Wrangler Truck and Bronco's Return

This year is shaping up for an exciting time for utility vehicles as Fiat Chrysler of America (hereafter, FCA) and Ford will produce long rumored marketing offerings. Following the demise of the Scrambler, rumors bubbled up that Jeep's latest corporate owner would launch a fully formed truck on the Wrangler's platform. Meanwhile, Bronco's fans pined for a return of the first generation version of the iconic vehicle that was developed to blunt the Jeep and International Harvester's Scout. Indications point toward a formal launch of the Jeep Wrangler truck and a return of the Ford Bronco. Compact utility vehicle fans, rejoice.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne announced that the company will offer a truck variant of the Wrangler. The truck's launch will occur with the launch of a new (e.g., major refresh) Wrangler.

Compact utility truck fans rejoice. Your product is here.

The last Jeep truck was the Comanche (history here and discussion here), which was based on the Cherokee platform and was produced from 1985 to 1992.

Chrysler's desire to protect Dodge truck sales doomed the Comanche.

The Scrambler (history here) was produced from 1981 to 1986.

The ultimate sales niche. Everyone who wanted one bought it 3 years after launch.

Toyota and Nissan left the compact utility truck market to concentrate on bigger trucks that offer greater profits per vehicle. It could be argued that this market met its demise when Ford cancelled the Ranger.

The Bronco (history here and discussion here) began its product life as Ford's attempt to fight the AMC's Jeep CJ and International Harvester's Scout.

Back to the future for compact utility vehicles

At the time of its launch, Ford had found success with the Mustang, the small sports car. Donald Frey and Lee Iacocca, who were responsible for the Mustang, designed the initial Bronco to be smaller than the Scout and lighter than the CJ. Regardless of the standard V6 or the optional V8, the Bronco lived up to Ford's demand to produce a Mustang for the off-road set. Indeed, the Bronco appears as the first truly compact utility vehicle.

Proving that history does not repeat but merely rhymes, Ford is bringing back the Bronco because of the Jeep Wrangler's success. For nearly six years, Wrangler sales have increased. Competitors such as the Honda CR-V and the Toyota Rav4 have moved out of the market segment while Suzuki completely exited the American market.

Low gas prices, low-interest rate loans, lower production costs, and soaring truck sales support both companies' decisions. The time seems right for the launch of two iconic looking vehicles.