For Ford’s Bronco, OJ Simpson chase may have helped sales – USA TODAY
Twenty years ago, the Ford Bronco became a part of history.
The two-door SUV took center stage as an estimated 95 million TV viewers watched the low-speed chase of a white Ford Bronco carrying O.J. Simpson down a Los Angeles highway.
“It was one of those very rare moments when the Bronco really was in the spotlight of the general public,” Todd Zuercher, a Bronco enthusiast and editor of Bronco Driver Magazine, told USA TODAY Network. “The entire country knew what a Bronco was, knew what the chase was,” he said.
Two years later, Ford discontinued manufacturing the car, but not because of the infamy.
Some have tried to link the model’s demise to the 1994 chase, but the Bronco’s days were numbered before O.J. ever took that June ride amid pending murder charges.
“We had decided to move away from the two-door, two-row, large SUV,” Mark Schirmer, a communications manager for Ford utility vehicles, said. “It was already fading in customer popularity, long before O.J. made it a celebrity.”
Consumers still wanted large cars, but they wanted family-style, four-door, three-row vehicles, Schirmer said, a need the Ford Explorer and Expedition filled when they replaced the Bronco.
Other brands discontinued similar models in the late 1990s as well.
“They all became four-doors,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, said, noting that General Motors replaced its two-door Blazer with a four-door Tahoe.
Even though the Bronco would soon be discontinued, exposure from the O.J. chase may have helped sales, albeit briefly, during the car’s last years.
In 1994, Ford sold a little over 37,000 Broncos, an increase of more than 7,000 from the year before. By 1996, sales had dropped to approximately 28,000. Ford offered a regional rebate program for Broncos in 1994, but sales increased around the country that year, not just in the specific regions where the rebate was offered, according to Schirmer.
The car chase probably had a positive effect on Ford sales, according to Kit Yarrow, a psychologist who wrote the book Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy.
For someone already on the market for a new vehicle, the car chase and media coverage surrounding it introduced the brand into their consciousness, Yarrow said.
“They keep seeing this one on TV over and over again and at least they’re going to consider it. It’s almost shoved into our set of options through constant exposure,” she said.
Consumer interest in used Ford Broncos from that time period persists today, according to Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelly Blue Book. “Its value hasn’t changed much in the last few years, which indicates ongoing demand for the vehicle,” Brauer wrote in an email to USA TODAY Network after reviewing sales from the last few years.
“Given the lack of practicality because of the Bronco’s two-door layout, that ongoing demand is particularly unique,” according to Brauer.
Bronco enthusiasts still hope Ford will one day bring back the line with an updated model. In 2004, Ford showed a Bronco “concept” car at the North American International Auto Show, but the car was never produced. As of right now, there are no confirmed plans to bring the Bronco back, according to Schirmer.
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