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.
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.