in the market, and then quietly exit. The Jeep will keep on ticking.

    Just like the Miata. Every decade or so, some company will try to compete in the small convertible, low cost, sportscar market. Eventually they can’t make the financials work for them and they quietly exit. Decades later, the Miata keeps on zooming.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      ^This. To many people, ‘Jeep’ means an outdoors lifestyle, and the Jeep model that says that more than any other is the Wrangler, to the point that, for many, ‘Jeep’ and ‘Wrangler’ are synonymous. The marketing has been superb for decades.

      But the Ford Bronco? It’s just a small, Jeep-like Ford truck. I can’t see it developing the kind of loyal following the Wrangler has over the long haul, at least not to the extent that Ford will keep it in production. Like I said earlier, Ford dropped it for 1978 when the market shifted. They’d do it again in a hearbeat with this new verison, too, when the sales numbers start slipping. I mean, c’mon, Ford has cancelled all of their sedans, and the sales numbers for them were surely way more than whatever they’re anticipating for the Bronco.

  • avatar
    Dartdude

    Jeep needs to build a mini wrangler about the size of the original no four doors. With a turbo four it would sell like crazy if they don’t overprice it

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I completely agree. Everything must grow at least a couple inches or 5% every generation. I was horrified when I saw a new Mustang next to a Fox body. I realize you can’t completely go back in time, but despite the hype, pickups have grown the least. A camper shell from a 1968 (flairside) 8 ft long-bed pickup will fit a 2021 8ft long bed pickup, even if the body contours and cabs don’t exactly match up..

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Are you talking the MB or CJ-2? The CJ-2 is slightly smaller than a Fiat Panda or Suzuki Jimny (quite a bit smaller than a Renegade)and I don’t think they would sell well here in the US.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Of course Land Rover modernised the Defender largely to keep it relevant to the 90% of buyers out there. Ford have done the same with the Bronco. Meanwhile Mercedes, Jeep and INEOS are old school. Personally I think Land Rover and Ford have called it right.

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    Off road performance? 95% of either brand is purchased to look cool in surburbia. “Off road” primarily means parked at Starbucks.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Exactly. And of the two, which is going to ‘look’ the coolest? The Bronco might be technically better in virtually all operational areas, but the Wrangler will win the cool factor, and that’s what sells.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Not all “Off Road” is good, especially on the way to Starbucks.

      “4X4” is normally cooler than AWD, and if it’s convertible too?

      How can the Bronco miss? It has a cool history anyway.

      So just because the Wrangler is the Coca-Cola of the segment, there’s no room for a Pepsi?

      It’s not like consumers have had a choice, modern day. Incidentally, Coca-Cola had a chance to buyout Pepsi early on for $10,000 or something like that, but “thought better”.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The real question is what will GM do to make the Blazer competitive.

  • avatar
    xidex

    i get a kick out of all the references to jeep reputation and prowess off trail, being mainly the only vehicle of this type until now, i guess there is no choice but to say that, but i recall when i used to hard core 4×4 my group would always cringe when we saw a jeep joining us (we always left it open for whoever wanted to come along) as we knew we were about to spend half the day fixing and towing broken jeeps which usually did happen. spring shackles breaking and twisting were common, could go on but why. anyways good to see competition now and the bronco seems pretty sturdy, wish there was a solid axle option !
    cheers

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