Why Was the Ford Bronco Discontinued?

The Ford Bronco was a two-door SUV that was in production for 30 years. And while it spanned five generations and was obviously successful, the Bronco was discontinued abruptly in 1996. It’s easy to point fingers at a certain famous football star, but the real reason that the Ford Bronco was discontinued goes a little deeper than that.

The Ford Bronco withstood the test of time for decades

Ford introduced the Bronco way back in 1966 in order to compete with the Jeep CJ and it was actually offered in three different body styles; a three-door wagon, a roadster, and a half-cab. The half-cab and the roadster didn’t make the cut, so they were axed out of the lineup after a few years, but the wagon body style proved to be the most popular and Ford even sold 24,000 units during its first year in production.

Over the years, the Bronco underwent many changes including a general increase in size, suspension changes, and even a more fuel-efficient V6 option to cater to consumers that didn’t want a gas-guzzling V8. It was primarily made for off-road duty as it was based on the F-100 platform, however, America’s growing love SUVs made Ford switch the Bronco’s front live axle suspension for an independent suspension during its third generation (1980-1986) in order to make it more comfortable for the daily drive, they also made it a little smaller as well.

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1967 Ford Bronco
1967 Ford Bronco | Bring a Trailer

There was even a Ford Bronco II

In 1984, due to the growing demand for fuel-efficiency and smaller vehicles, Ford release the Bronco II, which was a more compact version of the Bronco. To give you an idea of the size of it, Ford used the Ranger’s platform to build upon, however, there were many safety concerns as the truck would roll over for no reason. The reason for the rollovers was blamed on the weight of the vehicle and Ford ended up having to settle 334 lawsuits and forked out over $113 million in the process. Needless to say, the Bronco II was discontinued in 1990 after being in production for just six years.

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Ford Bronco II | Wikimedia Commons

The Ford Bronco received some updates in the 90s

During its fourth generation, from 1987 to 1991, the Bronco received some updates, including electronic fuel injection and rear anti-lock brakes, when Ford decided to spruce up the F-Series line. Other special-edition Bronco trims were also offered at the time, including an Eddie Bauer edition that incorporated a two-tone paint job, cloth seats, and wood trim, as well as a Nite edition, which came in Raven black with a choice of red, blue, or gray interiors. These alternative trims are currently popular among collectors.

The last generation of the Bronco had some unexpected notoriety

By its fifth generation, starting in 1992, the Ford Bronco was updated yet again with more safety features including front and rear crumple zones, three-point seat belts, and a driver’s side airbag. Ford originally designed this generation Bronco to be a hardtop convertible as well, and it actually did come with a removable top, however, due to safety regulations, they were unable to market it as such. They even removed all references on the top being removable in the owner’s manual and used special bolts to secure the top, however, with the correct tool, it could be removed.

Despite all the updates to the vehicle, the Bronco received an unexpected surge in popularity and notoriety in 1994 when famed football star O.J. Simpson led police on a chase in his white Ford Bronco. It was all over the news, and soon the Bronco became the topic of late-night television jokes, however, it actually did gain even more popularity after the incident.

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A white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings and carrying O.J. Simpson, is trailed by police cars as it travels on a southern California freeway on June 17, 1994, in Los Angeles. Cowlings and Simpson led authorities on a chase after Simpson was charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend. (AP Photo/Joseph Villarin)

The real reason the Ford Bronco was discontinued

Contrary to popular belief, O.J. Simpson wasn’t the reason that Ford discontinued the Bronco. The real reason was that it was the mid-90s and the general public wanted something bigger than a two-door, two-row SUV at the time. Bronco sales ended up declining, so Ford came out with the Expedition in order to meet the demand. In 1996, the Bronco was axed from the lineup.

It’s been almost 25 years since the Bronco was killed off, but it was just announced that on July 9, 2020, the new 2021 Ford Bronco will make its long-awaited debut. And while that date just happens to be the same day that O.J. Simpson was born, we don’t expect that the coincidence will boost its popularity or its notoriety.

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