2020. That’s the year that has been (tentatively) dog-eared for the release of the sixth generation Ford Bronco. While having to wait nearly four years is a lot to ask of the loyal citizens of Ford Nation who happen to be in the market to replace their daily driver, some of the more passionate fans of the truck have found a unique way to while away the time: by designing their very own Bronco concepts. Now before you dismiss their renderings as pie in the sky ideals, you should know that there are some pretty sophisticated designs kicking around that have been causing quite a bit of a stir in the online community – incorporating classic, tried and true Bronco design elements like the round headlights and inset grille with modern takes on fender design, ride heights, and a smorgasbord of other accessories.

Unofficial to say the least, the Bronco concepts – pulled together by the Ford faithful over at Bronco6G.com (you guessed it, a public forum dedicated to the next-gen Bronco) – has given something the Detroit-based automaker has up to this moment failed to do: provide Bronco enthusiasts with a taste of what to expect the new truck will look like.

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Image Source: Bronco6G.com

Drawbacks to Fan Designs?

It isn’t uncommon for automakers to keep the details of their newest models close to their chests. To be sure, this isn’t done out of any sort of nefarious intent, rather it is more often than not done to protect the integrity of their intellectual property or perhaps even as part of a marketing initiative. Whatever the angle, potential customers can be left in the dark for long periods of time waiting for the tiniest of details to be disseminated – so it’s only natural that some of them begin to imagine and sketch out what their ideal ride should look like.

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Image Source: Bronco6G.com

Potentially, there’s a downside to the widespread accessibility of fan art before the actual physical attributes of the new product are made public. Simply put, given the sophistication of design software available on the market and a population that knows how to use them, there’s a very real chance that fan art could one day upstage the very product from which it is drawing inspiration, leaving prospective buyers underwhelmed when faced with the real McCoy.

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Image Source: Bronco6G.com

Crowdsourcing: More Than a Means to Generate Revenue

Typically, businesses use crowdsourcing as a way to finance a new product or idea. Members of the public can view an online presentation and, if they like what they see, they can choose to invest in the project. Given how amazing and well-received the Bronco fan art has become, perhaps it would be wise for automakers to try their hand at crowdsourcing. Not for investment capital mind you, but for ideas.

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Image Source: Bronco6G.com

Automotive enthusiasts contain a wealth of knowledge that surpasses that of any other product’s customer base, making them the perfect reservoir to draw inspiration. Granted, automakers already pick the brains of their customers for things that they would like to see in their ride in terms of specs and features, but there really isn’t a platform on which a customer that knows the product, that knows the brand can submit a design for an upcoming model.
It’s an interesting thought to say the least. Manufacturing processes are becoming more efficient by the day, vehicles are allowing for more and more customizations. It’s not difficult to imagine the possibility that perhaps one day, a customer can go online and design their very own Bronco, F-150, or Mustang or perhaps better yet, design one that will find itself produced in the millions.

Since time immemorial, the blue oval has been a constant fixture of the hundreds, if not thousands of campgrounds that can be found across our great land. Generations of adventure seeking North Americans have relied on the combustion-driven muscle of the steadfast F-Series to deliver them safely to the periphery of civilization (and back again), providing families the opportunity to enjoy nature in all its pristine glory.

But times change; much like the recent evolution of the Detroit automaker’s flagship truck, the Ford F-150, the role that Ford has heretofore played in outdoor adventure is going through its own metamorphosis, and turning heads along the way.

Aluminum-Clad Ford Branded Campers

Ever since Ford announced the 2015 Ford F-150 would be built using an aluminum alloy frame and panels, the automaker has seemingly made itself at home pushing the boundaries of the status quo. You may recall competitors frothing at the mouth as they looked for their shot to discredit Ford’s aluminum truck, claiming (before any kind of head-to-head testing mind you) that there was no way that the F-150 could perform at the same level as their own daily driver, nor would it be able to stand up to the same amount of punishment. Turns out, those competitors were wrong on both counts.

Perhaps exceeding all expectations has ignited a passion in Ford’s elite; since then, they’ve introduced a number of exciting products (see the 2016 Ford GT, which consequently, has given Ford it’s first foothold in the luxury sports car market) that have seen the automaker break out of its comfort zone and embrace new sales opportunities.

Hence, Ford recently partnered with camper builder Livin’ Lite a division of Thor Industries, making the blue oval the only manufacturer to offer OEM slide-in campers and camper trailers for their trucks. Granted, camper conversion units may not make up a sizeable portion of their overall sales strategy (Ford has built a reputation marketing their trucks as a worker’s best friend), Ford’s brass has acknowledged it’s desire and intent to market new products to their adventure-minded buyers.

Following in the F-150’s footsteps, the campers being built by the Ford/Livin Lite co-venture are produced using aluminum alloy paneling, which not only makes them lighter and more efficient to haul, but also envelopes them nicely within Ford’s aluminum strategy. As for the trailer’s interior, they certainly give new meaning to the phrase, ‘home away from home.’ Each unit is made of fine wood paneling, high-end fixtures, leather interiors, and borrow a few subtle visual elements of the F-150’s persona, giving it a unique appearance from the generic trailers we all grew up with. What’s more, there are a number of available options available, so customers will find it easy to choose the design that is right for them.

After the last economic downturn, which saw automakers and private citizens alike facing hard times, it’s nice to see the brand offering a product line that is dedicated solely to the enjoyment of the world at large – reminding all of us that every once in awhile, it’s important to take a step back. After all, exploring the splendors of nature is a big part of life on this side of the pond, so it comes as no surprise that Ford would want to entrench themselves as part of that experience.

According to Ford, partnering with Livin’ Lite was easy because when it comes right down to it, both companies share a vision of quality. While the Ford campers aren’t a proprietary venture, it was important that the line of recreation vehicles embodied the same high standard that the customers that make up Ford Nation have come to expect from the automaker.

Like anything of significant financial or sentimental value, it’s easy to understand the desire to share such treasures with those who have gone to great lengths to prove their loyalty. As far as the 2017 GT is concerned, that’s exactly the mentality Ford is taking when choosing the lucky few to be the first to lay pedal to metal in the newest version of America’s most iconic car – a feeling of exhilaration perhaps only surpassed by that of the first Apollo astronauts as they set foot on the moon.

You read right: Ford is keeping it in the family – at least, to start. The first 250 GTs to roll off the line will not be available at your local Ford dealer but only go to those who have a longstanding relationship with the blue oval and its fleet of vehicles – but that isn’t the only criteria that one must pass in order to possess the latest incarnation of the GT.

In addition to having to fill out an application form – which will invariably require the thousands of hopefuls to list their previously owned Ford branded daily drivers, the automaker will be handing keys over only to those who show their willingness to drive it rather than keeping it under lock and key. After all, the Ford GT is a machine that longs for the kiss of asphalt, not the snugness of a cloistered car hold (if it’s an investment you seek, you’d best call a financial planner). To that end, Ford is requiring that each successful applicant sign a legally binding document that will prevent them from selling the vehicle until after a certain amount of time has passed, effectively squashing the immediate secondary market.

If it weren’t enough to have to prove your loyalty to the brand, fill out an arduous application form, and sign a legally binding document, preferential consideration will still be given to those who have previously owned a GT. To some, this may sound like a pretty unfair way to determine who will get first crack at ownership – especially to those who have never owned a Ford. Upon further consideration however, it isn’t difficult to see why the automaker has gone to such lengths.

Essentially, Ford is ensuring that the limited run of 2017 GTs will go to those who have a passion for the GT. The selection process, while considerable, will help to weed out those who are simply looking to flip the vehicle for a profit.

At a price tag fluttering around the $400,000 mark, the GT isn’t exactly priced to sell (which also adds to its exclusivity). That said, the application/sale process is also a much more effective means of selling such a highly anticipated vehicle; with only 250 being built, the automaker would be hard pressed to evenly distribute inventory across a wide geographic area.

In many ways, the new GT represents uncharted territory for Ford, who can now count the likes Ferrari and Lamborghini as direct competitors. It will be interesting to see if other automakers follow Ford’s example, whether they too will diligently choose their customers from the masses. Such thinking may seem at first to be counter-intuitive, particularly after the difficulty the auto industry had in recovering from the recent economic downturn, but perhaps, in this day and age of buying and selling, it remains the only way a manufacturer can maintain the integrity of their brand. And for that, Ford certainly deserves more than a modicum of respect. Whether or not Ford implemented the application process, the limited number of GTs would sell out in a heartbeat. But it begs the question: How many of those buyers would treat this vehicle as a commodity rather than the marvel of engineering that it is?

Strangely, one of the largest questions circling the Ford brand over the last few years has nothing to do with the development of EV technology, nor has it to do with the development of new composite materials, or manufacturing efficiency. What has been at the forefront of Ford Nation’s collective consciousness is whether or not the F-150 will one day boast a diesel powered engine – something that seems oxymoronic when considering the blue oval’s flagship truck.

Thanks to headlines such as this one from 2013 ‘Ford F-150 Going Diesel? Rumor Says Yes, Execs Say No’ and this one from late last year ‘Spied: 2017 Ford F-150 TurboDiesel’, it’s easy to see why the casual observer may be at a loss to answer this very important question.

So, will 2017 truly mark the year customers buying an F-150 can opt for the diesel engine? In Dearborn, it seems that mum is still the official word, although some keen-eyed automotive enthusiasts in Michigan may have glimpsed some compelling evidence that a diesel-powered F-150 may be coming to a dealership near you sooner than you think.
Granted, the evidence may be scant, but to those in the know, it just may be enough to put a checkmark in the ‘highly likely’ column.

Here’s what we know based on observed test driven vehicles in the Dearborn area (for those who don’t know, new models are typically taken out on city streets, however they are usually covered with a black and white vinyl which disguises any salient features):

  1. The shrouded truck was sporting a Venturi-style exhaust tip.
  2. The photographer who snagged the photos said it ‘sounded’ like a diesel.

That’s enough evidence, isn’t it?

If however the words of some car spy and a plethora of internet rumours isn’t enough to convince you, let’s take a moment to consider what a diesel engine would mean in the much lighter, aluminum-clad F-150. Because diesel engines deliver more torque than its gasoline-fueled counterpart (conversely, gas powered trucks are the champion when it comes to horsepower), diesel is more often than not the engine of choice for people who work their truck, who need substantive hauling capabilities. Coupled with the lighter frame, a diesel fueled F-150 could further differentiate itself as the industry’s premiere workhorse in a very competitive market.

A Diesel Power Plant Can Also Further Increase MPG Gains

Pound for pound, diesel packs more of a punch than gasoline, containing approximately 10%-15% more energy per drop. The new F-150 already proved that shedding a few pounds (roughly 700lbs in all from the previous version) allows for some serious gains when it comes to fuel efficiency, so one can imagine the additional benefit of pairing a lightweight frame with a much more efficient engine.

It Wouldn’t be the First Time

It isn’t a secret that the automaker was developing a diesel engine for the F-150 way back in 2008. Due to the recession and prolonged economic downturn, Ford decided to end that initiative citing the maligned automotive market wouldn’t likely support such a premium upgrade. Evidently, the desire to bring in a diesel engine has been there for a while, but the timing just wasn’t on their side.

Ford’s brass may continue to deny the rampant rumours circling the next incarnation of the F-150, but at the end of the day, it just makes sense that a diesel option be made available to F-150 drivers. Times are good, the economy is recovering, and customers want options. If it’s the hauling power they want, why not give it to them – and make the F-150 more versatile than ever before.

Copyright © 2014, Thorncrest Ford. All Rights Reserved.

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