The Escape, now No. 7, once was the second-best seller in its segment. In the middle of last decade, it sold more than 300,000 vehicles for four consecutive years.
But its popularity has waned as new entrants emerged. Instead of trying to appeal to a wide swath of buyers, Ford redesigned the Escape in 2019 to be more carlike, leaving room for the Bronco Sport, built on the same platform, to capture a different corner of the market.
“We really saw an opportunity to better compete by offering two nameplates,” said Mark Grueber, Ford’s U.S. consumer marketing manager. “We see some customers looking for more sleek, urban imagery and styling and others looking for more rugged, off-road capability. We think we have great differentiation between the two.”
Brauer says the Bronco Sport benefits from carrying the same badge as the larger Bronco SUV, arguably one of Ford’s most anticipated vehicles in decades.
“Ford knew the Bronco SUV would create a lot of buzz,” he said. “For them to take an existing platform and develop another vehicle with the name attached to it is resulting in both more volume and more profit.”
The Bronco Sport also was helped by getting a bigger head start on the Bronco than intended. Because of coronavirus-related delays dating back to last year, Ford is just now launching the Bronco — which means its smaller sibling has had the attention to itself for half a year instead of only a few months.
“The timing did allow for some more spotlight,” Grueber admitted. “There was a silver lining.”
There could be opportunity for the Escape and Bronco Sport to capture more customers in the coming years, even among Ford buyers.