Need yet more proof that SUV sales are the spoon stirring the pot for today's auto industry? Ford is so eager to keep its name atop the utility-vehicle conversation that it's just announced that it will add four new SUVs to its global nameplate catalog over the next four years. What's more, those new vehicles will grace "segments in which [the] company does not currently compete."
While Ford officials remain quiet on what those specific nameplates are and where they'll surface, it's anticipated that one of them will be the return of the long-rumored Bronco, which will sit astride the same platform as the next Ford Ranger midsize pickup.
According to details that leaked from a United Auto Workers deal last November, the two models will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant just outside of Detroit. That plant currently builds Ford's Focus and C-Max models, which are slated to be relocated to Mexico.
In addition to the Bronco, Ford's upscale Lincoln brand is expected to receive a version of the Blue Oval's popular Explorer crossover SUV, giving the marque a model to occupy the profit-rich gulf between its MKX midsize CUV and its massive truck-based Navigator. Those with sharp memories will remember that Lincoln marketed a version of the third-generation Explorer from 2003 to 2005 under the Aviator emblem.
As far as the other two new nameplates go, things remain unclear. It's possible that one model will be an overseas offering, perhaps a China-specific model. And the other? It's likely too far off to know for sure.
In addition to these four new SUV nameplates, Ford is expected to announce that its tiny EcoSport crossover sold in South America, Asia and Europe will get a US version next year. The Dearborn-based automaker has thus far been caught out by the mushrooming popularity of the small CUV segment, beaten to market by the likes of the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade, among others, and it's keen to get in on the action.
Is Ford at all concerned that the popularity of SUVs may drop off? If it is, it's not showing it. The automaker's own research suggests that the genre's sales growth will continue into the next decade. As part of the announcement made at the Chicago Auto Show, the company noted that millennials and baby boomers are driving growth in this segment, and even as the latter generation ages, "they're more likely to stay in or return to SUVs."