Ford's brawny, off-road Bronco SUV eventually will return to the automaker's lineup and will be made in Michigan, according to a UAW official.
Rumors about the Bronco's resurrection have persisted for the better part of a year even though Ford has steadfastly refused to confirm its plans or to confirm its plans to also make the Ranger pickup at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.
But UAW Local 900 Plant Chairman Bill Johnson said union officials learned last September that Ford definitely plans to build the Ranger in Michigan and also is likely to resurrect the Bronco SUV as the second vehicle at the plant.
"Its not a secret. ... it was announced to the entire leadership of the UAW a year ago," Johnson told the Free Press.
Last year, the Detroit News was the first to report Ford's plans to build the midsize Ford Ranger in Michigan. The Free Press, along with several other publications, later reported Ford's plans for both the Ranger and the Bronco, but all prior reports were based on unnamed sources.
Now, the plant is at the center of a feud with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who repeatedly has accused Ford of moving jobs to Mexico because the automaker plans to end production of the Ford Focus, Ford C-Max and Ford C-Max Energi in 2018 in Michigan and move small car production to Mexico.
Ford CEO Mark Fields, in an appearance on CNN on Sept. 16, said, "We will be replacing those products with two very exciting new products so not one job will be lost."
Johnson told the Free Press last week that Michigan Assembly Plant could actually gain jobs as it begins making the Ranger and Bronco.
"Our membership has known that for a year," Johnson said today.
While it's unclear what the new Ford Bronco will look like, automotive enthusiast sites are rife with speculation. Many fans of the old Bronco hope Ford will bring back a two-door version but that's unlikely in an era where consumers value convenience and flexible design.
Some speculate Ford could refashion the seven-passenger Everest it makes in Australia into the Bronco. Or, Ford could restyle the Everest to look like the retro-styled Bronco Concept 2004.
On Tuesday, Ford again refused to confirm its plans.
"We have committed to two additional vehicles moving into the Michigan Assembly Plant, beginning in 2018, and we remain on plan. We are not announcing specific products at this time," the company said in a statement.
The original Ford Bronco was rough-and-tumble off-road SUV capable of tackling trails that competed with the Jeep Wrangler. The original Bronco was made from 1966-'77 as a two-door compact SUV, according to Edmunds.com. In 1978, it became a full-size SUV built off of the F-150 platform. The third-generation Bronco, introduced in 1980, was updated several times before it was discontinued in 1996.
The SUV's most famous day, of course, was in 1994 when former NFL star O.J. Simpson led police in a slow-speed chase in a white Bronco down a Los Angeles highway.
(2016 © Detroit Free Press)