Ford US sales and marketing vice president Mark LaNeve is expected to lay out the plans Thursday morning at the Chicago Auto Show. Specifics aren't known, but the company says the nameplates will cover "segments in which the company does not currently compete."
That leads us to think the Bronco might be making a return. The long-running brute was one of the original SUVs, leading the Blue Oval's utility lineup from 1966-96. Sandbagged by the infamous O.J. Simpson police chase – O.J. rode in a white Bronco – Ford jettisoned the vehicle amid the negative publicity and evolving consumer tastes. Now, automakers are doubling down on SUVs, as evidenced by FCA's ambitious plans for its Ram and Jeep divisions. Enthusiasts have long speculated Ford might bring back the Bronco to face off against the remade Jeep Wrangler, and rumors of this swirled last year during the company's talks with the UAW. The Ranger pickup truck was also the subject of similar speculation.
Regardless, Ford sees a land grab in the SUV space as oil and gas prices have plummeted and the economy has generally recovered from the recession. Even if fuel prices spike, Ford predicts the SUV thirst will continue among Millenials and Boomers.
"As members of the 80-million-strong Millennial age group enter their prime child-rearing years,a leading indicator of more SUV sales, nearly 80 million aging baby boomers continue to prefer their SUVs," LaNeve said in a statement before his scheduled speech in Chicago. "It's a demographic double whammy and it all points to one thing – more SUVs for the foreseeable future."
-- Ford will add four new nameplates to its global SUV lineup in the next four years in segments in which company does not currently compete
-- Millennials starting families lends strong support to ongoing SUV boom in the United States
-- As baby boomers age, they're more likely to stay in or return to SUVs
-- Increased fuel efficiency of Ford's newest utility vehicles makes consumers less sensitive to fuel costs
CHICAGO, Feb. 11, 2016 – Together, millennials and baby boomers give Ford 160 million good reasons to expect the surge in SUV sales will continue into the next decade. In a breakfast address to the Midwest Automotive Media Association today, Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Company vice president of Marketing, Sales and Service, explained why growth in SUV sales is expected to continue – not only in the United States, but around the world – and why Ford is adding four new SUVs in the next four years – all four in SUV segments in which the company does not currently compete.
"As members of the 80-million-strong millennial age group enter their prime child-rearing years, a leading indicator of more SUV sales, nearly 80 million aging baby boomers continue to prefer their SUVs," said LaNeve. "It's a demographic double whammy and it all points to one thing – more SUVs for the foreseeable future."
LaNeve cited recent Ford research that shows once millennials even begin thinking about starting a family, their interest in shopping for SUVs goes up significantly. And as many have delayed starting families, these yet-to-form family households represent additional SUV growth opportunities for the company.
Yet millennials alone aren't expected to drive SUV growth – aging baby boomers tend to stay with or return to SUVs, in part because it's easier to get in and out of a vehicle that sits higher off the ground than a passenger car. LaNeve also noted that many boomers feel younger and more active driving an SUV.
While low gas prices have contributed to the growth in SUVs in recent years, much improved fuel efficiency in the latest generation of utility vehicles leads Ford to believe a potential rise in gas prices wouldn't push consumers back to passenger cars.
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"Some SUVs now rival the fuel efficiency of V6-powered midsize sedans from only a few years ago," said LaNeve, "and as baby boomers grew up with much less capable, much less efficient vehicles, they tend to appreciate the efficiency of Ford's newest SUVs." Even if gas prices go up, he added, refueling costs for owners of modern SUVs will be much less than they were during the last SUV boom.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Michigan. With about 199,000 employees and 67 plants worldwide, the company's core business includes designing, manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electrified vehicles, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles. At the same time, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility, the company's plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics. For more information regarding Ford, its products worldwide or Ford Motor Credit Company, visit www.corporate.ford.com.