Ford considers building Bronco concept, mulls platform options By AMY WILSON | Automotive News (08:55 Jan. 19, 2004) DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. is studying three existing platforms to figure out a way to build the Bronco SUV concept shown at the North American International Auto Show. The Bronco, if approved for production, would give Ford Division a low-priced SUV below the Escape in size and price. Candidates are the platforms that underpin the Escape and Tribute, the Brazilian-made EcoSport sport wagon and the Ranger pickup, says J Mays, Ford group vice president of design. The first two are unibody platforms, and the third is an aging body-on-frame platform. Phil Martens, Ford's product development chief, says the Bronco must be built off an existing platform if approved. That sentiment reflects Ford's renewed discipline on platform sharing, parts carry-over and budget-minded product development. The 2005 Escape starts at $19,855, including destination charges. That suggests prices for a production Bronco would start at around $18,000 or less. The tough, spare look of the Bronco concept, penned by designer Joe Baker, evokes the original Bronco introduced in 1965. Ford wanted to return to "the idea of an SUV as a piece of equipment rather than a status symbol," Mays said. "All of the SUVs in this hall (at the Detroit show) are status symbols. That's not what the SUV was at its inception." Off-road capability is important, Ford executives say. The concept Bronco is built on the Escape platform. Ford executives stressed that the Escape can go off-road. But "if the stars were right, I would prefer to have it on a body-on-frame," Mays said. That points to the Ranger platform. But it is old; the Ranger's last major redesign came in 1993. And Ford COO Nick Scheele said the Ranger frame probably is too big for the Bronco. Mays said that a production Bronco could share its underpinnings with a new Land Rover Defender. That would spread development costs across two vehicle programs and serve up a Jeep Wrangler fighter and a Hummer fighter all in one. It also would allow Ford to re-introduce the Defender nameplate to the United States, as executives have been itching to do. "I maintain that if you were to redo the front end on (the Bronco), you could also have a Land Rover Defender that wouldn't miss a beat," Mays said. But Scheele tempered that thought. The Defender "has to have Land Rover capabilities" and body-on-frame construction, Scheele said, suggesting that any future Bronco might not.