DETROIT — With the launches of the Bronco SUV and so-called Baby Bronco crossover looming, Ford Motor Co. is reintroducing itself to the off-road community.
The automaker in recent months has inked sponsorship deals for King of the Hammers, an extreme racing event in the Mojave Desert's Johnson Valley, as well as the SCORE World Desert Challenge Series.
Tens of thousands of spectators gather for the competitions, often running their own vehicles along the trails after the professionals have their turn. Executives say it's the perfect stage to pitch would-be buyers in the hopes of replicating the success of brands such as Jeep once its new vehicles hit showrooms later this year.
"We see a great opportunity and benefit to go where our customers are," Mark Greuber, Ford's SUV marketing manager, told Automotive News. "It's very much a community event. There's a lot of core customers here we can connect with and talk to."
The events also serve as proving grounds for the upcoming utilities. Camouflaged Bronco test mules have been spotted kicking up sand in Johnson Valley, and Ford in November ran a Bronco R prototype, with a production chassis and suspension, in the SCORE Baja 1000.