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Reviewing the Ford Bronco Sport from 2 Different Perspectives: Retail and Journalist

  • December 14, 2020
26 min read
Reviewing the Ford Bronco Sport from 2 Different Perspectives: Retail and Journalist

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing, Fullpath

Jack Nerad

Stephen Gabbara
General Manager, Szott Ford

Jack Nerad has spent decades in the automotive industry as a journalist, author, and consultant. His past experience includes serving as Editor at Motor Trend magazine, Editor of Automotive Age, and the Director of Publications at J.D. Power and Associates. He is the host of the America on the Road podcast and most recently authored the book, The GR Factor.

Stephen Gabbara is the General Manager at Szott Ford. His background is in electrical engineering and landed in the automotive industry by accident—leading to great success. Since 1992, he has been helping people successfully navigate the second largest purchase they’ll likely ever make. As a manager, his priorities have now shifted to focus on elevating the reputation of the car salesman, empowering women within the industry, and recruiting and mentoring talented newcomers.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Jack and Stephen’s experience testing the Ford Bronco Sport and their thoughts on the car
  • Stephen talks about Ford competing with Jeep through their new car and how the two brands compare
  • The power of the Bronco brand
  • How Stephen has been marketing the Bronco Sport
  • How difficult is it to get your hands on a 1960s Bronco?
  • What will be the price of the new Ford Bronco Sport?
  • The reasons behind Ford’s strategy in providing accessories for new cars
  • What Jack and Stephen love about the Ford Bronco Sport

In this episode…

Have you heard? There’s a new car in town: the Ford Bronco Sport.

There has been a lot of talk recently about Ford’s latest release. The Bronco brand has been around for years and the reviews for their newest version are spilling in from far and wide. Among those are experts like Jack Nerad and Stephen Gabbara. For them, the Ford Bronco Sport has some features and accessories that lend itself to a comparison with the Jeep brand—and so far, there’s a lot to like about it.

In this week’s episode of the Inside Auto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay is joined by Jack Nerad and Stephen Gabbara to review the new Ford Bronco Sport. They share their different perspectives of the car, compare it to the Jeep brand, and talk about Ford’s move to provide accessories in their cars.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to the Inside Auto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

You want to shop right here host of Inside Auto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GM, marketers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today’s guests, this episode is sponsored by AutoLeadStar. AutoLeadStar is pioneering marketing automation in the automotive industry with sophisticated machine learning that future proofs dealerships marketing operations and replaces traditional marketing methods. Alright, we’re gonna do things a little differently. Today I have two very special guests who are coming together to review the Ford Bronco Sport today. Their expertise and backgrounds are a bit different. So they’re going to be coming with different perspectives on this vehicle. Introducing first Jack Nerad who has been on the podcast before Hello, Jack, welcome back.

Jack R. Nerad 1:05

Hey, great to be with you. Thanks. Good. Thanks for the talk here.

Ilana Shabtay 1:11

What did you say?

Jack R. Nerad 1:12

I always say it’s good to talk to you.

Ilana Shabtay 1:13

Thank you. I appreciate that. We’re honored to have you back. Jack has spent decades in the automotive industry as a journalist, author and communicator. Past positions held by Nerad include editor at Motor Trend Magazine, editor at Automotive Age, and director of publications at JD Power and Associates. You can check out some of Jack’s work on his podcast America on the Road. And you can check out his new book, The GR Factor which we spoke about on our previous podcast. Along with Jack, we have Stephen Gabbara, General Manager of Szott Ford in Detroit. Stephen, thanks for joining us.

Stephen Gabbara 1:50

Hey, very excited to be here. And I’m gonna go ahead and crack on with Szott Ford.

Ilana Shabtay 1:55

That I apologize

Ilana Shabtay 1:59

We all say shop for it. So I need to make sure I know I have

Stephen Gabbara 2:05

a hard time about it. Also,

Ilana Shabtay 2:06

of course, yes, we got to change that Zack Ford, thank you for the correction. And he has actually a background in electrical engineering. But Stephen stumbled into the automotive industry by accident. Starting in 1992. He’s been helping people successfully navigate the second largest purchase most of them will ever make. And now as a manager, his priorities have shifted. He focuses on elevating the reputation of the car salesman, empowering women within the industry, which obviously I loved that one, and recruiting and mentoring talented newcomers. So thank you both for joining the impressive lineup we have here today.

Stephen Gabbara 2:47

Excited to be here.

Jack R. Nerad 2:48

Yeah. So good to be with you. Good to meet Stephen.

Ilana Shabtay 2:51

Yeah, so let’s let’s shake things up. I told you this before we started, I am fully honest here that I am not a car person. I’m relying on both of you to bring the juice to this episode. I’ve seen a lot of news and hype about the Ford Bronco Sport. So I’m excited to learn about it myself as well and bring some information to our listeners. Let’s just start with I know Jack you recently, you recently tested it. Tell us tell us what the experience was like.

Jack R. Nerad 3:22

Oh, the experience was terrific. I think Ford has such a big opportunity with Bronco and Bronco sport. I mean, Ford has I would describe it as a lot of oil under the ground here with the way people feel about the bronco name and the bronco that Bronco can beat to them. Jeep has kind of had this market all to itself for a long, long time. And Ford has done essentially nothing with this for a long, long time. But all of a sudden here they come with several vehicles. And it’s just so much to like it. And there’s so much to like about this individual vehicle, the Ford Bronco Sport as well.

Ilana Shabtay 4:02

And I also Ford mentioned, this is the roomiest crossover and it’s class. Does that hold true? Did you feel like you had a nice amount of space?

Jack R. Nerad 4:11

You know, I suppose I did. It depends on how you define the class and I don’t think room is what this buyer really cares about so much. I think it’s more about capability. And this is a very, very capable vehicle. I think a lot of us who test vehicles had a little bit of trepidation going in wondering if the bronco sport would really be a capable off roader. And after driving an off road for the better part of a day. I can say with no hesitation. It really is. There’s a lot to like about both versions of the bronco sport. It’s extremely capable. I think it has plenty of room inside for the stuff people want to take with them when they’re doing what they’re doing. But I was really impressed with the vehicle. I think it’s a very, very good vehicle. And I think it’s going to be a home run.

Ilana Shabtay 5:03

That’s awesome. And so Stephen, who runs a Ford store, um, have you had the chance to actually test it out?

Stephen Gabbara 5:10

I have, I had the fortune of seeing prototypes, going back about two years ago. And it was really exciting to see him meet me. That time they took our phones and locked them up, we, you know, they made sure nothing leaked out. And then a where a lot of the press has driven these vehicles is at a location, literally just a few miles from here in off road Park, where they’ve brought in a lot of national international press to experience these. So if you’ve seen this Hollywood, like Bronco sign up on the side of a mountain, that’s actually right near the dealership here. So we’ve had an opportunity to check them out. And the one thing that I really enjoy about the sport is what Jack touched on, which is, you know, I think a lot of people that drive this will not have any interest in taking it off road, it’s more about the feeling that they can if they want to, but it’s very capable, which I don’t want to say I didn’t expect, cuz that’s what Ford had been telling us all along, but it’s more it’s better than we anticipated.

Ilana Shabtay 6:08

And Jack touched on this, that Jeep kind of owns this class of car before Ford came with this. So how do you feel as a dealer that’s going to be able to compete at a whole new level? And is the Jeep Wrangler or your Ford Bronco Sport’s main competitor at this point? Or will it be?

Stephen Gabbara 6:26

Yeah. So your 100% accurate statements are 100% accurate, which is why Jeep has owned this for a long time. Our Automotive Group, we have a Jeep dealership as well. So we’re quite familiar with what jeeps market shares like as long as and also what the customers that drive Jeep are looking for and the level of dedication and, you know, ultimate brand loyalty that they have. So with Ford coming in here, it’s really interesting, because I think one thing that we’re going to see is that yes, it’s going to be a direct competitor to Jeep, but it might not necessarily be the Jeep customer that’s been a Jeep person for 20 or 30 years. But it’s really going to appeal to the younger generation because his word Jeep has ultimately been similar for a long time Ford’s coming in around with the capabilities of Jeep, as well as technology that really hasn’t been introduced into this class. So it’s going to be really cool. I mean, things that people do with jeeps with putting cameras and all kinds of different accessories on their dashboard. You know, Ford’s got a rail there, they’re gonna sell us a system that you can buy aftermarket to attach all kinds of things whether it be your phone, dash cams, navigation systems, I mean, it’s there’s so many things inside now, where I think this Bronco sport is gonna just appeal to a Jeep mentality, but certainly a different customer.

Ilana Shabtay 7:52

And you don’t think you’re going to be able to get the the very loyal 50 year Jeep customers with that

Stephen Gabbara 8:00

what the Broncos sport I would say definitely not. With the full size two door and four door that’s coming down the road, there’s more of a chance because the bronco sport isn’t going to go directly against the Wrangler, which is what most people consider the consummate Jeep. So I think when we get the full size in the spring, you’ll see it but the you know, the hardest core loyalists they’re not going to leave Jeep they’re certainly not will they come and drive these Yes. Just so that they can tell their friends why it’s not as good as a Jeep, right? They’ll find something about it. But there’s going to be things that Ford is going to specialize in that they know is going to be better than Jeep and there’s going to be things that they let the Jeep have just because they’re not necessarily worth chasing.

Ilana Shabtay 8:40

And Jeff, tell us about um, the power of the brand of Bronco and how that did influence it coming back into the market because like we talked about there’s so much hype around this Ford Bronco. It’s almost like it’s come back I think I think since 1920 right or something. I think it’s been over 80 years. I think it’s been about 100 years.

Jack R. Nerad 9:04

So it’s not 100 years. It’s more like 16 years or something like that. It is in the 60s. But there is a lot of enthusiasm for Bronco. The classic Bronco of the 60s is one of the most collectible vehicles right now. People love it. And I’ll tell you people of all ages love it my 25 year old daughter thinks you know it’s the classic Bronco is the coolest thing out there and he is not a car person at all i mean very very far from that. So there’s a like I say Ford had a lot of oil into the ground a lot of oil they could pump out with the Bronco name and I think they’re doing it in a really interesting way they’re they’re creating not just a vehicle but a brand a sub brand to Ford and I think that’s a really smart way to go about this and you know as Stephen said the the Bronco Sport is not head to head with Wrangler i think it’s it’s more head to head with With Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Compass, kind of in between those two, actually, with the K, ability, at least equal capability so of those vehicles, and those are the vehicles that people drive and they used for for two uses all the time there commuting in them. As has been said, a lot of people just profile in them, they’re really not off roading so much. But the interesting thing about the brackets for it is it’ll go off road, it’ll go off road quite well and has really pretty pretty darn good capabilities to do that.

Ilana Shabtay 10:38

And so that’s great. I think that for using the brand and the name to kind of market the Broncos sport, besides the fact that it sounds like an amazing car, I think actually using the power of the brand will help with its market with gaining market share. And how have you started any marketing when it comes to the bronco sport app dot Ford? And if so, what’s that looking like? And who do you think the target market will really be? I know you mentioned that maybe it would be a newer generation. But let’s get into that a bit more of Stephen.

Stephen Gabbara 11:11

Yeah, for sure. So a little bit of Jack’s point, when you talk about just the brand itself, I started selling Ford’s in 1999. And from that day forward, the Bronco name has been brought up in the showroom, weekly, there has been customers will say Hey, what about the Bronco and you know, is there going to be another Bronco and I love my Bronco. And in the very early 2000s. You know, Ford had expeditions and, you know, they were like, Hey, here’s a large SUV that’s gonna fit the mold of the Bronco. And that was true if you’re looking at Broncos that were really relevant, you know, in the 90s. But when you started to look at things like the original Bronco that was from the 60s, it was really designed to be an off road vehicle, it was smaller and it was a little bit more compact for it didn’t have anything that fit the bill. And that’s where Jeep really kind of took and ran with it. And so I really love the term when he said there’s oil under the ground because there is this is, this could be as big as Ford ever wanted it to be, they could take this the fact that when we finally heard that they were coming with a Bronco family, it wasn’t just a Bronco, right then and there. As a dealer, we knew it was going to be different, we knew that they were going to take a course that they hadn’t taken in the past. And first I didn’t understand it. But as it started to develop, it was pretty genius. When you’ve got the sport, which is an entry level model, we’re here to talk about today, within the next two models that are the full size, with a two door and a four door, you’re going to really touch virtually everybody in the market that could want to have any, you know, any availability to an off road vehicle, they’re going to bring it with these three, and we’re hearing that there may be more coming not in the not, you know, certainly in the near future, but in the not too distant future. So it’s exciting. And when you look at the marketing, marketing plays a big role in what we have, there’s so much out there about it. I mean, just you know, for any internet nerds that pay attention to how you market on the internet with search engine optimization and search engine marketing, we have to be very cautious about what terms we’re spending money on. Because there’s so much activity around the word Bronco on the internet, that you can blow a marketing budget very quickly, if you’re not careful on how you restrict it. Yeah, because there’s just so many people looking for it. So we’ve let people know that it’s going to be available. But the thing that’s really exciting about Ilana to us as a dealership, is that the Bronco Sports are going to be very available starting day number one. So you’ve been able to go online and reserve a Bronco for a few months now. Both the large and the sport or the full size Bronco in the Sport. But the one thing with the sport is that Ford intends to sell a lot of these. The volume of Bronco Sport is going to be similar to the volume of Ford Escape, which is one of the top sign SUVs in America. So the fact that Ford’s ready to come to market. And that volume is really exciting to us, because we know we’re gonna be able to help our customers get these things. And that’s a big deal because there’s nothing worse than hype when you can’t deliver a product. And Ford is ready to do that with the Bronco Sport.

Ilana Shabtay 14:27

Yeah, and I think that’s incredible, especially considering the latest inventory challenges. I think people are ready to just get their hands on the car that they want. And I think dealers are ready to have their lots full. So I think that that’s an important point to make and talk about inventory. Jack. I’m interested how how hard or how easy is it to get your hands on 1960 Broncos

Jack R. Nerad 14:49

1960 Broncos. It depends on how much money you want to bring to the table. Yes, they’re readily available. If you want to pay top dollar I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. And then they’re and they’re all individual these days. I mean, a Bronco that has lasted from the 60s has been probably rebuilt two or three times in its owner’s idea of what would be the perfect Bronco. So they’re all one offs at this point. And to that I think that’s what’s going to be interesting about this is we’re going to come come to market as Stephen said, with a lot of vehicles, you’re going to see a lot of Bronco nameplates out there, people are going to recognize this profile pretty quickly and the branding of it and I really think it’s going to take off.

Ilana Shabtay 15:34

And what’s the pricing going to be like? Do we have access to that information yet? Sure. We do.

Stephen Gabbara 15:40

Yeah, we do. Um, you know, the entry model is going to start in the, the high $20,000 Mark, so you can get into a bronco for under $30,000 a Bronco Sport may be specific for under $30,000. And the one thing that Ford has really paid very close attention to, and they certainly study Jeep and GE buyers is the amount of accessorizing people like to do to their SUVs, especially with the, you know, the auto capability. So not only is Ford going to offer some packaging that you’ve never really seen before in the industry, which are truly set up for off roading with whether it be suspension, you know, guide rails in protection beneath the vehicle to wheels and tires. But you’re also going to see some pretty exciting things with dealer offered accessories, which, right now Ford’s talking about coming with a catalogue of 200 to 400 aftermarket accessories that are Ford branded, and one thing that does for the user or the owner is that they’ve got this vehicle that they can accessorize through the dealership and carry a warranty. So it’s not going to void the warranty of the vehicle. But the accessory itself will follow the same three year 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty that the vehicle has. So they’ve really touched on a lot of sweet spots here that, you know, I’m not gonna say Jeep has done a poor job because Jeep is fantastic at what they do. But there’s been windows of opportunity and Ford I think really intends to exploit them.

Ilana Shabtay 17:09

So a lot of aftermarket active opportunities for Ford Bronco Sport, is that something that is kind of like a new angle for Ford and that they’re bringing a lot of new accessories to this car, or is that something that’s common? And I’m asking this again because I joked last podcast that I need to actually buy Jack’s book The Idiot’s Guide for buying or leasing a car that was probably written for me. But is that true? Is that a new strategy for the blog? I appreciate

Ilana Shabtay 17:40

you guys. And it’s definitely something that I think me and most of my friends unfortunately should read. But is that a new strategy for Ford?

Stephen Gabbara 17:51

It’s a great question. So the answer is yes. And no, historically, the answer to that would be Ford has not been in the accessory game much more than any other manufacturer. But when they brought the Ranger back a couple years ago, that was really that vehicle they really targeted at outdoor enthusiasts, people who can do people who find themselves off road, it’s not necessarily an off road vehicle, but it’s off road capable. If you want to go out into the woods and camp if you want to get yourself deep back into the woods and find yourself on a river that’s not easily accessible. The vehicles capable of that now it’s not the climbing rocks and things that Bronco and Jeep are going to do. But they realized then that they needed to accessorize. So you can turn them into really great things for canoes and buffalo you can buy aftermarket accessories from, you can turn your Ranger ultimately into a small campground with tents and generators. So Ford really got serious about accessories with the Ranger. And they’re taking what they’ve learned, and they’re going to continue to move out to Bronco and do it better and bigger.

Jack R. Nerad 18:57

Well, and that’s a big profit opportunity, isn’t it? I mean, in a couple of ways. One is they can finance this stuff as they’re buying the vehicle. So that’s great. The other thing is when that’ll keep them coming back to the dealership to buy more stuff over time as stuff becomes available. So and always that exposure has got to be good for you. Right?

Stephen Gabbara 19:18

Yeah, no question Jack. You know what’s interesting about that, and I’m going to get these numbers a little bit wrong because they changed their brain foot but for did a study some years back, you know, obviously we’re fortunate to have the F 150 which the Ford F 150 is the number one selling vehicle in America that blows a lot of people away, not the number one selling truck but the number one selling vehicle in America. And Ford did a lot of studies on the accessories on that vehicle. So when someone comes in and buys a Ford f150 what do they do to it? Well, the average customer spends over $1,000 in accessories and to like any manufacturer right for getting dollar signs in their eyes and said, Oh my goodness, we’re leaving money on the table. And from that they’ve started pushing more and more into this accessory game. And to your point, Jack Yeah, it’s a great reason to keep coming back to the dealership. But what I’ve liked is they’ve been smart about this because now afford accessories they interact well with the vehicle they’re made for it right so it’s not a major modification do you have to do to bring any dealer installed accessory to a bronco or Ranger for that matter? The warranty is a big thing, in my opinion I’ve experienced it with boots on the ground dealer guy. How many times someone will accessorize a vehicle and something about that accessory will void part of a manufacturer’s warranty right now so you’ve got an accessory that goes bad and that accessory going bad now forced something to break on your vehicle. Now you’re in, you know, you’re really in a problem because you’ve got to fix your vehicle. And then you’ve got to redo the accessory. So with these Ford aftermarket accessories, they’re fully warranted for the, you know, the same, they run parallel with the warranty in the vehicle. So yes, it’s a profit center. But two IVs think that it really enhances the ownership experience. Because it makes it simpler to do to Jack’s point, you can finance it with the vehicle. And ultimately, when you’re out driving that car, you forget how easy it was to buy it or how easy it was to get the accessory. But what you recognize is the ownership experience. And when things are carefree and problem free. Guess what chances are they’re going to come back and buy another Ford.

Ilana Shabtay 21:22

Yeah, totally. Maybe Jack, tell us about the I know you recently drove it. So the best thing about driving it is how you were feeling and what your suggestions would be for an in market, Ford Bronco Sport fire?

Jack R. Nerad 21:37

Well, I think the best thing about it is it’s an authentic offroader. It really has those capabilities. So you’re not just profiling in this thing. You’re not just driving something with a nameplate on it. That looks cool. But it really isn’t all that it seems to be in both forms. So there’s two basic power plants and they’re both really capable. Obviously, the more powerful of the engines, the vehicle with that engine is more capable, it also has more stuff on it and helps it be capable. But it’s just a real authentic off road vehicle. If you care about that kind of lifestyle, if you care about getting to places that you can only access off road, it’s the perfect vehicle for you.

Ilana Shabtay 22:20

And affordable, which I learned in this episode, which I’m very excited about. Returning agreed,

Ilana Shabtay 22:27

awesome student anything else you want to tell our listeners before we sign off.

Stephen Gabbara 22:31

I know just that, you know, I know that the customers are super excited about Bronco being back. And we’re incredibly excited. And the thing that I’m happiest about is that they’re going to be available, they’re going to be the production numbers of these vehicles are going to be so they’re going to be at a level where people can get a hold of them. You know, we’re going to start to have Broncos come in here any day now. And when they do, we’ve got people excited that they can come see them, drive them. You know, Ford has a program with their dealers. It’s called Ford courtesy transportation. And that allows us to put new vehicles into a service. So when people bring their cars in for work, we put on brand new cars and they’re comfortable, and so on and so forth. Well, what they’re doing with all their dealer, their dealers nationwide is we are going to be bringing in these Broncos, the first couple come in, they’re going to go into this foresee transportation, which means customers can come in here and go on three and four day test rides at no charge to them with this new Bronco Sport. So they’ll be able to come in take this driver where they drive, park it where they parked, put it in their garages, put their family in it, try their gear out, and just really experienced this vehicle to the fullest. And I think that’s exciting, because that’s something that hasn’t been done in the industry, to my knowledge, and it’s going to be a game changer just for more exposure for this thing. So Ford’s done everything right, in my opinion, yes, I have a biased opinion. But I’ve also been heavy critics of them in the past with other launches. And I just think they’ve got the other eyes that in peace cross with the Ford Bronco. So we’re excited.

Ilana Shabtay 24:02

That’s awesome and extremely refreshing that it’s going to be available especially after the year we’ve had. So thank you so much for joining us today Stephen and Jack. It was fun to shake things up with you on this episode, and learn a lot about the Ford Bronco Sport. I hope our listeners enjoyed it and if you did, please please tune in and subscribe Inside Auto Podcast. We will catch you next time. Thank you so much.

Outro 24:28

Thanks for listening to the Inside Auto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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