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Ford has made it very clear that the all-new Bronco will not be coming to Australia, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Confirmed back in April by Ford Australia president and CEO, Andrew Birkic, the stated reason has to do with the business case not making sense for right-hand-drive production, coupled with anticipated low demand and subsequent insufficient profitability in this market for the Bronco.
This is a perplexing response by Ford Australia, especially considering that project U725/Bronco had its genesis down here in Melbourne, as part of the T6 Ranger program. The latter basically underpins the Bronco, with the fundamental engineering and development work already undertaken by Ford Australia.
It’s as if Ford is intentionally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – a no-brainer bestseller in a market obsessed with 4x4s, 4WDs and leisure SUVs like this. On hearing the decision to ban the Bronco from Australia, Toyota must have been laughing all the way to the bank.
Additionally, latest figures show that pre-orders for the Bronco in North America are in the vicinity of 125,000 units, after nearly one quarter of a million expressions of interest, giving the Blue Oval a bona fide smash hit on its hands. At this rate, with production only now getting underway ahead of customer deliveries in a few weeks, waiting lists are likely to stretch into many years. The thing is hot property in the USA and Canada.
Now, while such spectacular popularity and the delays it brings might appear to be a sound reason to pass on the Bronco for Australia, the decision to do so predates the pre-order boom.
In fact, there is actually a legitimate concern as to why the Bronco should not be brought to Australia. One might argue it as being steeped in fear and insecurity, but the decision is completely understandable, and is backed up by several historical precedents.
Basically, you can blame the Everest.
Yes, the five and seven-seat version of the ultra-successful T6 Ranger has, since its launch in 2015, over-delivered in terms of pushing dynamic and refinement boundaries as well as critical acclaim for larger 4x4 wagons, but has also underperformed in the sales race against the Toyota Prado, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
As we’re mentioned, Ford Australia is essentially the mother of the T6 program, and as such, must protect the Everest like a forlorn child from fierce rivals – including in-house ones like its Bronco half-sibling that threaten the Aussie SUV’s future.
With a complete redesign and extensive re-engineering expected for the next Everest due later next year or in 2023, Ford Australia isn’t willing to risk success. Selling the younger and cooler – though more expensive, it must be said – Bronco could jeopardise the former’s chances of increasing its market share in Australia.
Basically, Ford Australia has invested far too much money, effort and expertise to have the next Everest overshadowed by its glamorous sister. It’s like Solange being upstaged by Beyonce.
The same, by the way, also applies to the visually-similar but completely different Bronco Sport, which is actually a monocoque five-door wagon rather than a ladder-frame chassis 4x4 also nixed for Australia. Based on the C2 architecture first seen underneath the current Focus small car, it shares most componentry with the latest (ZH series) Escape, meaning transverse engines and all-wheel drive. Made in Mexico rather than in Michigan, the Bronco Sport is also a massive hit Stateside.
This isn’t the first time Ford Australia has had to pass on promising overseas models, especially when it was still manufacturing vehicles in Australia.
During the 2000s, the highly-acclaimed Ford Mondeo-based S-Max people mover was scuttled for our market at a time when conceptually similar rivals like the Honda Odyssey were popular, as there were fears it might harm sales of the Broadmeadows-built Ford Territory. Similarly, aside from a limited number of 1965 originals, the Mustang was never imported officially until after the locally-produced Ford Falcon’s death knell had been sounded, lest it stole sales away from the high-performance V8 models. And, likewise, the deletion of the Explorer in 2004 happened just as Territory came on stream. Coincidence? We think not.
Ford Australia wasn’t alone wanting to protect its own, either.
With the Global Financial Crisis looming, Holden pulled the plug on Cadillac for Australia at the 11th hour for fear of upstaging the homegrown VE Commodore-derived WM Caprice, while it was widely understood that Holden was forced to sell the Opel brand in Australia from 2012 by General Motors in Detroit, despite the Opel Astra competing head-on with the Adelaide-assembled Holden Cruze of the time. The exercise was a dismal failure and only put further financial pressure on a company that was already on the ropes in the ensuing years.
Still, with the SUV market booming and the Everest representing quite a different (and presumably a more affordable) approach to the off-road wagon theme, there are people within Ford Australia’s team that would love to see the Bronco sell alongside it in this country.
After all, Toyota has made hay over the past 50 years with multiple options in precisely the same field with various LandCruiser variations. Witness the Prado and its closely-related FJ Cruiser sibling. The big Fords in question basically mirror the above.
Nothing is set in stone in the car industry, of course, and maybe there will be enough demand for Ford to eventually reconsider its position on Bronco. This may happen towards the end of the decade, when the T6-derived Everest (and Ranger) reach the end of the road and are reportedly replaced with an all-new scalable truck architecture currently under development at Ford’s headquarters in Michigan.
By then, the Everest no longer be Australian. But that’s still years away.
For now, what would you rather see in your local Ford dealerships? An Everest or Bronco?
Let us know in the comments below.