It’s been said that after a momentous birth, the infant Ford Bronco soon became a neglected child. When it debuted for 1966, it was a very timely upgrade in a sport/utility revolution that was gaining steam year by year. Looking at how it evolved from that point, a reasonable person might wonder why it almost immediately lost momentum versus the rest of the market.
The sport/ute “revolution” was real, but for a company the size of FoMoCo, dealing with a lot of mid-’60s success in other car realms (can you say Mustang?), it was chump change at that moment in time. Sales of 20,000-something to 30,000-something Broncos annually were a drop in the bucket compared to other models, and only 2-3 percent of truck sales overall. Bronco numbers didn’t generate a high-profit margin either, and bean counters were reluctant to release R&D and model upgrade money as quickly as they might for a faster-selling model. On top of that, there was the “executive attention-span factor,” whereby money went to things the execs in power favored at the moment. Additionally, internal struggles over development and advertising money can always help to speed or slow a particular model’s development.
Finally, at a certain point in 1972, spurred by the success of the GM Blazer, development started on a new full-size Bronco model. At times like that, the old model always goes into minimal development mode as it nears the end of its run. A hitch came when the full-size Bronco was delayed several years by the Arab oil embargo and an economic downturn, so the old Bronco had to soldier on longer than intended and it got some much-needed updates to keep it in the game.
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