You know Ford and Lincoln and you may remember Mercury but what about Bronco, Explorer and Mustang? Under Ford’s new game plan, those former model names have become sub-brands.
Speaking to Motor Trend in April, Ford CEO Jim Farley confirmed more spin-off models are in various planning stages. “I made it very clear when we rolled out the plan that we’re going to create new passion brands, too,” he said.
Ford’s first performance all-electric, battery-powered SUV, the Mustang Mach-E is another example of adding to an iconic nameplate; its first expansion in 55 years. The addition upset Mustang purists who felt it a betrayal to attach the vaunted Mustang name to a four-door crossover EV. Ford sold more than 6,600 copies during the first quarter of this year, according to Motor Trend.
Ford’s Bronco is the second sub-brand and definitely a more confusing rollout than the ‘Stang. The comeback of the body-on-frame Bronco, based on the Ford Ranger pickup, is delayed and fractured. The Bronco is due by this fall but other Bronco models will not surface until 2022 thanks to supply chain problems. Farley boasts that the company has nearly 200,000 Bronco reservations and if they all come through, that equates to two years of production. There will be standalone Bronco dealers, too.
Meantime, there’s a new, unibody SUV, called the Bronco Sport, that has become a runaway success, as dealers clamor for additional deliveries, with more than 23,000 of them sold in the first quarter. While it shares the Escape’s platform, the two certainly do not resemble each other. A key feature of the new Bronco brand is standard all-wheel drive.
Ford’s new compact pickup truck, the Maverick, is planned to slot below the Ranger in size and price, may join the Bronco brand and likely utilizes the Bronco Sport’s front-wheel drive architecture.
Taking advantage of popular nameplates not only immediately attracts greater customer interest but also saves significant marketing money. Building a nameplate from scratch is a pricey and timely affair. Promoting a legacy name to a sub-brand provides instant recognition.
Which vehicle could be next to receive its own sub-brand? Look no farther than the F-150, which some fans argue should have been the original sub-brand. A best seller for the past 44 years, the F-150 is already a sub-brand in some aspects. The Raptor, Ford’s high-speed, desert basher, is another possible target for elevation, though it might be mid-decade before it occurs.
“We have so much opportunity,” CEO Jim Farley told Motor Trend. “We have such a plethora of ideas and passion brands in the company. So many in Europe and in the U.S. We run deep. So, I don’t think we’re going to stop there.”
“Our ambition is to lead the electric revolution,” said Farley during Ford’s Capital Markets Day on May 26. “We really mean that. We are working on families of iconic battery electrics: Mustangs, Explorers, F-Series, Lincolns. What’s exciting is that the move to BEVs allows us to totally reimagine our vehicles and the way we develop them. Removing the engine, the transmission, the driveline, the fuel system, the exhaust and all the other IC components frees up design constraints that have dictated the vehicle architecture tradeoffs for more than a century.”
Farley added that this new approach provides new opportunities to optimize their future lineup for scale and efficiency.
“Therefore, we increased our investment in electrification to over $30 billion by 2025 including battery development. We expect 40 percent of the company’s global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030.”
Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer, offered some sneak peeks into the future with battery-electric vehicles (BEVs)
“Today, we’re pleased to preview our rear-wheel drive all-wheel drive BEV flexible architecture. It will deliver a whole new generation of high-volume vehicles with even better returns because it supports higher production scale,” he said. “Our architecture approach still allows us to share parts across vehicles, right down to the same pouch we use on F-150 Lightning and E-Transit. Rest assured, while some of the core technologies are shared the vehicle themselves and the experiences, they create for Ford and Lincoln customers will be very different.
Thai-Tang said the new, rear-wheel drive all-wheel drive BEV flex architecture will underpin a range of motor vehicles slated for production between now and 2030, including active lifestyle vehicles. Cargo vehicles for those who value space and versatility for their commercial needs. Pickups delivering legendary built for tough capability on mid-sized trucks. Rugged SUVs for our adventure-seeking customers. And high-margin, high demand larger, two and three-row SUVs for families around the world like Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, all from one flexible architecture.
“Plus, I’m pleased to announce that we’ll also deliver a scalable dedicated BEV architecture optimized for our next generation full-sized pickup trucks and utilities,” Thai-Tang said. “Today, five flexible vehicle architectures underpin Ford’s global product portfolio, taking into account that European customers want smaller vehicles, North Americans love large trucks and utilities and our commercial customers worldwide want capable heavy-duty trucks and vans.”