Ford missed the mark with Bronco case for Australia
Has Ford missed a trick in not approving the new Bronco for right-hand drive? We think so.
Not letting emotions get in the way (although yes, we do also really want to see the Bronco on Aussie roads and bush tracks too), it is the business case for the Bronco that has us scratching our heads. The Mustang gets the green light to go into RHD for Australia and the UK, but the Bronco doesn’t. It’s a car built on the T6 Ranger platform and was spotted doing plenty of testing here, yet it doesn’t get a look in.
Given 4x4s in both wagon and ute bodies are massively popular here (we’re Toyota’s biggest market globally for sales of the old boxy 70 Series and we don’t even need to mention how the Hilux and Ranger go), you’d figure Ford might add the Bronco alongside the Ranger Raptor, Ford Mustang and ST hot hatches as an off-roading hero.
Alas, Ford repeatedly tells us that there’s no plan for a RHD Bronco as the business case didn’t stack up.
So what does the business case look like?
First, we need an idea of how many people will buy the thing and being available in both long and short wheelbase, it opens up a fair size market. The Bronco is priced at USD$32,000, which is about $45,000 here. It would likely start from $50-odd grand upwards looking at comparative Mustang EcoBoost pricing.
And then further looking at vehicles in the 4×4 segment there seems to be an opportunity that Ford might have missed.
On a quick glance, we can think of obvious rivals like the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender, LandCruiser 70 Series (and to a lesser extent 200 Series and Prado) and Land Rover Discovery (particularly Discovery 4 owners who are not keen on the new model’s softer edge).
Further, we see opportunity with buyers of models like the Mitsubishi Pajero, which has been canceled, the upcoming Ineos Grenadier, wandering Nissan Patrol GU owners, and maybe even some Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen admirers. And don’t forget the ute-based wagon crowd which makes up a big chunk of four-wheel drive sales.
When you stack up the numbers, there’s around 50,000 annual Australian vehicle sales between them. And that’s without counting UK sales, which would help bolster the financial case for converting to right-hand drive. While a small island compared to Australia, the UK clocked almost 10,000 Defender sales in the previous model’s last year of sale (2015), and the new 2020 model’s early data suggests it will surpass sales of the Discovery. Even the Suzuki Jimny has over 1200 annual sales in the UK, and there have been 17,000 expressions of interest for the new Ineos Grenadier. That model will soon be available to buy in Australia, too.
Looking at the nitty-gritty of Australian sales that the Bronco could take from the market (according to VFACTS), the Wrangler recorded 1153 sales in 2019, the old Defender 897 units in its last year of sale (2017), and the Discovery 1216 units in 2019 but almost 3000 units in the old boxy generation’s last year of sale. It’s too early for reports on numbers for the new Defender, but it has already sold out of any diesel long-wheelbase versions – and new Defender 110s are selling for six-figures in dealer yards (we get it, there’s some badge cachet attached to them).
Moving on, there were 13,802 Landcruiser wagons sold in 2019. That’s a lot. Specifically, of that, 1185 were old-school LandCruiser 76 wagons, though we reckon there would be some Prado and 200 Series buyers considering the long-wheelbase Bronco if absolute space was not required.
We now begin to find ourselves in an interesting position in the market. The Mitsubishi Pajero is out of production and it’s a popular vehicle in Australia. Last year, 2847 Pajeros were sold, and the year before that, 3279 units. And let’s not forget the Patrol. While the new V8 is a battleship compared to the Bronco, many Patrol GU owners (averaging 2000 annual sales 2012-2016) would be keen on a new proper 4×4 wagon that’s not so executive styled.
Now we lob the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen into the picture. While an exotic 4×4 with a V8 twin-turbo engine and a quarter-million-dollar price tag, there are many who turn to options like the Suzuki Jimny because it’s an affordable alternative (minus hundreds of kilowatts and newton metres of torque). And while we’re at it, why not throw the Jimny in there – you can’t buy one because they always sell out, and when you do see them on dealer yards brand new the price is almost $40k.
There are also the wagon-based ute lot, like the Pajero Sport (6477 units in 2019), Ford Everest (5333), Toyota Fortuner (3033) and the Isuzu MU-X (8419).
Incredibly, we’re also forgetting the Ineos Grenadier, which will be coming to Australia to steal some thunder. It’s a boxy four-wheel drive styled similarly to the old Defender and with a ton of interest. It won’t likely be cheap, either.
Finally, the Bronco will spawn a Bronco ute on the same platform and chassis, and we know just how big a market that is here.
So how does that compare to the Mustang as a theoretical business case for Ford to go right-hand drive?
In five years of sale, the Mustang has notched over 25,000 unit sales in Australia, or 5000 units a year on average. Can the Bronco do that given the size of the numbers quoted above? We think it looks pretty solid.
And remember, when Ford first offered the Mustang here in RHD, it thought it might sell only 1000 a year…