Will Ford's SUV blitz include the Bronco?
Plus: Analysis on Chicago's monster truck jam and the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso.
This led to wild speculation about what form these utes will take. Here's what we know: They will be new nameplates, and Ford is thinking globally. That means at least one might not be a product with US intent. They will also be in segments where the company does not currently compete, Ford said. The Blue Oval isn't specifying exactly what's it's doing, so here are some of our theories.
We think one will be called the Bronco, which is great news for enthusiasts. We hope it follows the Mustang playbook with some heritage styling, but a thoroughly modern execution. Ford needs an off-road Jeep Wrangler-fighter. Fuel prices are low and it's been 22 years since the infamous O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase. This is the best chance Ford will ever have to bring back this iconic name.
Our man on the ground at the Chicago Auto show, Sebastian Blanco, reported that Ford sales and marketing vice president Mark LaNeve said a "mini utility" will also be one of the utes. This could be primarily an overseas play. We've also seen lots of spy shots of the EcoSport, a small crossover that Ford sells in India and other overseas markets, being tested on American roads. That is an existing nameplate. Maybe Ford adds a small ute related to the EcoSport in the United States, but calls it something else.
We think Lincoln gets a three-row SUV out of the deal. It could slot between the MKX, which was new last year, and the Navigator. Lincoln is leaving money on the table by not being in this segment. The platform could be used for a Ford at some point, too. The Blue Oval brand does actually have a tweener three-row vehicle, the Flex, but this chassis might underpin a replacement.
Or maybe Ford makes one of these a hybrid. The company laid out ambitious plans in December to ramp up its electrification strategy, something that could mean a dedicated hybrid SUV (Kia unveiled one of those right after LaNeve's speech in Chicago). It's also possible hybrid technology will be integrated into this new portfolio. The Escape used to have a hybrid sibling.
Whatever form they ultimately take, Ford is betting heavily on SUVs. The company thinks they are what Baby Boomers and Millenials want and expects the segment will continue to grow. It's important to note: this will be a diversified strategy. Ford isn't rolling out four new variants of the Expedition. These are vehicles that offer SUV character with fuel economy and comfort.
"We think SUV growth is totally demographic driven," spokesman Mark Schirmer said. "It's not cheap gas or economy driven."
News & Analysis
News: Ram, Toyota, and other truckmakers dominated the Chicago show.
Analysis: Sure, the Chevy Camaro 1LE and Kia Niro hybrid were there, but as our crew in the Windy City reported, it was all about the trucks. The Ram 2500 Power Wagon and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro were two of the headliners, while Nissan detailed plans for the non-XD Titan. Chevy showed blacked-out Midnight editions of the Colorado and Silverado. Oh, and Mercedes revealed something called the Sprinter Extreme concept.
The question is why? Aren't we all supposed to be driving Smart cars by now? Americans like larger vehicles. It's a big country, and there's a lot of wide open space. Fuel prices are low, which helps, but there will always be a market for work-oriented vehicles. There's also the weekend warriors, who want some functionality and just like driving a truck the rest of the time. It's a lucrative segment, and when conditions are right, companies know how to make some seriously fun products. The Chicago show underscored that.
News: The Ferrari FF is now the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso
Analysis: It's basically a refresh. Ferrari boosts the 6.3-liter V12's power to 680 hp (up from 651 hp) and integrates rear-wheel steering with the car's all-wheel-drive system. Little changes outwardly. The grille, fender vents, hood, and taillights are slightly different, but you need to look closely. The revised design elements do make for better aerodynamics. The redone cabin features a 10.25-inch high-definition touchscreen and a new steering wheel.
The name might be the best part of the update. The GTC element harks back to the 330 GTC, and Lusso is meant to connect the new supercar to the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso – one of the most gorgeous cars ever built. Four stands for the GTC4's number of seats. The power boost is great, and the name is dripping with history, but this is a glorified update. Still, it's a new Ferrari and it's sure to command a lot of attention at the Geneva Motor Show.
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