Ford has rescheduled the debut of its long-awaited new Bronco model from July 9 to July 13, hoping to avoid the connection between the SUV and O.J. Simpson, the former football player who has been indelibly linked to the car since police pursued him in a white Bronco on Los Angeles freeways on June 17, 1994 — a slow-speed chase that was viewed on national TV by 95 million people.
Officials said it was “pure coincidence” when they announced earlier this week the original date for the debut, but it quickly became apparent that sticking with the schedule would make it difficult to avoid the inevitable connections.
“The reveal of the all-new Ford Bronco lineup will now happen on Monday, July 13,” Ford public relations chief Mark Truby said in a Friday afternoon tweet. “The previous targeted date of July 9 unintentionally coincided with O.J. Simpson’s birthday. We wanted to be sensitive and respectful of this concern.”
Simpson — whose full name is Orenthal James Simpson — was wanted in the slayings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. He was acquitted the following year in one of the most closely watched murder trials in American history.
Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader.com, told The Detroit Free Press that despite the timing, bringing the Bronco back was the right move, since it is “completely woven into the cultural fabric of America."
Ford dropped the full-size SUV in 1996, two years after the Simpson-police chase. A classic, truck-based utility vehicle, it was facing a variety of problems, including allegations of safety design problems linked to various rollover crashes. It was subsequently replaced by the Ford Explorer.
But, in the current SUV-crazed environment — utility vehicles now account for nearly two-thirds of U.S. new vehicle sales — Ford has decided to bring back the Bronco nameplate. It may have two versions to offer: the Bronco, and a smaller version widely expected to be called the Bronco Sport.
While specifics won’t be released by Ford until July 9, the automaker has been teasing its reappearance for months and a number of details have leaked out. Rather than the soft and rounded look that dominates the utility vehicle segment today, designers have opted for a more squared-off retro shape for the new Bronco, clearly meant to hark back to the original. And, rather than riding on a car-based platform, it will share its underpinnings with the next Ford Ranger pickup, both to be assembled at a plant just outside Detroit.
The new model will be smaller than the one O.J. rode in, roughly on a par with the rugged Jeep Wrangler, another classic off-roader. Like Wrangler, the 2021 Ford Bronco will offer a range of options and features such as removable doors and roof. The new Bronco is expected to start at around $30,000, though various upgrades and options will push that figure up substantially.
Unlike the original, Ford plans to load up the new Bronco with a variety of advanced driver assistance technologies, from electronic stability control to forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, that should set to rest concerns about its on- and off-road safety.