Should Models be Brands?

 

The subject of should models become brands has been relevant and important lately. I have had conversations with family and friends about the subject since some have texted me wondering why certain car manufacturers are doing certain business decisions. So, here is my take on should car models become brands.

In 2009, Dodge/Chrysler/Daimler/FCA split off the Ram pickup truck from Dodge and created their own brand from that model. That has been a very successful decision. Hyundai has split Genesis off into its own luxury brand, copying a page from Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti recipe, but also making a brand from a model. Chevrolet has rumored that they might consider making the Corvette a brand in itself. Manufacturers have split models into brands in the past, some have success and some were a failure.

Now, Ford wants to make a Mustang a brand, starting with the all-electric SUV, the Mach E. There is also a rumor that they want to make the Bronco a brand as well. Although, what doesn’t make sense is how they use the Raptor nameplate. They utilize that name for the F-150 Raptor, and Ranger Raptor, but apparently that name will not be utilized to distinguish a more powerful Bronco. A beefy Bronco is rumored to be called a Warthog. Confusing, but whatever.

What Ford should learn though, is they have almost been in this situation before. They had Mercury, that they closed because they couldn’t seem to explain to buyers why they should pay more for a car that is identical to the Ford equivalent. Lincoln almost had the same fate. Hopefully, they have learned from those experiences and don’t mess up a new Mustang or Bronco brand. Toyota and Subaru are also the same boat. They had the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, and the Scion FRS all on the market at one time. And now they are almost doing the same thing, but instead of the Scion available, the Supra has taken that slot. We will have to see how this goes. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan does this with their Z car. Especially with the launch of the new 400Z. The Z name is known by people both with and without automotive knowledge so that would be a good start for them.

What do you think? Should auto manufacturers start making separate brands from their successful models?

Bronco Launch: Boom or Bust?

bronco-launch

Ford introduced the Bronco on Monday night and it was met with great fanfare and rejoicing. I have been incredibly excited for it to debut and would love to have put down a deposit on one. The website to reserve one crashed almost immediately. It will be a very successful and popular vehicle. But for as hyped as the Bronco was, the launch, especially being all virtual, did not go as well as it could have in my opinion, and here is why.

Ford teamed up with Disney Creativeworks to create three short films about the Bronco directed by Jimmy Chin. You can watch each film here, here, and here. They were shown around the 8 o’clock hour on Monday, July 13th. One on ABC, one on ESPN, and the last National Geographic. Ford also did a virtual launch on their YouTube channel.

After watching all three, I now see what Ford was trying to do and where they were trying to go. They are trying to say get off your butt and go out in nature. Stop watching it on TV, get in a Bronco, and go live. They want to show they are going back to their roots, ready to tackle the tough terrain and take on Jeep. It is showing that Ford has climbed up out of there old ways because each film has climbing in it. Jimmy is not just an award-winning film director, he is also a climber. That is evident in all three short films that he made. The climbing aspect was much better in Jimmy’s own film than it was in the other two.

Jimmy’s own film was just much better overall. He did better at making the Bronco a part of his story, sort of like a supporting role, rather than just a vehicle being driven by a celebrity. I do not want to belittle those celebrities either. Their stories were amazing and they are awesome people. I just don’t think Jimmy could incorporate the Bronco into them as well and it seemed more forced and less natural. But that is simply my opinion.

The main issue I have is this. For as much hype that had been put into these films and the Bronco launch in general, it was insanely overrated. It is also ridiculously hard to find where they said they said they were going to place these films. They said they would be available on Hulu starting July 14th, the day after the launch. Maybe they were there. I wasn’t able to check. But, I did check on July 16th and did not find them. I searched, but I didn’t see anything Ford or Bronco related. Therefore, I went to YouTube. All three films are there but they have so few views in my opinion. Ford really dropped the ball on these films, I think. The most views one of the films has is 272,000. You might think that is a lot, but when you look at the live launch they debuted on YouTube, that video has over 2.8 million views. The films to me were a total dud and a total distraction.

Ford has had issues with launches in the past, especially the Explorer. If you want to hand Ford a pass because of the pandemic, that is fine. I will cut them a little slack. But really, they have rumored the Bronco for YEARS. Ford kept changing the date because the first launch date was set to be in the spring of 2020. Then the pandemic hit and caused them to set a new date. That date was July 9th, which was OJ Simpson’s birthday. How did they not know that? When your vehicle is associated with something like that, one would think a simple Google search would tell you a birthday? Not intentionally doing that, and wanting to not cause controversy, they moved it to July 13th and said all 3 films would come out across 3 Disney network of channels. Then there would also be something on YouTube. Yet, in none of these did a CEO get up and say anything about the vehicle, or show one in action in real life. Everything was staged and filmed prior. Nothing was live. There were hardly any facts given that we didn’t already know.

If it seems like I am ranting and long-winded it is because I can’t seem to articulate how confusing this launch was. My point is this. It should have been a very simple, inspiring, and proud event. In reality, it had very few of those things.

Let me be clear though. The Bronco launch did not fail. There was so much hype about it to begin with that it really couldn’t fail. It just wasn’t as amazing as it could or should have been in my journalism degree, automotive enthusiast opinion.

Wrangler Raptor Bronco Battle

wrbb

A few weeks ago, I commented on a Ford Bronco post on social media that was about how Ford thinks the new Bronco will eat the Jeep Wrangler for lunch (I’m not really sure where the exact quote about that is). My comment was, that on paper, the new Bronco looks to be a superior off-road vehicle to the Jeep. Many people quickly commented back saying that being able to make a prediction like that is not sound and that there is one crippling feature the Bronco does not have which will always make the Jeep superior.

That feature is a solid front axle. Jeeps always reign supreme because of having a solid front axle. The Bronco will be coming with independent front suspension. While I completely agree, that my opinion about the Bronco on paper is premature to call it superior to the Jeep without actually physically being able to compare them yet, I had to really think about the solid front axle issue.

After thinking long and hard about it, I concluded that I believe the Bronco is intended to be a different kind of off-road vehicle. I am not saying that the Bronco should not be compared to the Jeep, but I think the type of off-roading each vehicle is good at is slightly different. Jeep is intended for mountainous trails with steep inclines and jagged rocks. The Raptor and soon to be Bronco are created for desert trails and speed. That conclusion was solidified when I watched one of Doug DeMuros recent videos about the Jeep Mojave. I think Jeep built the new Mojave to specifically go head to head with the new Bronco in desert speed. The Fox shocks installed on the Mojave is almost the sole reason I think this.

What vehicle are Fox shocks famously found on? Oh yeah, the Ford Raptor. While no one is exactly comparing a Raptor to a Jeep, the Raptor is an insane desert off-roader. That is the type of driving I believe that the Bronco will fulfill to an even greater degree, but also tackle mountainous trails in an above-average way than what the Raptor currently does. This is why I think Jeep is installing Fox shocks, increasing the speed in low gear via the transfer case, and raising the ride height of the Mojave to prepare to compete with the Bronco on desert trail running. They know the Bronco is a threat and they are preparing for it. On the flip side, one could wonder why Jeep is moving away from “Trail Rated” and now placing “Desert Rated” badges on the Mojave? I think they want to show dominance in all areas first.

All of this makes sense when you look at the type of vehicles most popularly used for desert rally and endurance racing. Trophy trucks and the H1 Hummer are not exactly solid axle. The rear axle of a trophy truck is solid, but the front is independent and Hummers are portal. Looking at those vehicles and knowing that the Raptor is built to be with those vehicles, I believe it is safe to assume that the Bronco, with its independent suspension, is intended to join those vehicles playing in the sandbox.

One last side point is the modification capability of each vehicle. A point I made in my comment on social media was that the Jeep culture is vast and strong, and the aftermarket modification parts, capability, and customization is enormous. The Bronco out of the box will not have that. It will take some time for the aftermarket accessories to increase and bugs to be ironed out.

Even with all of this, I am incredibly excited for the Bronco to come on the market. Choices and competition are amazing and this will only make the off-road segment even more popular. Although, most of these will probably never leave the asphalt.