Ford Bronco Sport is leaving Jeep Cherokee in the dust when it comes to sales
The Ford Bronco Sport, initially viewed as a tag-along sibling in the iconic Bronco family, is fighting for dominance against the Jeep Cherokee — and winning.
As the compact sport utility vehicle category continues to balloon, its rugged off-road subcategory is a duel between two Detroit automakers. And sales data through October shows the baby Bronco is outselling the Cherokee.
"In its first full year, Bronco Sport is winning the mud-wrestling competition," said Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst.
So far this year, Ford is beating its direct competitor, the Jeep Cherokee, by nearly 10,000 vehicles over the same time period.
Through October, Bronco Sport has sold 90,405 while Jeep Cherokee has sold 80,581 vehicles. For July through September, Jeep sold 11,592 Cherokees while Ford sold 20,690 Bronco Sports, according to industry sales data.
Not quite a two-to-one victory for Ford but closer to it than some industry analysts expected.
In years past, the final 60 days of the year have seen strong sales. Things could be a little different now as all automakers manage semiconductor chip supply.
"Bronco Sport was really built to take on the Jeep Cherokee," Merkle said. "Bronco Sport had to overcome a lot with the chip availability. It's been in short supply, turning really fast on dealer lots, in about 10 days."
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Car dealer Thad Szott is sitting pretty all the way around.
"Being a Ford dealer and a Jeep dealer, I love the competitive spirit between the two brands. They push each other to have a better quality product and, in the end, the customer wins every time," said Szott, who sells Fords at his Holly site and Jeeps in White Lake, Highland and New Hudson.
More capable than critics expected
Bronco Sport design is fresher than Jeep Cherokee.
"There’s always the shiny new effect. And the Bronco Sport is probably the shiniest and newest vehicle in that segment," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iSeeCars.com, an internet search engine for new and used cars. "An all-new model with a cool look and a cool name that's really more capable off-road than a lot of people, including me, assumed it would be."
He predicted a worrisome trend for the Jeep Wrangler if Ford increases production of the full-size Bronco to meet demand.
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"This could be a preview of coming attractions," Brauer said. "Ford has with Bronco Sport and Bronco effectively targeted existing Jeep products and tried to outgun Jeep in terms of featured content, capability and cool name brand recognition. The impression of Bronco Sport, in the beginning, was that it was a car-based SUV trying to sponge off the Bronco’s iconic brand and try to cash in and get some sales — whether Bronco Sport deserved them or not."
The 2021 Bronco Sport base model totals $28,155 including fees, while the 2022 model starts at $28,760, Ford confirmed.
'Styling pendulum swings'
"The Ford Bronco Sport is a compelling package," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, a car review and information site. "It's priced well yet still has distinctive styling in the SUV segment, which is important for those consumers burnt out by today's typical crossover look. The boxy, back-to-its-roots SUV styling is having a moment right now, marking a departure from the curvaceous utility vehicle types we've seen for many years. It's time the styling pendulum swings again."
The Cherokee's image and appeal "is definitely more on-road than off," she said.
While pandemic woes have plagued production of just about everything in the auto industry, Michelle Krebs said the Cherokee sales dip can't be blamed on industry disruption.
"We were watching the Jeep Cherokee sales soften even before the chip shortage," said Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader.com, an online marketplace for buyers and sellers.
"We have noticed over time that the less expensive Jeeps tend to struggle when we're in challenging times because they have a young buyer base, many of whom are credit challenged. They probably were the most affected by pandemic layoffs, for instance," Krebs said.
A spokesperson for Stellantis couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
In addition, Ford Credit is an asset that plays a quiet, key role for the Dearborn automaker.
"Having Ford credit has helped get customers financing," she said. "Chrysler (now Stellantis) and GM had to give up their finance arms because they went through bankruptcy. Ford has had a great advantage. It is a secret weapon for Ford."
While Ford and Jeep fight in the dirt for the off-road adventure seeker, Toyota and Honda continue to dominate the compact SUV on-road vehicle segment in 2021. The Toyota RAV4 saw 338,441 vehicles sold through October while the Honda CR-V followed with 315,533 in the same period, according to industry sales data.
The segment represents more than 20% of the U.S. market and by far the largest in the industry. Ford also builds the Ford Escape to compete in the segment, selling 125,291 for the year through October.
But Bronco Sport is really making its mark early.
"Bronco Sport continues to build marketplace momentum," Ford spokesperson Said Deep told the Free Press. "For the month of October, Bronco Sport outsold combined sales of the Jeep Compass and Cherokee. Bronco Sport’s No. 1 source of conquest sales is coming from Jeep."
Whether consumers are risk takers or want to be viewed that way, they're the target of off-pavement products that tend to sell for more because they're considered premium.
Bronco Sport is built in Hermosillo, Mexico. Jeep Cherokee is made in Belvidere, Illinois.
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