The Bronco 2021 — Ford’s flagship series of 4×4 vehicles — is a brand that leans heavily on nostalgia, customization, functional design and technology such as the automaker’s next-generation infotainment system and a digital trail mapping feature that lets owners plan, record and share their experiences via an app.
This is not the 1966 Ford Bronco, the first year that the rugged two-door off-roader came to market to compete with the Jeep CJ-5. However, the DNA from that heritage model is present in this modern take of the Bronco 2 as well as a new four-door version. The third model, the Bronco Sport, is a comfier, smaller snd cheaper spinoff that is designed to be capable off-road as well as function as a daily driver on the city streets and highways.
Production on the new Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 will begin in early 2021 with the first models arriving in dealerships next spring. The Bronco Sport is slated to reach dealerships later this year. All three of Bronco models will be built at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. Ford has also opened up reservations, where prospective customers can plunk down $100 to hold their spot for the Bronco two- and four-door models.
The base model Bronco 2 starts at $29,995 and the Bronco 4 starts $34,695. The base version of the Bronco Sport starts at $28,155. (all prices include the including $1,495 destination and delivery charge)
There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the basics of the Bronco two-door and Bronco four-door vehicles as well as the smaller Bronco Sport. Then we’ll dig deeper into some important themes including nostalgia, design, customization and technology.
Bronco 2 and Bronco 4
Both models have a steel chassis and an independent front suspension, the aim here being to improve control. At the rear, the solid axle design features coil springs with five locating links to provide control off road and strength. The vehicles come with two possible engines — a 2.7-liter V6 or 2.3-liter four cylinder— and are available in 7-speed manual and 10-speed automatic transmissions. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is projected to produce 310 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, while the 2.3-liter four cylinder engine has torque of 310 lb.-ft. with an expected 270 horsepower. No word yet on gas mileage.
Ford gave Bronco 11.6-inch ground clearance, a 29-degree breakover angle and 37.2-degree departure angle. It also has water fording capability of up to 33.5 inches. Just to be safe, Ford designers added more protection and heft, including modular steel bumpers with integrated winch mount. Some of the higher-end versions of the Bronco comes with steel shields to protect critical hardware, including the engine, transmission, transfer case and fuel tank.
Oh, and how could I forget. Ford is making 35-inch off-road tires available in every trim level on the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4.
Meanwhile, the Bronco Sport is a slightly different animal aimed to be that go everywhere and do everything family truckster. The Sport offers a lot of the same off-road capability in a smaller package.
The Bronco Sport has two EcoBoost engines to choose from, depending on the trim. There’s a 2.0-liter engine that produces 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque or a 1.5-liter engine with a targeted 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Certain trims of the Bronco Sport also come with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The vehicle also has a Safari-style roof that provides enough space to put two bikes in the back. The vehicle also has the flip-up liftgate glass, a convenience detail that lets you quickly throw gear back into the vehicle. The five trims levels are base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition and have starting prices that range between $28,155 all the way to $39,995.
Digging deeper into the family of Bronco vehicles a few themes emerge, particularly with the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4. The vehicles are meant to remind us of the original while pushing forward to the future. They’re designed to be rugged and institute modern human-centered functional design, while embracing technology in some key areas.
While technologists might cast a bit of side eye at nostalgia, there’s no denying its power. As TechCrunch’s Matt Burns noted last week Ford is going to use the old Bronco to sell the new Bronco, just like Nintendo uses past games to sell new games.
The 2021 Bronco 2 is clearly new, particularly once you look inside. But glancing over the exterior it’s hard to miss inspirations from the original.
The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 has square proportions, short overhangs and a wide stance, all aspects that make these vehicles primed for off roading. They also harken back to the original design. From the side, you’ll notice distinct edges and flared fenders, again a nod to the first Bronco.
Here’s where the 2021 Bronco series really shines. Ford has comes up with innumerable ways to customize the Bronco 2 or Bronco 4 and even the Bronco Sport.
The automaker is offering seven different versions of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 with matching color and trim combinations. There are also 11 different paint choices and four content package. The options begin with the base no-frills version and ends with the Wildtrak and Badlands versions for for more extreme off-road adventuring. The Big Bend, Black Diamond and Outer Banks sit in the middle. And of course, there’s a limited-production First Edition that will be offered at launch. The base models of all three Broncos fall under $35,000. But that price starts to rise as with the trim levels and other options.
The automaker also has more than 200 factory-based accessories.
The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 are meant to be configured in multiple ways. For instance, the Bronco 2 models come with a standard three-section roof system. There’s also premium-painted modular top with four sections that adds a removable panel over the rear seats and cargo area.
The Bronco 4 has four removable roof sections, all which Ford promises can be removed by one person by unlocking the latches from the interior. The models are also available in soft or hardtops, or can be optioned with both. Even the large open wheel wells are a modular design with a quick-release attachment for customization.
The doors of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 can also be removed. The doors are frameless, a design decision that aims to make them easy to remove and store in protective bags. The Bronco 4 is large enough to store all four doors onboard.
All of those options come with a price, however. The most expensive trim level, the First Edition hits just below $60,000.
While it might not have the same degree of customization as the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4, there are plenty of ways to configure the Bronco Sport as well.
The vehicle is available in five trims, including the base model, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition as well as four available accessory bundles. Ford is offering more than 100 factory-backed standalone accessories to transport a variety of gear including kayaks, skis and camping equipment.
Much of the technological focus is on the four-wheel drive system and is at the heart of the brand’s so-called Terrain Management System.
Ford is offering two different 4×4 systems on all Bronco models, a base setup and an advanced system. The base system uses a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case. The optional advanced system has a two-speed electromechanical transfer case that adds an auto mode for on-demand engagement that lets the driver select between 2H and 4H (two high and four high). The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 have up to seven driver-selectable modes for off-road driving, including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, with Baja, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
There is other technology in the vehicle beyond the 4×4 system. The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 comes with the next-generation Ford SYNC 4 infotainment system and a feature that stores more than 1,000 curated topographic trail maps that are accessible online or offline. The maps can also be shared with others.
The infotainment system features a multifunction color LCD instrument panel that Ford says were inspired by the first-generation Bronco. The SYNC 4 infotainment system, which has twice the computing power of the previous generation, includes an 8-inch or 12-inch center display and features natural voice control, real-time mapping and will be able to be updated wirelessly just like the software on your smartphone. The SYNC system also displays an optional 360-degree camera system that gives drivers “spotter” views of the vehicle, a feature that could come in handy while in technical off-roading situations like rock crawling.
Moving down from the center display, the driver can interact with the transmission shifter/selector and G.O.A.T. Modes controller (off road modes) in the center console.
Grab handles are actually integrated into the modular instrument panel and center console for those Oh S—T moments (obviously for the passenger).
Ford also included attachment points that are built into the instrument panel to mount pretty much any device you might want, including cameras, navigation units, phones or other devices.
Another big piece of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 is the focus on functional design. This is meant to be an off road vehicle, after all. And it should function as such.
For instance, the trail sights on the front fenders also can be used as tie downs and can handle longer items like canoes. Those trail sights are placed so a user can tie off a boat or other equipment without scratching the paint or lights. But they can also be taken off or replaced with other gear, Bronco chief designer Paul Wraith noted in a briefing before the reveal.
“You can swap them out or bolt on extra lights or Go Pros,” Wraith said. “And, especially if you’re shorter, you can simply use them to tell you where the corners of the truck are, which just goes to show that innovation doesn’t always need a microchip.”
And as mentioned above, the interior is also designed with an accessory-hungry owner in mind. Other design features include a floor drain and flooring material on select models, hooks on the back seats for lashing down gear while on the road and a slide-out rear tailgate.
Want more photos? OK, click the gallery. (All photos from Ford).
You could almost hear the internet cracking apart this week as international businesses pulled away from Hong Kong and the US considered a ban on TikTok. Software can no longer eat the entire world like it had attempted last decade. Startups across tech-focused industries face a new reality, where local markets and efforts are more protected and supported by national governments. Every company now has a smaller total addressable market, whether or not it succeeds in it.
Facebook, for example, appears to be getting an influx of creators who are worried about losing TikTok audiences, as Connie Loizos investigated this week. This might mean more users, engagement and ultimately revenue for many consumer startups, and any other companies that rely on paid marketing through Facebook’s valuable channels. But it means fewer platforms to diversify to, in case you don’t want to rely on Facebook so much for your business.
As trade wars look more and more like cold wars, it also means that Facebook itself will have a more limited audience than it once hoped to offer its own advertisers. After deciding to reject requests from Hong Kong-based Chinese law enforcement, it seems to be on the path to getting blocked in Hong Kong like it is on the mainland. But as with other tech companies, it doesn’t really have a choice — the Chinese government has pushed through legal changes in the city that allow it to arrest anyone in the world if it claims they are organizing against it. Compliance with China would bring on government intervention in the US and beyond, among other reasons why doing so is a non-starter.
This also explains why TikTok itself already pulled out of Hong Kong, despite being owned by mainland China-based Bytedance. The company is still reeling from getting banned in India last week and this maneuver is trying to the subsidiary look more independent. Given that China’s own laws allow its government to access and control private companies, expect many to find that an empty gesture.
Startups should plan for things to get harder in general. See: the next item below.
Student visas have become the next Trump immigration target
International students will not be allowed to stay enrolled at US universities that offer only remote classes this coming academic year, the Trump administration decided this past week. As Natasha Mascarenhas and Zack Whittaker explore, many universities are attempting a hybrid approach that tries to allow some in-person teaching without creating a community health problem.
Without this type of approach, many students could lose their visas. Here’s our resident immigration law expert, Sophie Alcorn, with more details on Extra Crunch:
International students have been allowed to take online classes during the spring and summer due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that will end this fall. The new order will force many international students at schools that are only offering remote online classes to find an “immigration plan B” or depart the U.S. before the fall term to avoid being deported.
At many top universities, international students make up more than 20% of the student body. According to NAFSA, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported or created 458,000 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. Apparently, the current administration is continuing to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” when it comes to immigration.
Universities are scrambling as they struggle with this newfound untenable bind. Do they stay online only to keep their students safe and force their international students to leave their homes in this country? Or do they reopen to save their students from deportation, but put their communities’ health at risk?
For students, it means finding another school, scrambling to figure out a way to depart the States (when some home countries will not even allow them to return), or figuring out an “immigration plan B.”
Who knows how many startups will never exist because the right people didn’t happen to be at the right place at the right time together? What everyone does know is that remote-first is here to stay.
No Code goes global
A few tech trends seem unstoppable despite any geopolitics, and one seems to be the universal human goal of making enterprise software suck less. (Okay, nearly universal.) Alex Nichols and Jesse Wedler of CapitalG explain why now is the time for no code software and what the impact will bel, in a very popular article for Extra Crunch this week. Here’s their setup:
First, siloed cloud apps are sprawling out of control. As workflows span an increasing number of tools, they are arguably getting more manual. Business users have been forced to map workflows to the constraints of their software, but it should be the other way around. They need a way to combat this fragmentation with the power to build integrations, automations and applications that naturally align with their optimal workflows.
Second, architecturally, the ubiquity of cloud and APIs enable “modular” software that can be created, connected and deployed quickly at little cost composed of building blocks for specific functions (such as Stripe for payments or Plaid for data connectivity). Both third-party API services and legacy systems leveraging API gateways are dramatically simplifying connectivity. As a result, it’s easier than ever to build complex applications using pre-assembled building blocks. For example, a simple loan approval process could be built in minutes using third-party optical character recognition (a technology to convert images into structured data), connecting to credit bureaus and integrating with internal services all via APIs. This modularity of best-of-breed tools is a game changer for software productivity and a key enabler for no code.
Finally, business leaders are pushing CIOs to evolve their approach to software development to facilitate digital transformation. In prior generations, many CIOs believed that their businesses needed to develop and own the source code for all critical applications. Today, with IT teams severely understaffed and unable to keep up with business needs, CIOs are forced to find alternatives. Driven by the urgent business need and assuaged by the security and reliability of modern cloud architecture, more CIOs have begun considering no code alternatives, which allow source code to be built and hosted in proprietary platforms.
Palantir has finally filed to go public
It’s 16 years old, worth $26 billion and widely used by private and public entities of all types around the world, but this employer of thousands is counted as a startup tech unicorn, because, well, it was one of the pioneers of growing big, raising bigger, and staying private longer. Aileen Lee even mentioned Palantir as one of the 39 examples that helped inspire the “unicorn” term back in 2013. Now the secretive and sometimes controversial data technology provider is finally going to have its big liquidity event — and is filing confidentially to IPO, which means the finances are still staying pretty secret.
Alex Wilhelm went ahead and pieced together its funding history for Extra Crunch ahead of the action, and concluded that “Palantir seems like the Platonic ideal of a unicorn. It’s older than you’d think, has a history of being hyped, its valuation has stretched far beyond the point where companies used to go public, and it appears to be only recently growing into its valuation.”
It also appears to be one of the unicorns that has seen a lot of upside lately. It has been in the headlines recently for cutting big-data deals with governments for pandemic work, on top of a long-standing relationship with the US military and other arms of the government. As with Lemonade, Accolade and a range of other IPOing tech companies that we have covered in recent weeks, it is presumably in a positive business cycle and primed to take advantage of an already receptive market.
Meaningful change from BLM
In an investor survey for Extra Crunch this week, Megan Rose Dickey checked in with eight Black investors about what they are investing in, in the middle of what feels like a new focus on making the tech industry more representative of the country and the world. Here’s how Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital responded when Megan asked what meaningful change might come from the recent heightened attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.
I happen to be on the more optimistic side of things. I’m not at a hundred percent optimistic, but I’m close to that. I think that there’s an undeniable unflinching resolve right now. I think that if we were to go back to status quo, I would be incredibly surprised. I guess I would not be shocked, unfortunately, but I would be surprised. It would give me pause about the effectiveness of any of the work that we do if this moment fizzles out and doesn’t create change. I do think that there is going to be a shift. I can already feel it. I know that more people who are representative of this country are going to be writing checks, whether through being hired, or taken through the ranks, or starting their own funds, and our own funds. I think there’s more and more capital that’s going to flow to underrepresented founders. That alone, I think, will be a huge shift.
Across the week
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
Before we get into topics, a reminder that if you are signing up for Extra Crunch and want to save some money, the code “equity” is your friend. Alright, let’s get into it:
- Robinhood is back in the news this week after a New York Times piece dug into its history, product decisions and more. Tidbits galore are to be had, but the Equity crew wanted to debate the morality of providing exotic financial tooling to less-experienced users.
- We followed that debate with a dive into immigration, the latest news from the government and our takes on the matter. TechCrunch has covered the recent news, and provided some context on the broader concept. Our takeaway is that doing self-defeating things for no reason isn’t brilliant for the country as a whole.
- Postmates has a home! After winding up somewhere in the middle of the pack of the on-demand cohort a few years back, the rise of DoorDash put Postmates in a pickle. Happily, Uber was on hand to de-brine the unicorn for $2.65 billion in stock. That’s a bit more money than Postmates’ last valuation. What we want to know next is how the sale price impacted common stockholders. Email us if you know.
- Palantir has filed to go public, but privately, so that’s really all there is to say about that. Unless you need a history lesson.
- Finally, funding rounds. We had three this week: MonkeyLearn raising $2.2 million for no-code AI, Quaestor raising $5.8 million for startup financial tooling and $4.5 million for Mmhmm, which is both timely and neat.
Whew! Past all that we had some fun, and, hopefully, were of some use. Hugs and chat Monday!