DETROIT — Ford. Lincoln. Bronco.
Even before the new Bronco goes on sale, some dealers are planning to turn the SUV and its offshoots into essentially a third brand for Ford Motor Co. by adding dedicated showrooms.
It's an idea originated by dealers, not a top-down edict from the factory. At their request, Ford created renderings for standalone stores and agreed to reward those who open one by slightly increasing their Bronco allocations.
Ford officials expect about 100 dealers to build Bronco showrooms, which will be near or connected to existing Ford stores and feature the SUV's horse logo instead of the Blue Oval.
A separate store is one of several optional facility improvements Ford has developed for dealers to show off one of its most highly anticipated nameplates in years, as well as the Bronco Sport that arrived in January and future additions to the off-roader family. It comes as rival Jeep prepares to add hundreds of standalone showrooms, and a little more than a decade after Ford trimmed its portfolio and retail network to focus exclusively on the Ford and Lincoln brands.
"It's an announcement to the world we're back; the Bronco is back," Tim Hovik, owner of San Tan Ford in Gilbert, Ariz., and chairman of Ford's national dealer council, told Automotive News. "It's such an iconic product that in an absolute way, we feel a Ford dealer is really adding almost an additional franchise."
Ford's design calls for a sleek, 3,800-square-foot building with an outdoor fire pit, indoor accessory wall and room to display three vehicles. The exterior includes black paneled siding, a gray stone entryway and wood accents.
Andrew Frick, Ford's head of U.S. sales, said the automaker came up with three ways dealers can highlight the Bronco: a standalone showroom, an expansion of existing showrooms or displays that can be added to a showroom.
"So we have an option for pretty much any budget, and as we've repeated several times, it's all strictly optional," he said in an emailed statement to Automotive News.
Ford wanted the Bronco's launch to be focused on the product rather than facility upgrades, but some dealers made clear that they were interested in making significant upgrades to promote the vehicle, Frick said.
"The excitement around this iconic brand and dealer confidence in our Ford brand generated the initial request and ideation for the Bronco store," he said.
"We did develop an official Bronco showroom, bringing to life the essence of Bronco to ensure consistency across the network for those that wanted to more heavily invest."