The Ford Bronco has seen its share of notoriety over 30 years, and now that it's been brought back, why did Ford discontinue making the original Bronco?

For years, the Bronco was an integral part of the Ford lineup, and America seemed to love every aspect of it. Spanning five generations of happy customers, the company decided to pull the plug on the original Bronco quite suddenly in 1996, even though it had been a best seller for them. And now that the new Bronco is out and more popular than ever, you wonder what the deal was with the original. Did a particular football player driving a white Bronco to happen to have any effect? Was Ford so upset that their SUV would be linked to one of the century's most notorious crimes that they just scrapped the vehicle to avoid bad press? Or were there other issues going on? What factors were in play in 1996 that would have convinced Ford to abandon this iconic landmark?

Ford decided to discontinue production of the Ford Bronco due to America’s love affair with larger and more comfortable SUVs. Sensing a growing demand of families for third-row SUVs, Ford replaced the smaller Bronco with the Expedition and their most extensive offering - the Excursion.

The new Bronco is more popular than ever, with Ford announcing that it has stopped taking orders and would continue production requests for the 2023 model sometime later this year. The company underestimated the demand for this new Bronco, and many Ford enthusiasts will tell you that they should never have stopped making the original in the first place.

What was the reason Ford made the momentous decision to stop production? We’ve scoured the net, sales charts, and Ford forums from days gone by to see if we can separate fact from rumor. More than likely, Ford simply found itself at a crossroads with its large 2 door workhorse and felt it wasn't worth morphing the nameplate into an entirely new beast.

Why Ford Stopped Making The Bronco (Discontinued)

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What Factors Contributed to Bronco’s Demise?

More factors were going on than just a famous football player speeding away from the police on national television.

The Bronco was Just Boring

The Bronco has been in production in almost the same manner for nearly 30 years. While Ford did their best to tweak the designs over the years, the Bronco was still a Bronco. Designed to handle the rough outdoors, modern families grew up with more suburban mentalities, preferring town and country vehicles that offered more versatility. A workhorse truck that appealed to Grandpa in the sixties was losing its appeal to the more white-collar generation X workers entering the marketplace and beginning families of their own.

Families Wanted More Than Bronco was Offering

The last generation of the Bronco was a continuation of the two-door SUV on the F-150 frame. Ford found itself pushed into the four-door family SUV market, having nothing to offer a demanding public. Chevrolet had the Tahoe, and GM offered Yukon, both third-row SUVs, but short of their F 150, Ford had nothing to bring to the table. And with more and more families driving their larger 4-door SUVs on regular highways, Ford knew that they needed to act fast if they wanted to keep customers from abandoning the brand.

The third-row SUV allowed families the versatility of having a vehicle that was more multifunctional and practical. With almost 20 more feet of cargo space than the Ford counterpart, families could haul more when needed. And the Yukon allowed active families to transport many more people by simply raising the back two rows of seats. Yukon and Tahoe simply did more stuff, while the two-door Bronco could only watch and wish it was as good a vehicle. (The fact that the Tahoe was named Motortrends Truck of the Year for 1996 didn’t help matters much).

Getting in and out of the Bronco was Just Hard.

The Bronco was not easy for families to get into (or out of). The second-row seating was cumbersome, and many owners removed them to maximize cargo space, but having to put the heavy second-row seats back so that the Bronco could convert back to the family vehicle was not practical. Yukon did not have this issue as both the second and third-row seats folded down.

The Bronco was a Rough Ride

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Bronco's demise was in the ride. The Bronco rode like an off-road truck and seemed to be more at home bouncing over rocky terrain than it did on the smooth pavement of an interstate highway. Families recognized that the Chevrolet and GMC were a much more comfortable ride than anything the Bronco could give. (In all fairness, the Bronco was never designed to be a daily suburban driver).

The White Bronco on the TV Didn’t Help.

In 1994, national news outlets zeroed their cameras onto a famous white Ford Bronco fleeing from police. The fugitive hiding in the back seat was none other than OJ Simpson, who had been charged with murdering his ex-wife and her lover. When police arrived to make the arrest, Mr. Simpson refused to surrender. Instead, he took police on a three-hour-long escapade while millions of viewers watched the spectacle play out on national television. The famous athlete eventually ended his standoff and surrendered to police, only to be acquitted of murder charges in the fall of 1995. Ford worked hard to deflect the notion that their discontinuation of the Bronco had anything to do with the famous incident. Many enthusiasts felt that the episode had played a part. Ford officials decided that rather than overcoming the negative stigma, the best recourse was just to end production and wipe the slate clean.

What Factors are Keeping Ford from Producing the New Bronco?

A Global Pandemic that Wreaked Havoc

In March 2020, Ford shut down all US and European plants in response to the coronavirus pandemic, hopeful that the pandemic would soon pass and they could reopen for production shortly after that. Instead, the company began to produce personal protective equipment to help battle the surging epidemic. Almost nine months later, in Dec. 2020, Ford announced that it would delay the introduction of the new Bronco until the following year due to its Covid issues and various parts suppliers who had struggled to provide parts.

A Worldwide Shortage of Semi-Conductors

The semi-conductor shortage created by the Covid virus had ripple effects that are still being felt today. While the automobile industry recovered quickly, most chip manufacturers could not get their production lines up and running to meet the suddenly increased demands. The lack of availability forced every manufacturer to reassess their prediction schedules and revise their quotas. (many plants, including Ford, initiated extended shut-down protocols to allow for the crisis to ease). The revised productions meant that new vehicles were much harder to secure and sell, affecting the pace of auto sales. Consumers were forced to deal with placing orders for the vehicles they wanted, and many dealers saw their lots become empty as they adjusted to the new reality.

A Crisis At the Ports Contributed to the Problem

Parts don’t just have to be made; they also have to be shipped from one factory to another. Unfortunately, Covid created supply issues in that more and more goods started piling up at ports without the necessary truck drivers to pick up the loads and deliver them. While the situation shows signs of easing, many of the workers who labored in the hospitality industry rejected non-paying service jobs for higher-paying transport positions. The supply chain issues are not fixed yet, and with the recent economic issues (the rising cost of diesel fuel), many independent truckers are finding it harder to go on the road).

Ford Underestimated the Demand

The truth is that a contributing factor to the shortage of the new 2022 Bronco was that company officials underestimated the demands for the new vehicle. Designed to be a family-oriented SUV  with a two and four-door option, the Bronco is now built to compete with the Yukon, Tahoe, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. There is usually an uptick in sales when a previously popular model is reintroduced, and the Bronco is no exception. Ford has announced that it will begin accepting orders for the 2023 Ford Bronco later this summer, with an estimated delivery time of spring of 2023.

What is Ahead for the Ford Bronco?

The Ford Bronco will undergo a massive change as hybrid versions of the SUV are expected to be introduced. Ford officials have committed to electrifying their fleet, and with the success of the Mustang Mach - e, F 150 Lightning, and Explorer hybrid, that trend shows no signs of slowing. While the Bronco is only a year old, officials at the blue oval plan to introduce a new facelift with the hybrid and plug-in electric models due to hit showrooms in 2024.

By 2026, Ford plans to produce more than 2 million electric vehicles annually and convert one-third of its global volume to a carbon-neutral footprint. By the end of the decade, the company's goal is to convert half of its global volume to EVs.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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