Once the new Bronco was unveiled after a 25-year hiatus and sales opened up, fans went nuts. By June 2021, nearly 200,000 customers reserved a Bronco. Soon outlets were reporting that the SUV was essentially sold out for two years and if you could get your hands on one, it was going to be marked up to high heaven. Some people were so eager to get their hands on one they paid six figures in cash. Only Swifties’ current zeal for concert tickets can relate.
That’s the kind of buzz you can’t buy. While Ford had an inkling that the Bronco wouldn’t fail, the brand couldn’t predict exactly how explosive the growth would be. So the Blue Oval prepared for the best-case scenario with a stable of 200+ factory-backed accessories and four Bronco Off-Roadeo locations for new owners to get to know their new SUV.
Fanatical Ford FamilyA short drive from the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip, the Nevada Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo is designed to show off the prowess of the mega-hit SUV. One of four Off-Roadeo locations across the country – including Horseshoe Bay, Texas (near Austin); Moab, Utah; and Gilford, New Hampshire – this off-roading practice facility in Mt. Potosi takes it a step beyond with the Bronco Off-Roadeo Raptor Experience.
Designed to help Raptor owners understand the SUV’s capabilities, this subcamp of the Nevada facility gives drivers a chance to go beyond the trail running on the basic course. Traversing the Ultra4 Racing–inspired desert running course and rock-crawling obstacles at the Raptor Experience keeps the pace high; no one has time to get bored here. Catching air on the tabletop jump is one of our favorite parts.
Inside Bronco Nation, a loosely organized online group of Bronco owners, enthusiasts are already talking about the brand-new playground for their Raptors, which just opened July 14. On opening day, drift king Vaugn Gittin, Jr slid sideways into the pits “in a cloud of dust-filled glory” to high-five and bump knuckles with new Raptor initiates, whipping up the elation and sending Raptor owners home with stars in their eyes.
Ford knows that level of excitement translates to a tighter community. It builds fiercely loyal and enthusiastically-evangelical fans of the family of two-door and four-door SUVs, including the smaller Bronco Sport. Owners waited a long time for Bronco’s return, and they’re embracing its rebirth with something akin to rock star worship.
The Bronco was going to sell out even without throwing in a full-day experience with professional instructors on site. Clearly, Ford didn’t have to build the Off-Roadeo sites, so why bother?
According to the Blue Oval’s research through surveys, most Bronco owners are new to off-roading. The company wants to whet their appetite for the Bronco lifestyle, and Ford is thinking bigger than the vehicles themselves. The company is creating a legion of fans, and it’s betting on long-lasting appeal that will resonate for generations.
Been There, Bought The T-ShirtThe purpose of the Off-Roadeo course, on the surface, is to give Bronco owners more confidence. But it’s also like a concert venue: the Bronco is the star, and after the show the attendees want tee shirts, hats, keychains, and more. In fact, Ford’s Kelsey Gerken says Bronco Off-Roadeo locations have generated merchandise sales exceeding $2.5 million since the first location opened in July 2021.
Post-event surveys are showing that 98 percent say the experience exceeded their expectations. And when people are happy, they’re more willing to part with their money.
Once they finish the course and can see how everything works together, Bronco owners are likely to buy a lot of accessories – to the tune of about $1,700 per customer, on average. More than 200 factory-warrantied accessories are available online, like Yakima roof racks, recovery boards, first aid kits, light bars, lockable storage drawers and more. Once owners start meeting other Bronco enthusiasts and see how their SUVs are accessorized, it inspires them to personalize theirs as well.
That scenario may feel familiar to Jeep owners, who have been accessorizing their rigs for decades. In 2019, Automotive News reported "Mopar said [Jeep] Gladiator buyers spend an average of around $1,000 per vehicle on accessories, topping Wrangler purchasers, who shell out about $800," mostly off-road tools like lift kits and protective rock rails.
Four years later, Jeep representatives say that while they’re not able to share specific dollar amounts, they can say that the Jeep Wrangler is the most accessorized vehicle in the brand’s lineup. Possibly, the Wrangler 4xe and 392 variants breathed new life into the Wrangler, inspiring Jeepers get excited about it again.
Worth The Money And EffortFord may have learned from Jeep, which made 90 percent of its Mopar accessories available from the day Gladiator sales opened. When the Bronco launched, Ford was ready with 200+ factory-backed accessories, the largest number ever launched with a Ford vehicle. At the Off-Roadeo locations, owners are encouraged to check out Broncos already fitted with any number of add-ons, and orders pour in.
Bob Burns, who designed all four Off-Roadeo courses and has built up countless sites for Land Rover, says that dealerships can display every trim and color, but it can’t show a vehicle with off-roading accessories tackling tough challenges in real time.
"If you want to see how accessories perform on the trail, come to Off-Roadeo," Burns says.
When asked if the Off-Roadeo sites are worthwhile, Bronco brand manager Matt Winter doesn’t skip a beat. "We know it's worth it," he says. "A lot of people come here and they've already heard the hype about it and they know it's going to be awesome, and they walk away with a smile on their face."
Winter says seeing how many people are joining the Bronco community, joining Bronco Nation at base camps, joining cleanups with Bronco Wild Fund (a nonprofit aimed at supporting outdoors-focused organizations), and accumulating accessories shows proof of the long-term loyalty and emotional tie to Ford and the Bronco brand. Now with Las Vegas’ Raptor Valley, Bronco fans have another outlet for their off-roading aspirations.
As Ford considers opening up opportunities for additional classes (for a fee) and even events for non-Bronco owners, it has set its sights on drawing more fans to the campfire. The Bronco builder is making the right moves, and as truck and SUV sales continue to rise it seems the church of Bronco is collecting more eager parishioners.