Crossover & Midsize

Inspiration for the Ford Bronco Sport Came from a Surprising Source

There was probably no way to predict exactly how awesome the redesigned Ford Bronco was going to be. But from the beginning, the messaging coming out of Ford made it clear the Bronco was going to be a true off-roader. So even though the final design was anyone’s guess, it was at least safe to assume Ford wasn’t planning to change directions wildly and create another Chevrolet Blazer controversy.

In a way, that makes the Ford Bronco Sport the more surprising of the two. We knew it would be a front-wheel-drive-based crossover, but there was no telling how capable an off-roader it would be. Or whether it would be able to look like it actually belonged in the Bronco family. As it turns out, part of the inspiration for the Bronco Sport came from someone you wouldn’t expect.

Future CEO to the rescue

The 2021 Ford Bronco, the SUV sibling of the Ford F-150, in cyber orange off-roading in the wilderness
2021 Ford Bronco Sport | Ford

Last August, Ford announced that Jim Farley would take over as CEO, replacing the retiring Jim Hackett. But back when development of the Bronco Sport started, he was in a different position, heading up “New Business, Technology and Strategy.” Considering he also ran Ford Europe, he’s not necessarily the guy you would expect to inspire the production version of the Bronco Sport.

According to Automotive News, Farley stepped in back in 2017, at a time when the company still wasn’t sure what it wanted the Bronco Sport to be. Apparently, the original idea was to take the Bronco Sport in a, well, sportier direction, but none of the initial designs were good enough to move forward on.

A two-word vision

Ford Bronco Sport driving through the woods
2021 Ford Bronco Sport | Ford

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Farley reportedly asked the design team to distill its vision for the Bronco Sport into two words. The team decided on “honest” and “robust,” and from there, they started another round of initial design sketches. They also asked designers on other teams to contribute ideas, eventually choosing the design you see today.

According to the winning designer, “A lot of the SUVs out there today are stylized. Maybe like an athletic shoe or a trainer. We knew Bronco was not supposed to be that. It lived in a different space that was much more purpose-built. It made a lot of sense to adapt the Bronco language onto the Sport.”

More surprise help

2021 Ford MAD Bronco Sport Badlands | Ford

In another twist, the winning design didn’t actually come from the original Bronco Sport design team. It actually came from Brian Paik, the designer of the regular Bronco. Apparently, he can design the heck out of a crossover juts as well as he can design a body-on-frame off-roader.

“There was a push to inject more Bronco DNA,” said Paik. “We really wanted to redact any kind of stylized, unnecessary features and really give it a purpose-built feel. Once the sketch was picked and we went to a clay model, there was kind of an agreement that this felt right.”

Those two words had an impact

2021 Ford Bronco Sport hauling trailer
2021 Ford Bronco Sport | Ford

RELATED: The Ford Bronco Sport Finally Tried Off-Roading

The whole, “distill your vision into two words” thing definitely sounds a little bit cheesy. But apparently, it was actually helpful. And the credit here goes to Farley.

As Scott Anderson, the guy in charge of the Bronco Sport’s interior design put it, “Focusing on those two simple words really got everybody narrowed down onto one train of thought and really created the right conditions for drawing just the right sketches. Farley’s a really good product guy. Providing clarity of vision is what his job is. That was a moment where, at this program, the collective group heard those words, internalized it and made a very clear decision on which way to go.”